Oklahoma Prepares to Execute Richard Rojem for 1984 Crimes Against Stepdaughter

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Written By Kanisha Laing

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Oklahoma is set to execute Richard Rojem, 66, on Thursday for kidnapping, raping, and killing his 7-year-old former stepdaughter, Layla Cummings, in 1984. Rojem has no more appeals and will receive a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Earlier this month, during a clemency hearing, Rojem denied killing Layla, whose body was found stabbed and partially clothed in a field near Burns Flat, Oklahoma. “I wasn’t a good human being for the first part of my life, and I don’t deny that,” he said, appearing via video link from prison. Despite his claims of reform, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board unanimously denied his request for mercy.

Rojem’s attorney, Jack Fisher, confirmed there are no pending appeals to stop the execution. Rojem had previously been convicted of raping two teenage girls in Michigan and was reportedly angry at Layla for reporting his sexual abuse, which led to his divorce and return to prison for parole violation.

Layla’s mother, Mindy Lynn Cummings, wrote to the parole board about the immense pain and suffering caused by Layla’s death, calling Rojem a “soulless monster.”

Rojem’s defense argued that DNA evidence did not link him to the crime, suggesting his sentence should be commuted to life in prison without parole. However, prosecutors highlighted other evidence, including a fingerprint on a cup outside Layla’s apartment and a condom wrapper found near her body, which matched a used condom in Rojem’s room.

A jury convicted Rojem in 1985 after just 45 minutes of deliberation. His death sentences were overturned twice due to trial errors, but he was sentenced to death again in 2007.

Since resuming lethal injections in October 2021, Oklahoma has carried out 12 executions. Death penalty opponents plan to hold vigils Thursday outside the governor’s mansion and the penitentiary.

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