Editor's Note: The Tulsa World originally published this story on April, 27, 2014, in advance of Charles Warner's original execution date. His execution was carried out Jan. 15.
Shonda Waller left for the grocery store one August afternoon in 1997 and came home to find her 11-month-old infant, Adrianna, undressed, limp and lifeless.
Her dolly eyelashes wouldn't move. Adrianna was dead on arrival at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Her skull, jaw and ribs were fractured. Her liver was lacerated, her spleen and lungs were bruised.
It was a sharp-eyed charge nurse who first noticed the signs of sexual abuse, as she cleaned Adrianna's tiny body so that her mother could hold her one last time. Her baby weighed the same as a sack of potatoes.
Charles Frederick Warner, the former roommate of Waller, was convicted of raping and killing Adrianna. The state plans to execute Warner and another convicted killer, Clayton Lockett, Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Warner, 46, has fought in court against recent changes to the state's execution protocol, arguing that he has a constitutional right to know key details about the execution drugs and that the new, untested method could inflict cruel and unusual pain. His March execution date was stayed as the courts sorted out the legal issues involved with Oklahoma changing the lethal injection drug mixture it uses.
But he is out of appeals for the crime for which he will die.
Tried and convicted
Warner was tried three times in Oklahoma County District Court before he landed permanently on death row.
At the first trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. But within a few years, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed that sentence and ordered a new trial. The second time, in 2003, it was declared a mistrial. But months later, he was re-tried, convicted and once again sentenced to death.
Public defenders at his murder trial argued that police and prosecutors had manipulated the evidence and the witnesses provided inconsistent and embellished testimony.
But Warner's own story changed several times. He initially admitted to being alone with the baby and his own three children while Waller was at the grocery store.
"You already got me," Warner reportedly told police in a videotaped interview hours after the baby died.
But he first said the baby fell while he was out of the room. Then at trial, he said he had gone to the store with Waller and all of the children. He said he returned home, left again with two of the kids, and left the baby at home under the supervision of his 5-year-old, with the door unlocked.
But Warner's own son testified at trial that he witnessed his father shaking the baby while Waller was not home.
Lou Keel, the former prosecutor who secured Warner's conviction, wrote to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board before Warner's clemency hearing to say that he didn't deserve leniency from the state.
"Warner never displayed any remorse for his actions and remained indifferent throughout both trials," Keel wrote. "For this horrendous crime against a most helpless little child, justice demands this sentence be carried out."
At the trial, Waller told the courtroom of the sadness that filled her heart after she lost Adrianna, whose name is spelled Adriana in some records.
"I wake up to make her bottles for a child that's no longer there. I constantly ask myself, 'Am I going crazy?' " she said. "I think of death often, yet I have to remind myself that if I take my life, I will never get the chance to see her again at heaven's gates. I know we will cross one day. I look forward to holding my child who is only now a memory."
Waller now lives in Georgia. Earlier this year, she agreed to a recorded interview with attorneys representing Warner in advance of his March clemency hearing. Though court records and news articles at the time said Waller and Warner had a relationship, his attorneys maintain the two were simply roommates.
She said no one asked her at the time of the trial if she thought Warner should be sentenced to death. She told his attorneys that she is "a Christian woman" who believes the death penalty is morally wrong and has forgiven Warner, according to the interview transcript.
"God always has the final say so on life and death and after everything that I've been through, I wouldn't want his family to suffer the way I've suffered or his child to have to endure losing her father. I wouldn't wish that on anyone," she said. She would prefer that Warner spend the rest of his life in prison, "without him ever walking out of the cell walls."
To execute Warner in her daughter's name would dishonor her daughter, she told the attorneys.
"When he dies, I want it to be because it's his time, not because he's been executed because due to what happened to me and my child. I don't see any justice in just sentencing someone to die," she said. "To me, the justice is in someone living with what they have done to you... your family, and having to live with that for the rest of their life knowing that they will never walk out those bars.
"My daughter's memory lies with me. There's nothing they can do by giving him the death penalty that's going to honor anything pertaining to my daughter or to myself."
Cary Aspinwall 918-581-8477
More from tulsaworld:
If Oklahoma executes two men Tuesday, it won't be the first time. But it's been a long time since it has happened. How will this work? Also: Could any last-minute appeals delay execution once again for Charles Warner or Clayton Lockett?