COLUMBIA -- A Georgia man convicted of killing his wife and son to collect life insurance money was executed Friday in South Carolina.
Luke Williams was put to death by lethal injection. The 56-year-old made no final statement and kept his eyes closed as the drugs were administered.
His eyes fluttered and he breathed rapidly, then appeared to snore. A minute later he was motionless. Williams was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m.
He was convicted of killing his 39-year-old wife, Linda Williams, and their 12-year-old son, Shaun, in June 1991. Authorities say he took them across the state line into Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, where he killed them.
Their bodies had been doused with gasoline and set afire in the family's van. The van had been driven into a tree in what police called a botched attempt to stage an accident.
Linda Williams had been beaten to death; Shaun strangled.
Williams was arrested the next year after trying to collect on $525,000 in life insurance policies.
Williams and his family had been living in Georgia, about 10 miles west of the South Carolina border. Williams had told authorities he last saw his family when they went shopping the morning their bodies were discovered.
Investigator Don Bullock said that shortly after the deaths, Williams' plan became apparent: The disability money he'd been living off was about to run out, and his wife was planning to leave him and return to her parents in Florida.
Williams took out life insurance policies totaling more than half a million dollars on his wife and their adopted son, an El Salvador native orphaned during that country's civil war.
"I think he panicked," Bullock said recently. "He decided to take his family out. ... I think he had a plan, but it wasn't ready. He found out she was leaving, so he had to act fast."
No family members for either William's side of the family or Linda Williams' side attended the execution.
In the more than 15 years since his conviction, Williams had exhausted his state and federal appeals. Only eight other inmates have been on South Carolina's death row longer. The longest, 50-year-old Edward Elmore, began serving a sentence for murder in 1982.
Williams had also filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of lethal injection but lost a bid to delay his execution while that case went forward.