Idaho to Execute Longest-Serving Death Row Inmate, Known as “Tom”

BOISE, Idaho – After almost half a century of providing three daily meals, conducting routine check-ins, and escorting him to medical appointments, Idaho’s prison staff will now face an unprecedented task. They are slated to carry out the execution of Thomas Eugene Creech, a 73-year-old inmate who holds the distinction of being one of the longest-serving death row convicts in the nation. Creech is set to be put to death by lethal injection for the 1981 murder of a fellow prisoner using a battery-filled sock.

The journey that led Creech to this moment of reckoning is marked by a trail of violence, with convictions for five murders in three different states and suspicions of involvement in several others. Over the years, however, his persona inside the confines of Idaho’s Maximum Security Institution has shifted from being a notorious criminal to simply known as “Tom,” an elderly inmate who often expresses his thoughts through poetry. Surprisingly, his plea for clemency had garnered support from a former prison warden, correctional officers who received his poems as gestures of support or solace, and even the judge who sentenced him to death.

Creech’s legal team has been relentlessly filing appeals in various courts in a bid to halt the impending execution, which would mark Idaho’s first implementation of capital punishment in 12 years. Challenges have been raised against Idaho’s secrecy surrounding the source of its execution drug, as well as claims of inadequate legal representation for Creech. Despite these efforts, a ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the argument that Creech’s sentencing by a judge, instead of a jury, should exempt him from execution.

The extent of Creech’s criminal activities prior to his incarceration in Idaho in 1974 remains unclear. Although he had confessed to multiple killings, including some that authorities found to be fabricated, focus has been honed on approximately 11 deaths that appear to be linked to him. Instances like the murder of Paul Schrader in Arizona and the subsequent killing of Vivian Grant Robinson in California shed light on Creech’s violent tendencies, which culminated in his capture in Idaho after the homicides of two individuals who had offered him a ride while hitchhiking.

While Creech’s history is riddled with a string of gruesome crimes, a shift in his demeanor during his decades spent behind bars has prompted some to acknowledge a transformation. Despite the indelible impact of his heinous actions on numerous lives, there are individuals within the prison community who attest to Creech’s altered behavior characterized by positive contributions within his limited sphere. As preparations for his execution unfold, the looming absence of Creech, known to many within the prison walls, is bound to evoke a gamut of emotions. The finality of his impending fate underscores the complex interplay between justice, accountability, and the undeniable human connections that endure even in the most dire circumstances.