On Christmas night 1982, he decided his family would forgive him on a holiday, and so he began to walk down Broad Street toward his parents' home. A man pulled up in a white Cadillac, he said, and offered him a ride. It was William Cooke, the son of Graham and [Myra Adkins]. They became friends, and soon, [Willie Leroy Jones] was spending a lot of time in rural Charles City County, where Cooke lived in a mobile home near his parents' house. Jones also struck up a friendship of sorts with Myra Adkins, who would come over and sit at the kitchen table with him and talk. Gradually, he learned there was a lot of money stored in the Adkins house, and after a falling-out with Cooke, he said, he decided to mount "a military operation." He broke into the Adkins home the first time on May 1 but was spooked and fled after grabbing about $500 from a stack of old cigar boxes. There was much more money there, he could see that. He also took a .25-caliber automatic. Twelve days later, he returned. Graham Adkins was standing in the yard, and Jones, wearing a long curly wig, sunglasses and a baseball cap and posing as an undercover police officer, showed the elderly man a poster he had made with photographs of "missing boys" on it. He was invited into the house. The gun was in his pocket.
We were told that Jones would receive two "cycles" of electricity. The first, 1,825 volts - the surge that was supposed to kill him - would last for 30 seconds. The second, at 230 volts, would last for 60 seconds. After a five-minute period, a doctor would enter the death chamber to pronounce him dead. We would have to wait in our glass booth until that happened, with the body strapped in the big chair at the front of the room, underneath the round schoolhouse clock. "You all are probably wondering what you will see," said David Bass, an official with the Virginia Department of Corrections. "They are all different, but you will see some smoke. There may be some odor, some movement. You will probably hear something that sounds like a groan. Really more like an exhalation of breath. After the inmate is pronounced dead, we will stand up and exit immediately." There was a brisk precision to what happened next; it was over in a matter of minutes. Jones strutted into the death chamber and kissed the chair. He was quickly seated and the guards began fastening the leather straps around his arms and chest. His eyes blazing, he stared at me, like he said he would, and somehow, I smiled at him.
PHOTO,,James M. Thresher;PHOTO CAPTION:WILLIE JONES CAPTION:Willie Jones pictured here in 1977. CAPTION:An ambulance transports the body of Willie Jones from the Greensville Correctional Center at 11:22 p.m., Sept. 15. CAPTION:Above: The store in Charles City County owned by Graham and Myra Adkins; at right, an old white Cadillac covered with kudzu.
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