Stop the Execution of Thomas Loden, Jr. in Mississippi

Governor Tate Reeves

Thomas Loden, Jr. is scheduled for execution in Mississippi on December 14, 2022 for the 2000 murder of Leesa Gray.

The following background information is via The Forgiveness Foundation.

Mississippi plans to execute Thomas Edwin Loden, Jr., at 6 pm local time on December 14, 2022. Executions are carried out at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi. Fifty-eight-year-old Thomas is convicted of murdering 16-year-old Lessa Marie Gray on June 22, 2000, in Itawamba County, Mississippi. Thomas has been on death row in Mississippi for the last 21 years.

Thomas was allegedly sexually abused as a child. Despite the abuse, Thomas was a good student in school. After graduating, he joined the US Marines, where he served for 18 years. During his years of service, he served in combat during Desert Storm and was highly decorated for his service. At the time of the crime, he was working as a Marine recruiter and had no prior criminal history.

On June 22, 2000, teenager Lessa Maria Gray left her job at her family’s restaurant in Dorsey, Mississippi. She never arrived home and her vehicle was discovered hours later with her purse still inside and hazard lights flashing. The following day, Lessa’s body was discovered in Thomas Loden’s van.  

Loden was arrested and eventually confessed to the crime. In his confession, Loden stated that he saw Leesa’s car on the side of the road and pulled over to help. Leesa told Loden she had a flat tire. Loden told her that he was a Marine and could help her. As he bent down to look at the tire, Loden asked if she had ever thought about joining the Marines. Leesa said it was the last thing she wanted to do with her life.

Loden claimed that comment made him so upset that he reacted violently and forced Leesa into his van. Inside the van, he repeatedly raped and assaulted her before killing her. He then abandoned his van. Loden was found later morning along the side of the road. He had lacerations on his wrists and the words “I’m sorry” carved into his chest. Loden’s van with Lessa inside, was discovered a short time later.

Loden initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. However, about one month before his trial was scheduled to start, Loden decided to enter a guilty plea, following the advice of his attorneys. He was then sentenced to death. Loden later tried to claim that the advice of his attorneys was faulty and that he did not understand he could not later withdraw his guilty plea. Since then, Loden has sought to have his guilty plea vacated. Court records, however, show that the judge in the case repeatedly asked Loden if he understood that by entering a guilty plea he would not be able to appeal. Loden answered that he understood.


Mississippi's announcement that it plans to carry out another execution marks the state as an outlier in national use of the death penalty. The vast majority of states with capital punishment continue on a downward trend of executions, with only a handful of (almost exclusively Southern) states having had carried out executions in the last few years. Mississippi is going against evolving standards of decency and human rights by scheduling an execution date.  

Please sign the petition asking Governor Reeves to do everything within his power to stop this execution, including issuing a stay, and seeking a path to clemency in the case.

Sponsored by

To: Governor Tate Reeves
From: [Your Name]

We are writing to ask that you to stop the December 14, 2022 execution of Thomas Loden, Jr. for the 2000 murder of Leesa Gray.

Nothing excuses his crime, however, we want to emphasize that Mr. Loden served as a US Marine for 18 years. He served in combat during Desert Storm and was highly decorated for his service. At the time of the crime, he was working as a Marine recruiter and had no prior criminal history.

We are concerned that while the vast majority of states with capital punishment continue on a downward trend of executions, Mississippi is going against the trend by scheduling executions.

We, the undersigned, ask that you do everything within your power to stop this execution, including issuing a stay, and seeking a path to clemency in the case.

Thank you for time and attention to this urgent and serious matter.