MICHIGAN CITY | A witness to the execution of Matthew Eric Wrinkles said the 49-year-old's final moments were calm and reflective of a man who -- despite dropping out of school -- worked to educate himself and become a leader for other death row inmates housed at the Indiana State Prison.
"He had a very peaceful passing," said Deacon Malcolm Lunsford, of Merrillville's SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
Lunsford declined to offer specifics on the view from the witness room.
"He is with God. I have no doubt about that," he said.
Wrinkles, a convicted triple-murderer, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 12:39 a.m. at the Indiana State Prison. He had spent more than 14 years on death row after a Vanderburgh County jury convicted him of the 1994 killings of his estranged wife, her brother and her sister-in-law: 31-year-old Debra Wrinkles, 28-year-old Tony Fulkerson and 26-year-old Natalie Fulkerson.
Indiana Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison said that when asked, Wrinkles offered as his last words," Not at this time. Let's get it done. Let's lock and load ... it's plagiarized, but what the hell."
Ignoring any remaining avenues to spare his life, Wrinkles complied with staff and did not physically resist the execution process, which began shortly after midnight, Garrison said.
State law provides for a condemned inmate to have as many as five friends or family members present for the execution, and for the victims to have eight members of the immediate family present. The exact number of witnesses present, and their identities, are withheld per state law.
Lunsford, who met Wrinkles some nine years ago after becoming ordained, described him as having a role akin to a union representative for death row inmates.
"If there were issues, he was the one who went to the officials," Lunsford said. "He had a good relationship with the administrators.
"I'm going to miss him. Not only am I going to miss him, all of the guys on the row are going to miss him."
Earlier in the day, among Wrinkles' visitors were his brother, his 21-year-old son Seth and his 28-year-old daughter Lindsay Christmas.
Diocese of Gary spokesman Deacon Mark Plaiss said he was with Wrinkles and his daughter for about 30 minutes Thursday morning and took part in a discussion about the merits of American car manufacturers.
"We talked about, among other things, the advantages of driving a Honda over a Ford," Plaiss said. "(Eric) favored the Ford because it was American made, while I and Lindsay favored the Honda."
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Plaiss described the scene between father and daughter as jovial.
"Had we not been in a visitor's case at a prison, you would not know that she was in the presence of her father who was about to be executed," he said of Wrinkles daughter, who witnessed her father's crimes more than 15 years ago.
"Regardless of what my dad had done, he's still my dad," Lindsay Christmas wrote in a written statement released moments after her father's execution. "Having to re-live this ordeal is tragic. ... Recently we have made peace within each other. I will go on with my life having peace within me. Knowing God will take care of all of us."
Though his mother-in-law hasn't forgiven him, 79-year-old Mae McIntire told The Associated Press that she was glad for the children's sake they finally reconciled with their father.
McIntire said Wrinkles had blamed his daughter for testifying against him at trial, something that Christmas -- in her written statement -- said she did unwillingly.
"Those children need to go on," McIntire said. Noting she wanted to do the same, she added: "I'm going to try to start my life over after 15 years and try to have a better life."
Wrinkles was the first state inmate to be executed since June 2007, when Michael Lambert was put to death.
Since 1897, 92 people have been executed at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, according to the Indiana Department of Correction. Ninety-one were sentenced to death by a jury in an Indiana state court, the IDOC said.
James Dalhover was a federal prisoner executed Nov. 17, 1938 at the Indiana State Prison.
Two men -- Michael Lockhart and Alton Coleman -- were executed in other states after receiving a death sentence by an Indiana state court jury.
Indiana has 16 prisoners on death row. Twelve are awaiting execution, and four have had their death sentences overturned, but are still considered death row inmates pending the outcome of appeals, and all but one are housed at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.
Debra Denise Brown, who was convicted in 1986 of killing a 7-year-old in Gary, remains housed in Ohio and sentenced to death in Indiana, which lacks facilities for female death row inmates.
Associated Press Writer Charles Wilson contributed to this report.