Scott Abdallah prosecuted Donald Moeller for the second time when Abdallah was only 29 years old.
As the execution was being carried out on Tuesday, Abdallah says after 22 years, he can’t help but feel a sense of relief that this nightmare is finally over.
“I obviously have a deep sense of reverence for our judicial system that affords all criminal defendants many rights under our Constitution, but at the same time ultimately holds those responsible accountable for their crimes,” Abdallah said.
Abdallah says South Dakota should feel a little safer now that Moeller has been executed.
“We’ve seen about recent escape attempts and I think that anybody who worked on this case would tell you that if Donald Moeller ever escaped from those walls, it was a virtual certainty that another child has going to be killed,” Abdallah said. “I think that it’s a long time coming and finally tonight is the night.”
Moeller had a long history of criminal offenses even before the O’Connell case. Abdallah says Moeller had about nine previous felony charges against him before the O’Connell case.
“I think that a lot of law officers that worked on this crime will tell you that you wonder how many other crimes Donald Moeller committed that he was never caught, apprehended and prosecuted for,” Abdallah said.
Moeller also had a chance to spare his own life. Abdallah had offered him a deal if he confessed to the crime. Abdallah also had the blessings of O'Connell's family when he gave Moeller the deal.
“They wanted answers to some questions about Becky’s last moments and they wanted to give him an opportunity to spare his own life,” Abdallah said.
Moeller was given an offer to plead guilty, accept responsibility in court and admit what he did. But Moeller didn’t respond to the letter.
“When I think about tonight and I think about the circumstances, he only has himself to blame,” Abdallah said.
And recently in court when Moeller finally did confess to the crime, Abdallah says he was shocked.
“I just couldn’t believe it. In fact, it was Mike Larsen that called and told me he confessed. And my first reaction to Mike was, 'You must have misunderstood. I just don't believe it,'” Abdallah said.
Moeller denied his guilt for 22 years.
“Finally out of the blue this summer, he decides to admit his guilt,” Abdallah said. “We spend so much time talking about Donald Moeller and frankly, I don’t think he deserves this attention.”
Abdallah says the person who everyone needs to think about and remember is Rebecca O'Connell.
“She was a sweet, innocent, young girl who lost everything and she would be in her early 30s today. And I think we should take this time to reflect; parents, teachers, community members should reflect on what we can do as a community to lean on each other, to keep a better eye on our children,” Abdallah said. “Because as terrifying as this may sound, this could happen again.”
Abdallah was invited to witness Tuesday's execution, but he turned it down. He says that’s because there was a lot of law enforcement officers who worked on this case and they are the ones that deserve all the credit.
“They worked their heart and soul and especially the ones that were first on the crime scene,” Abdallah said. “Those officers are left with these images in their minds for the rest of their lives and they live with that in a post-traumatic stress kind of way.”
Abdallah says there were several law enforcement officers invited to witness the execution and a lot of them wanted to be there to try to get a sense of closure.
Abdallah asked that a law enforcement officer go in his place to witness the execution.