'I Am Innocent': Chilling Last Words of Sexual Assault and Murder Convict Executed in Oklahoma

"I did not take anyone's life," were the final words uttered by 44-year-old Anthony Sanchez, who had been found guilty of both the rape and murder of a University of Oklahoma dance student in 1996. On Thursday, September 21, he faced his execution via lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Anthony Sanchez

Throughout his ordeal, Sanchez steadfastly maintained his innocence, a stance he held until his demise at 10:19 a.m. CDT, as reported by the Associated Press.

The victim in this tragic case was Juli Busken, a 21-year-old Arkansas native who had just completed her final semester. Her abduction from the parking lot of her Norman apartment complex on December 20, 1996, culminated in her brutal murder. Her lifeless body was discovered near a lake in southeast Oklahoma City, bearing the horrific signs of sexual assault and a gunshot wound to the back of her head.

The case lay dormant for years until DNA evidence from the crime scene pointed to Sanchez, who was already incarcerated for burglary. Just two days before his execution, Anthony spoke to News 4 over the phone and reflected, "When all is said and done, no one can evade the clutches of death."

In April, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled 5-0 against Sanchez in a new challenge, who claimed that his father confessed to Busken's murder before committing suicide last year. In February, the OSBI (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation) did more DNA tests after getting a blood sample from the father's body, which was examined by the medical examiner's office. These tests cleared the father of being the killer. Just last week, supporters of Anthony Sanchez brought a handwritten letter from him to Governor Kevin Stitt. In the letter, Sanchez strongly said he's innocent and asked the governor to give him a 60-day break so that his new lawyers can properly check his case.

Despite his dire circumstances, the death-row inmate expressed sympathy for the family of Juli Busken, the very family that believed him responsible for her 1996 rape and murder. He remarked, "I can scarcely fathom the agony they endure whenever the name 'Anthony Sanchez' is mentioned. If taking my life is their path to closure, I respect their choice."

Efforts were made by Anthony's lawyer, Eric Allen of Columbus, Ohio, to postpone the execution by requesting more time to scrutinize boxes of evidence related to the case. However, the Supreme Court swiftly denied this request on Thursday, September 21.

Justice served? For the Busken family, Anthony's execution may have provided a semblance of closure. Their attorney stated that it marked the long-awaited arrival of justice for Juli Busken.

Notably, none of Juli Busken's family members were reportedly present during the execution.

"Today, justice was served for Juli Busken, nearly 27 years after her life was tragically taken from her," declared State Attorney General Gentner Drummond in a statement reported by CBS News.

Drummond added, "My hope is that today can bring some measure of solace to her family and friends."

Anthony Sanchez's Last Meal Before facing lethal injection, Sanchez was granted a final meal consisting of chicken fried steak, fried okra, mashed potatoes and gravy, a roll, sweet iced tea, and apple pie accompanied by vanilla ice cream, according to a report from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. He became the third prisoner in Oklahoma to meet his end by lethal injection in the same year.