GRADY, Ark. - Clemency hearings continued Monday at the Varner Unit for five of the eight inmates whose execution dates are next month.
Marcel Wayne Williams was the third death row inmate to beg the Arkansas Parole Board to commute his sentence to life without parole.
"I am so sorry," Williams said while fighting back tears. "I wish I could take it back, but I can't. To those I hurt, sorry is not enough."
Williams was condemned for the 1994 kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and murder of Stacy Errickson, a young mother of two whose husband was deployed overseas at the time.
While Errickson was getting gas on her way to work, Williams forced her into his car at gunpoint, drove her to several ATMs to make a total of 18 transactions, then raped and killed her in an abandoned storage shed. He buried her body in a shallow grave near a smokestack in North Little Rock that can still be seen today from the city's skyline.
"Sometimes you don't like the person you see looking back at you," Williams said. "So you do what you can to change that. And I've tried. I don't know what else to do."
Unlike the first two clemency hearings, Williams's lawyer, Jason Kearney, said his client admits to murder and asks his victims for forgiveness.
Kearney argued Williams never knew his dad, which set him up for a life of abuse, neglect, poverty and violence.
"He's more than simply a murderer," Kearney said. "While he may deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison, and he most certainly does and acknowledges that, he does not deserve to die."
Kearney said Williams's counsel failed to argue mitigating circumstances surrounding his troubled childhood. A short video with interviews from family members revealed his mom was "unfit to be a mother" because she liked to party and was hardly ever around. Family members said when she was, she and Williams's stepfather would sexually abuse him, pimp him out and beat him mercilessly with an extension chord.
"We shortchanged your life and your defense," said attorney Bill James in the video, crying, which made Williams cry.
Suzanne Ritchie, Williams's English teacher at Ridgeroad Junior High, said he missed school quite often, and when he was present, he rarely had lunch or clean clothes. She said after he was arrested in 9th grade, she never saw him again.
"I don't agree with what Marcel did at all," Ritchie said. "But like I tell some of my students, when you're raising yourself, sometimes you don't do a very good job. And when children are put in prisons and they don't get any type of help, it's not a surprise to me that they end up where he ended up."
According to the attorney general's office, state and federal courts have denied relief that Williams's childhood motivated his actions.
At the family hearing Monday afternoon, Errickson's mother, Carolyn Moore, said her daughter, like Williams, also never knew her dad, but she's not in prison, she's dead.
Moore lost all of her pictures of Errickson in a house fire several years ago. The only image that still exists of her is that of her decomposing body at the crime scene.
Moore can't forgive Williams for robbing her grandkids of their mother.
"They have lost a lot," Moore said. "They'll never know her like they should had."
A family friend of Errickson's also begged the board to deny Williams's clemency request.
"Marcel Williams is my boogeyman," said Trista Wussick as she cried. "He doesn't deserve any mercy."
Wussick was the last person to see Errickson alive. She was babysitting her two kids when she was murdered.
"I still think of her every day and always will," Wussick said.
Two days after Errickson's murder, Williams kidnapped and raped a UALR law student then she escaped.
"I forgive you, Mr. Williams," said Dina Windle. "I always have."
Twenty-two years later, Windle came all the way from New Jersey to look him in the eye once more and plead with the parole board to spare his life.
"This man has turned his life around and he's found God," Windle said. "He's serving God. That is the best thing that could ever happen to a person."
Windle believes Williams could devote the rest of his life behind bars for the good of other inmates.
"If he could reach just one person, isn't that enough?," she asked the board.
Some would say no.
"He didn't want to be straightened out," Moore said. "He wanted the life he had."
However, Williams hopes he gets more life to live to try to right his wrongs.
"I'm gonna end with an apology to you," Williams said looking at Windle.
She nodded, accepting his apology, and his clemency hearing ended.
The parole board should release within the week whether or not it will deny Williams's clemency request. The board denied his request in 2011.
His execution date is set for April 24 alongside Jack Harold Jones, Jr. The other double executions are scheduled for April 17, 20 and 27.
The clemency hearings for the last two inmates are Friday.