The mother of death row inmate Christopher Vialva said her son was “deeply remorseful” for the pain he has caused the family of Stacie and Todd Bagley, whom he was convicted of killing.
Lisa Brown, Vialva’s mother, spoke Thursday morning at a gathering of death penalty opponents across from the federal prison. Vialva was the first Black inmate on federal death row to be executed this year, following a 17-year hiatus in federal executions. He was the seventh federal inmate in 11 weeks executed by the government this year.
Vialva was convicted in the 1999 homicide of youth ministers Todd and Stacie Bagley.
“This is really hard,” Brown said, in tears. “I believe our faith will get us through this.”
She told those gathered near the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, “This is the first venue I’ve had in which I could say to Todd and Stacie’s family, I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve never been able to tell you that because I was told I could not have access to you. My son wants you to know he is deeply remorseful for the pain he has caused you and the other members of the family.”
Brown said her son had changed and he was not the person he was in 1999 when the killings occurred; her son was 19 at the time.
Vialva regretted his pact actions, she said. He converted to Messianic Judaism, which combines the belief that Jesus is the Jewish messiah with elements of Judaism and Jewish tradition.
“My son has been renewed. He is a new man,” she said. “He said in his own words, he has changed and he is redeemed. And I believe that with all my heart. And that’s why I’m able to let him go today. I believe the Father is taking him home and I’m okay with that. There is a peace in knowing I will see him again.”
Brown also believes there were many injustices in her son’s case, and the “system refused to acknowledge it.”
She alleged her son’s lead trial attorney had a “severe conflict of interest and was attempting to gain employment with the very office that was trying to kill my son.”
Those on federal Death Row do have the ability to be redeemed and rehabilitated, although maybe not all of them, she said.
She visited her son Wednesday night. Both thought the last visit was going to be extremely painful. But they previously had “the hard discussions,” she said.
After she left him, he called her at her hotel. “He said momma, that visit put me exactly where I need to be now. And that’s at peace.” He even joked about his pizza not having enough toppings.
Brown and her older sister were witnesses at Vialva’s execution.
Letter from executed inmate
Also Thursday, Sister Barbara Battista of the Sisters of Providence read the final statement of William LeCroy, who was executed Tuesday. The two-page, handwritten statement included quotes from W.H. Auden, a poet; Queen Elizabeth I; poet Dante Alighieri and others.
In 2001, LeCroy broke into the rural Georgia residence of Joann Lee Tiesler, 30, and waited for her to come home. He was convicted of murder by slashing her throat and stabbing her after binding and raping her. He was arrested driving Tiesler’s truck two days later.
Battista was LeCroy’s spiritual advisor. She received the letter the day after his execution; she described it as “lengthy, reflective and there’s quite a lesson — several lessons in here for all of us.”
Asked about the statement, she said “I think he was trying to give us a glimpse into his coming to terms with how awful his actions were and the impacts, and the heinous acts. He used the words ‘evil,’ the pain he inflicted. And how he’s come to understand himself in a whole new light — that flawed nature of the human being, of himself.”
He also writes that “people on death row are negated. Nobody is going to believe them,” she said.
In his statement, LeCroy wrote that “those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.” That’s an observation, not an excuse for one’s behavior, he said. Abuse can stunt emotional growth so the children affected by abuse are relatively unchanged as adults.
“And we lash out in anger, in frustration … in revenge for the wrongs we have suffered.”
As a result, “We did things that we were unable to take back, harmed another human being, ourselves and so many who loved us and who loved that other human being,” LeCroy wrote.
Once that evil act is committed, “There are no time machines, no take-backs … no sincere apologies to erase what has been done,” he wrote. And those who commit those acts are labeled as evil, and they are negated. “There cannot be any action deemed acceptable by those who hate us. This we understand.”
Later, he writes of spiritual teachers who “force us to contemplate our lives. … it’s painful to face how we harm others, and it takes awhile. It’s a journey.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.