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Death row inmate served Little Caesars pizza as last meal before execution for killing former stepdaughter

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Richard Rojem Jr., the Oklahoma man convicted of the 1984 rape and murder of his former stepdaughter, was served pizza and ice cream before he was put to death Thursday morning.

For his final meal, he requested two small double-cheese, double-pepperoni pizzas from Little Caesars and two cups of vanilla ice cream. He also asked for a bottle of Vernors ginger ale, according to The Oklahoman.

Rojem, 66, was put to death by three-drug lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was declared dead at 10:16 a.m., prison officials said. He did not seek any last-minute stay.

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When asked if he had any last words, Rojem, who was strapped to a gurney and had an IV in his tattooed left arm, said: “I don’t. I’ve said my goodbyes.”

It was Oklahoma’s second execution of 2024 and the 13th execution since the state resumed capital punishment in October 2021 after a hiatus of more than six years, according to The Oklahoman.

Rojem had been in prison since 1985 and was the longest-serving inmate on Oklahoma’s death row.

He had denied responsibility for killing his former stepdaughter, Layla Cummings. The child’s mutilated and partially clothed body was discovered in a field in rural Washita County near the town of Burns Flat on July 7, 1984. She had been kidnapped, raped and stabbed to death.

“Justice for Layla Cummings was finally served this morning with the execution of the monster responsible for her rape and murder,” Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement after Rojem’s death.

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“Layla’s family has endured unimaginable suffering for almost 40 years. My prayer is that today’s action brings a sense of comfort to those who loved her.”

Earlier this month, Drummond asked that the state pardon and parole board reject clemency for Rojem.

Drummond noted that prior to the 1984 murder, Rojem had served four years in a Michigan prison for the rape of two teenage girls. 

Prosecutors argued that Rojem was angry at Cummings because she reported that he sexually abused her, leading to his divorce from the girl’s mother and his return to prison for violating his parole. They had been divorced for about two months at the time of the murder.

Rojem’s attorneys argued at a clemency hearing this month that DNA evidence taken from the girl’s fingernails did not link him to the crime.

“If my client’s DNA is not present, he should not be convicted,” attorney Jack Fisher said.

Prosecutors said evidence of his crimes included a fingerprint discovered outside the girl’s apartment on a cup from a bar Rojem left just before the girl was kidnapped. A condom wrapper found near the girl’s body also was linked to a used condom found in Rojem’s bedroom, prosecutors said.

He was convicted by a Washita County jury in 1985 after just 45 minutes of deliberations. His previous death sentences were twice overturned by appellate courts because of trial errors. A Custer County jury ultimately handed him his third death sentence in 2007.

Rojem, then 26, married the victim’s mother, Mindy Cummings, while he was in prison for raping the two girls, The Oklahoman reports, citing court records. She was the sister of his cellmate and Rojem moved to Oklahoma after being paroled in 1982.

In a statement read by Drummond after the execution, Layla’s mother, Mindy Lynn Cummings, said: “We remember, honor and hold her forever in our hearts as the sweet and precious 7-year-old she was.

“Today marks the final chapter of justice determined by three separate juries for Richard Rojem’s heinous acts nearly 40 years ago when he stole her away like the monster he was.”

Rojem became a Zen Buddhist in prison and was known by other followers as Daiji, according to The Oklahoman, citing a packet of information submitted to the parole board by his attorneys.

“I wasn’t a good human being for the first part of my life, and I don’t deny that,” Rojem said at a parole board hearing earlier this month.

“But I went to prison. I learned my lesson and I left all that behind.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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