Billy Irick, Tennessee
August 9, 2018
Billy Ray Irick was executed by the state of Tennessee on Thursday, August 9, 2018. He was pronounced dead at 7:48 pm CDT, inside the execution chamber at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee. Billy was 59 years of age. He was executed for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Kay Dyer on April 15, 1985, in Knoxville, Tennessee. Billy spent the last 31 years of his life on death row in Tennessee.
Billy Irick was friends with Paula’s mother, Kathy, and step-father, Kenneth, and lived with them for a time, looking after their five young children while they worked. On April 14, 1985, Paula was living with her mother, while Irick and her step-father were staying with Kenneth’s mother. Paula’s mother left Irick to watch the children while she went out to look for work. She was uneasy about leaving the children with Irick since he had been drinking, although he did not seem intoxicated. She called Kenneth, telling him her fears. He agreed to check on Irick and the children.
Between September 1977, and April 1978, seven women in the Columbus area were raped and strangled to death in their homes: 60-year-old Ferne Jackson on September 15, 1977, 71-year-old Jean Dimenstein on September 25, 1977, 89-year-old Florence Scheible on October 21, 1977, 69-year-old Martha Thurmond on October 25, 1977, 74-year-old Kathleen Woodruff on December 28, 1977, 78-year-old Mildred Borom on February 12, 1978, and 61-year-old Janet Cofer on April 20, 1978. The man responsible for the crime was known as the “Stocking Strangler,” as stockings were frequently used as the method of strangulation. For years, police had few leads who had committed the rapes and murders.
Around midnight, Irick called Kenneth, asking him to come by, saying he was unable to wake up Paula. When he arrived, Paula was lying on the living room floor with blood between her legs. Kenneth checked to see if Paula had a pulse, which she did, and then took her to the Children’s Hospital. Paula was pronounced dead a short time after arriving, as they were unable to resuscitate her.
An autopsy determined that Paula likely died from asphyxiation or suffocation. She also had some bruising and cuts on her face. Additionally, evidence showed she had been raped.
Irick was arrested the following day after he was discovered hiding under a bridge. After being arrested, Irick confessed to the crime. He was sentenced to death on December 3, 1986.
In 2010, Irick claimed that he was in the middle of a psychotic break when Paula was murdered and has no memory of his actions from that day. Irick also claims that he was set up by Paula’s step-father, Kenneth, whom, Irick alleges, was the one that murdered Paula.
At the age of six, a clinical psychologist determined that Billy Irick was “suffering from a severe neurotic anxiety reaction with a possibility of mild organic brain damage.” The following year, Billy was hospitalized and treated with anti-psychotic medication for the next 10 months. Following treatment, Billy was discharged to a Church of God home where he remained until he was a teenager. At the age of 13, Billy visited his family, which resulted in him destroying the television with an axe and cutting up his sister’s pajamas with a razor while she slept in them. After returning to the home, Billy snuck into the girl’s dormitory. Billy was expelled and sent back to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had been taken off of his psychotropic drugs. He remained at the hospital until he was 14, at which time he was released to his parents. Billy joined the Army at 17, but was quickly discharged. Billy’s mother also suffered from a psychiatric disorder.
Billy had several previous execution dates. All were stayed for various reasons. Billy attempted to have this executed halted, arguing that he was mentally incompetent and that Tennessee’s execution protocol was unconstitutional. His appeals were ultimately unsuccessful.
Please pray for peace for the family of Paula. Please pray for strength for the family of Billy Irick.
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