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story.lead_photo.caption Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies escort Ledell Lee from court Tuesday after his bid to seek DNA testing was rejected by Circuit Judge Herb Wright. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

GRADY — After a series of challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court failed, Ledell Lee was put to death by lethal injection Thursday night in the first execution in Arkansas since 2005.

Lee, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for the killing two years earlier of Debra Reese in Jacksonville, was the first to die of eight inmates whose executions were scheduled over 11 days this month.

Three others whose deaths were scheduled before Lee — Bruce Earl Ward, Don Davis and Stacey Johnson — had their lethal injections halted through court challenges.

Lee pursued multiple appeals in the hours before his death, and while some resulted in temporary stays that pushed his lethal injection past its original 7 p.m. scheduled start time, none spared his life before the death warrant expired at midnight.

Lee was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., 12 minutes after the execution process began. He was 51.

Lee did not make a final statement.

On Feb. 9, 1993, Lee bludgeoned Reese to death with a tire iron that her husband had given her as a form of protection.

Lee was arrested within an hour of Reese's death after some of the cash taken from her wallet was used to pay a bill at a Rent-A-Center store.

Reese's family declined to speak to reporters after the execution and said they would release a written statement later.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge noted that the family "has waited more than 24 years to see justice done."

"I pray this lawful execution helps bring closure for the Reese family,” Rutledge said.

Three other executions are scheduled for next week.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full coverage.

Arkansas executions

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