Larry Matthew Puckett, Mississippi Death Row Inmate, To Be Executed
By Robbie Ward
STARKVILLE, Miss., March 20 (Reuters) - A Mississippi man convicted of sexually battering and murdering his former employer's wife was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, the first of two lethal injections planned in the state this week.
Larry Matthew "Matt" Puckett, 35, was convicted of capitalmurder and sentenced to death in 1996. If carried out as scheduled at 6 p.m. CDT at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, his execution would be the second in Mississippi this year and the 10th in all of the United States in 2012.
Puckett was found guilty of fatally beating 28-year-old Rhonda Hatten Griffis, a mother of two, in October 1995 with a wooden club at her home in Petal, a small community of about 10,000 in south Mississippi.
Griffis' mother entered her daughter's mobile home after hearing a "scream and a thud" and found Puckett holding a bloody club, according to court records.
Puckett said he had come to the home because he hit a deer on the side of the road and needed help from the victim's husband, David Griffis, for whom he had previously worked before getting fired.
After struggling with David Griffis, who managed to take the bloody club, Puckett left the home and ran into nearby woods, records show.
Griffis found his wife lying in a puddle of blood on the bedroom floor. Court reports show she died from injuries including deep cuts on her head, back and chest and was bleeding from her genitals.
Authorities later found Puckett at his mother's home.
During the murder trial, Puckett claimed he had planned to burglarize the Griffis' home and entered it even when he saw Rhonda Griffis' car parked outside.
Claiming to have had an affair with her several months before the incident, Puckett testified he and Rhonda Griffis were kissing until they heard her mother approach the mobile home.
Puckett said it was David Griffis who murdered his wife with the club after accusing her of having an affair.
Mississippi officials also have an execution planned for Thursday. Inmate William J. Mitchell was scheduled to be put to death for the 1998 murder and sexual assault of a convenience store clerk. (Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Trotta)