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Suffolk man executed for murder

Douglas Grant

A Suffolk man, convicted of the 1997 murder of his ex-girlfriend in Portsmouth, was put to death by lethal injection Thursday at the Greensville Correctional Facility in Jarratt.

Dexter Lee Vinson, 43, was found guilty in 1999 of killing Angela “Renee” Felton, of Portsmouth, and leaving her body in an abandoned house near her home.

Despite petitions from his attorneys to Gov. Tim Kaine, for clemency and having his sentence commuted to life in prison, and to the U.S. Supreme Court to reopen the case based on evidence never presented in the original trial, Vinson’s execution was carried out as scheduled just after 9 p.m. Thursday.

Vinson had already been denied appeals to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Word that the governor was denying Vinson’s clemency petition came just hours before his death.

Kaine, a Roman Catholic, had said during his candidacy for governor that while he was morally opposed to the death penalty, he would, as governor, uphold the laws of the Commonwealth.

Even though as a lawyer he had been involved in appeals of murder victims, this was his first test as governor.

In a statement released by the governor’s office Thursday afternoon, Kaine wrote, “On December 7, 1998, Dexter Lee Vinson was found guilty of the capital murder of Angela Felton, object sexual penetration, abduction with intent to defile, and carjacking.

“In a separate sentencing proceeding, the jury sentenced Vinson to death on the capital murder conviction.

“The trial, verdict, and sentence have been reviewed in detail by various state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Having carefully reviewed the Petition for Clemency and judicial opinions regarding this case, I find no compelling reasons to doubt Mr. Vinson’s guilt or to invalidate the sentence recommended by the jury and imposed, and affirmed, by the courts.

“Accordingly, I decline to intervene.”

Felton’s sister Beth Willis and other family members were among those who witnessed the execution.

Willis told the News-Herald earlier in the week that there was no doubt Vinson had murdered her sister, and she didn’t believe the man’s seeking help from the governor or the Supreme Court would alter the outcome.

She said she hoped he would have nothing to say prior to the administering of the chemicals that would eventually take his life.

According to published reports of witnesses at the execution, when asked if he had any statement, Vinson whispered, “No.”

Vinson’s family members were allowed to see him on the day he died and to have what is called a “contact” visit. According to published reports, none of his relatives were present at the time he died.

Vinson had been on death row in the Greensville Correctional Facility since February 1999.

Vinson’s sister, Felecia King, told the News-Herald that she and her family were praying for her brother’s life. She didn’t deny his involvement in Felton’s murder, but she also didn’t believe her brother’s death would solve anything.

Willis, on the other hand, hoped she would be able to find closure in Vinson’s demise.

“An eye for an eye, like it says in the Bible,” she said. “He’s not going to get anything like he did to her. You just can’t understand what my family, and her kids, are going through.”

Felton leaves behind twin sons, now 16, and a daughter, 14. They are living with other relatives, according to Willis.

Vinson is the first inmate to be executed in Virginia this year and the 95th since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment in 1976. That is a number second only to Texas.

doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com