Serial killer suspected in Mojave murder avoids execution after 8 failed attempts to find vein

Serial killer suspected in Mojave murder avoids execution after 8 failed attempts to find vein

Thomas Eugene Creech, the 73-year-old Idaho serial killer and suspect in a 1974 San Bernardino County slaying who was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday, Feb. 28, was returned to his cell after his executioners could not find a suitable vein.

Josh Tewalt, Idaho Department of Correction’s director, said at a news conference in Boise, Idaho, that officials do not yet have a new plan.

Doug Walker, brother of Daniel Walker, the 21-year-old shot to death along the 40 Freeway west of Needles on Oct. 1, 1974, met the news with a shrug.

He said he has long since processed his brother’s death.

“All the people in my life were counting down, but I wasn’t,” Walker said in an interview from his home near Missoula, Montana. “It’s been so long, 49 years. You put it out of your mind. Thomas Creech doesn’t change a darn thing.”

Daniel Walker is shown on a playground in an undated photo. Daniel, 21, was shot to death on Oct. 1, 1974, along the 40 Freeway in the San Bernardino County desert. Convicted Idaho serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech was named as a suspect by the Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 24, 2024, but did not extradite or charge Creech. (Courtesy of Tom Wiznerowicz) 

Creech was convicted of killing five people — three in Idaho, one in Oregon and one in California — and said he murdered 42, a claim that his attorneys said they do not believe.

Tuesday night at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in Kuna, Creech had what was expected to be a last meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, corn, rolls and butter pecan ice cream, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Wednesday morning, about two dozen anti-capital-punishment protesters demonstrated outside the prison, the Idaho Statesman said.

Inside, Creech was wheeled on a gurney into the execution chamber and strapped to a padded bed. Medical workers had identified eight preferred places on his arms and legs where they could access a vein, but each attempt failed despite the use of hot compresses and blood-pressure cuffs, Tewalt said.

“What they encountered in some instances was an access issue but in other cases where they could establish access, it was a vein-quality issue that made them not confident (in their ability to inject chemicals),” Tewalt said.

Pastor Duane Anders of Cathedral of the Rockies, left, and pastor Buddy Gharring of Hillview United Methodist, second from left, protest against the death penalty gathered outside of the Idaho Maximum Security Institution in Kuna, Idaho, on Feb. 28, 2024. Idaho delayed the execution of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the U.S., after a failed attempt at lethal injection. The 73-year-old was also suspected of the 1974 slaying of Daniel Walker along the 40 Freeway in San Bernardino County. (Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP) 

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Tewalt said officials will meet to discuss options. He did not offer a timeline for further action.

Idaho law prohibits executions using nitrogen gas, as Alabama officials employed in January. Idaho law allows a firing squad to carry out executions, but Tewalt said the state lacks the facilities for that.

In December, Doug Walker published a book about the case and his brother’s life, “Daniel My Brother: Mystery in the Mojave.”

San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson, who announced Creech as a suspect in the slaying in January, did not attempt to extradite and charge Creech, citing “jurisdictional issues.” Walker said he believes Anderson has the correct suspect.

“After processing the last few weeks, reading every bit of information we could find regarding Thomas Creech and past associates, reading through Dan’s 3,000-page (investigation) file, and hearing the DA’s evidence, I believe Thomas Creech murdered Danny Walker in the Mojave in 1974,” Walker said.