Sioux Falls, SD
South Dakota authorities who helped convict Donald Moeller say it's the worst crime scene they've ever investigated.
This week Moeller is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. It comes 22 years after he raped, stabbed, and murdered nine-year-old Becky O'Connell in one of the most brutal crimes in South Dakota history.
"Probably the worst thing I ever saw," former Lincoln County Sheriff Ken Albers said.
Albers was the first on the scene on the morning of May 9, 1990 after O'Connell's body was discovered by two men who were out four-wheeling in a rural area near Lake Alvin in Lincoln County.
"It didn't look real initially. I actually wondered about if it was real because it didn't look real," Albers said.
The discovery of the mangled body was quickly connected to O'Connell's disappearance that was reported in Sioux Falls the night before. Albers called former Sioux Falls Police Chief and detective Terry Satterlee.
"It was just terrible. It was just absolutely terrible what he did to that little girl," Satterlee said.
Both Albers and Satterlee are retired now but worked in law enforcement more than 30 years and say the Becky O'Connell murder was one of the most gruesome cases they had to investigate.
"I know that you shouldn't step on a crime scene but I had to go over and touch the body to convince myself that was a person; a child," Albers said.
Moeller had kidnapped O'Connell on May 8, 1990 from a Sioux Falls convenience store and took her to a wooded area near Lake Alvin where he raped and sodomized her while continually stabbing her at the same time; sometimes going so deep it went all the way to the handle.
"Such a mindless crime. It made no sense, but Moeller was that type of person, his whole focus is self gratification and he doesn't give any thought to who his victim is or what the impact of his actions are," Satterlee said.
While Moeller was identified as a suspect shortly after O'Connell's body was discovered, it wasn't until February of 1991 when Moeller was captured in Washington State.
It wasn't Moeller’s first violent crime. He was actually convicted of assaulting a teenage boy in Wyoming in 1979, when he tied up the 13-year-old and forced him to perform oral sex at knife point.
Satterlee says if they didn't arrest Moeller following O'Connell's killing he would have continued the violent pattern.
"He wasn't going to stop. If he hadn't been captured he would have continued on satisfying his needs until he was either captured or killed, one or the other, he wasn't about to stop," Satterlee said.
Because of appeals Moeller eventually had two trials and was convicted of raping and killing O'Connell twice by two different South Dakota juries. Even though it has taken 22 years for Moeller's execution to be carried out, the investigators who were first on the scene say the 60-year-old deserves the punishment that awaits him in South Dakota's death chamber.
"I do think it's time to get it done. Probably well over the time to get it done," Albers said.
"He's had his day in court and he's been found guilty by two separate juries, their recommendation was the death penalty and it's an absolutely appropriate in this case. I can't think of another case where there would be more appropriate than this one. This was an outrageous crime and the death penalty is the proper sentence," Satterlee said.
And as Moeller's last days approach the investigators who worked the case say no one should forget the innocent girl whose life was brutally ended in rural Lincoln County.
"There's nothing she could possibly have done to deserve that kind of thing to happen," Albers said.
"In my opinion if anybody feels compelled to shed a tear for Donald Moeller they ought to save a tear and shed it for a little girl and her family and friends who Moeller took away the most precious commodity she had and that was her life. After he's executed I hope I never hear his name again," Satterlee said.
A name that in just days will no longer be part of South Dakota's list of death row inmates.
Albers says he plans to attend Moeller's execution this week. Satterlee says he will not be there and has no desire to witness the execution.