Mum who saw 300 death row inmates executed still haunted by child killer’s rant

A woman who witnessed the final moments of nearly 300 death row prisoners has admitted she is still haunted by the experience – with a child killer's rant to his ex-wife particularly traumatising.

Michelle Lyons – who worked as a newspaper reporter and then a Texas state employee at a prison – revealed how seeing so much death took a heavy toll.

One grim case that Michelle can’t get out of her head is the final words of evil Cameron Willingham – who swore and yelled at his wife after he was executed for murdering their two daughters.

She told The Mirror: "His last statement was the worst I had ever seen. It was vulgar, it was hateful.

"His wife was watching from the witness room and I was told later by the chaplaincy that she had come to witness not on his behalf but as one of the victims.

"He directed so much vitriol towards her that the warden actually started the execution as he was talking to make him stop."

The couple’s three daughters – one-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron and two-year-old Amber – tragically burnt at a blaze in 1991 that Willingham claimed was an accident.

He told cops he was woken up by Amber’s harrowing cries for her Dad, but that when he tried to save his girls the fire was too intense and he had to flee.

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But his tale was dismissed by police who noted he was unharmed and relied on testimony from fire investigators and jailhouse informant Johnny Webb.

Michelle watched the monster’s final harrowing moments as he screamed to his wife – who was behind a glass window mere metres away: "I hope you rot in hell, b****. I hope you f****** rot in hell."

The state of Texas executes more prisoners than any other, and a whopping 572 inmates have been slaughtered since 1982.

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About half of these executions were watched by Michelle at the Huntsville state prison.

Another death row experience etched into her mind is the final moments of Brian Keith Roberson, who stabbed his elderly neighbours James Boots, 79, and Lillian Boots, 74, to death in a gruesome burglary in Dallas in 1986.

Tied to an execution chair, he said: "To all of the racist white folks in America that hate black folks and to all of the black folks in America that hate themselves.

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"(In) the infamous words of my famous, legendary brother Nat Turner – y'all kiss my black a**.

"Let's do it."

Chillingly, he then stared directly at his victims' family and told them: "Be careful when you drive home.

"I hope y'all don't have a wreck and kill yourselves."

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Another case that particularly struck Michelle was the execution of Ricky McGinn, 43, who murdered and raped his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Stephanie Flanary, in May 1993.

She explained how traumatising it was to sit next to McGinn's elderly mum, Frances, who sat in a wheelchair and put her wrinkled hands against the glass moments before her son took his last breath in the "stark" death chamber.

"That one will always stand out to me because of her. He was not sympathetic, his case was horrible," she said.

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"They brought his mum in and she was very advanced in age and she was wearing this floral dress. They brought her in in a wheelchair and they put her next to the glass to make sure she and her son could see each other.

"She struggled to her feet and put her hand to the glass and it absolutely undid me."

Michelle, who left the job in 2012 and has written a book about her experiences said she tried to keep her work life separate from her personal life.

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But after giving birth to a baby girl in 2005, she found it harder and harder to imagine how it felt to see your child die in front of you.

"The strength that would take," she said.

"It really, really started to mess with my head."

After quitting the grim job, Michelle went to work in marketing.

At the time, she had no intention of writing a book but put pen to paper on ‘Death Row: The Final Minutes’ that details what she went through.

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