Man executed for Tulsa woman's death

Friday, March 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ Suffering from more than a dozen stab wounds, 19-year-old Rhonda Timmons died in front of her baby in a Tulsa apartment in June 1985.

On a death row gurney Thursday at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the man convicted of killing her continued to insist he was innocent.

Robert William Clayton, 40, was pronounced dead at 9:10 p.m. after receiving a lethal dose of drugs. He was the ninth person executed in Oklahoma this year.

``I'm sorry for this other lady that was killed,'' Clayton said, intravenous hoses hooked to his arms in the death chamber. ``You're still killing an innocent man.''

But Timmons' mother, Pat Bullard, said Clayton's guilt was certain and his punishment deserved.

``I would think over 15 years of imprisonment, he convinced himself he didn't do it,'' Bullard said after witnessing the execution with her husband.

The execution date was the second for Clayton, who won a stay the day before his scheduled Jan. 4 execution so DNA tests could be done on recovered evidence lost years earlier. Clayton claimed tests could exonerate him.

But Attorney General Drew Edmondson said the tests confirmed his guilt. DNA on blood traces from a sock Clayton purportedly wore during the crime matched the DNA of Timmons' hair with another match possible in only one in six billion, Edmondson said.

DNA tests were not used when Clayton was tried for the crime. But prosecutors said the blood type on the evidence matched Timmons' blood type.

The former apartment complex groundskeeper was executed 15 years to the day of his conviction on March 1, 1986.

Prosecutors said Clayton came upon Timmons sunbathing and was furious when she rejected his advances. He stabbed her, beat her and strangled her with a bathing suit top.

Timmons' husband, Bill, found her when he came home for lunch. The inside of the couple's apartment was covered in blood, authorities said. The child, then 11 months old, is now 16 and lives with his father in Indiana.

Bullard said her son-in-law was tormented with nightmares for years.

She said she sat through Clayton's trial and heard witnesses, including one of Clayton's friends, talk about his confession. Testimony also placed him at the crime scene and in Timmons' apartment.

Bullard said she prayed that Clayton would admit his guilt and seek God's forgiveness.

While Clayton again mouthed his innocence, Bullard said she was haunted by images of him standing over her daughter, stabbing her repeatedly.

``I wonder what her thoughts were as she felt her life slipping away in front of her infant son's crib knowing she was leaving him,'' Bullard said.