JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Mississippi Supreme Court set an execution date for the man accused of killing a 16-year-old girl in 2000.

According to court documents, a December 14 execution date has been set for Thomas Edwin Loden Jr.

Prosecutors said Loden kidnapped Leesa Marie Gray, who was stranded on the side of a road in northern Mississippi’s Itawamba County on June 22, 2000. The documents said Loden spent four hours raping and sexually battering Gray before suffocating and strangling her to death.

Gray disappeared on her way home from working as a waitress at her family’s restaurant in the Dorsey community. Prosecutors said she was last seen driving out of the restaurant parking lot. Relatives found her car hours later with her purse still inside and the hazard lights flashing. Her body was found the next day in Loden’s van.

Loden was indicted for capital murder, rape and four counts of sexually battery. He waived his right to a jury and pled guilty to all six charges.

The Circuit Court of Itawamba County sentenced Loden to death. He was also sentenced to 30 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) for rape and 30 years for each of his four sexual battery convictions. The circuit court ordered his sentences to run consecutively.

Prosecutors said Loden challenged his conviction and sentenced many times, but he exhausted all state and federal remedies.

Mississippi’s most recent execution was in November 2021. A lethal injection was given to David Neal Cox, who had pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife and sexually assaulting her young daughter as her mother lay dying in 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.