The Indiana Supreme Court has set an execution date for Eric Wrinkles, the Evansville man convicted in the 1994 slayings of his estranged wife and two relatives.
Wrinkles is to be executed before sunrise the morning of Dec. 11, according to an order filed Tuesday.
He was found guilty of the July 21, 1994, shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Debra Jean Wrinkles, 31; her brother, Mark "Tony" Fulkerson, 28; and Fulkerson's wife, Natalie "Chris" Fulkerson, 26.
As the execution date nears, neither of the victims' mothers is sure it will bring closure to the horrific crime. Neither wants to witness Wrinkles' death, and one actively is campaigning to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.
In the intervening years, Mae McIntire, mother of Debra Wrinkles and Mark Fulkerson, has developed a relationship with Wrinkles' mother. McIntire said she began calling and visiting Wrinkles' mother after the trial, because like herself, she sees his family as victims, as well.
"When I talked to her, I never mentioned Eric, and she never mentioned him to me. I have nothing against the family for what he did," she said.
"And I don't know how his mother can get rid of something like that in her mind."
McIntire said she does not plan on witnessing Wrinkle's execution. She is not convinced that watching the final moments of Wrinkles' life would grant her closure.
"My closure will be just knowing that he's not here anymore," she said.
Mary Winnecke, the mother of victim Natalie Fulkerson, received the news of Wrinkles' execution date early Tuesday.
"It knocked me over," she said. "I didn't expect the courts to do anything until the first of the year, and I was just completely knocked over. ... Having Eric executed just rubs salt in my wounds. The pain just comes rushing back. Everything, all the emotions, just bounce off the walls."
Since Wrinkles was sentenced, Winnecke has forgiven Wrinkles, and as a devout Catholic, she prays Wrinkles will ask for God's forgiveness. She has a message for Wrinkles: "Please get on your knees and ask God for forgiveness."
Over the summer, she began a letter-writing campaign to the governor's office, asking that Wrinkles' sentence be converted to life in prison. And yet, aside from making additional calls to the governor, she's "not sure what else to do" to spare Wrinkles' life.
But because of her religious beliefs and out of respect for her daughter, someone who Winnecke said "loved life" and "loved other people," she doesn't plan to see Wrinkles' execution. "Who wants to see somebody die? I mean, why would anybody want to see that?" she said.
Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stan Levco sought the death penalty for Wrinkles. Before Wrinkles' trial began, Levco met with the victims' family members and told them that a death penalty sentence for Wrinkles would be a lengthy process.
Finding Wrinkles guilty wasn't difficult, Levco said, but convincing the jury Wrinkles should be sentenced to death was a challenge. And now, a possible execution date is just more than a month away.
"This has been a long, drawn-out process, but I think that, ultimately, it's the right decision," he said.
During the trial, Levco said one of Wrinkles' main arguments was his history of drug abuse, but when he took the stand without the presence of drugs, he was disruptive.
"I remember cross-examining him and remember thinking that he was very belligerent on the witness stand," Levco said. "It's hard to say if that aided our case, but it certainly didn't aid his case."
The Indiana Attorney General's Office notified the state Supreme Court in May that Wrinkles' federal appeals were exhausted when the U.S. Supreme Court on May 18 declined to hear his case.
Before setting the date, the Indiana Supreme Court first considered an additional appeal from Wrinkles regarding a 2002 opinion in which it ruled a stun belt he wore during his trial did not bias jurors.
That order, written by Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, states that Wrinkles did not "meet his burden of establishing a reasonable possibility that he is entitled to post-conviction relief." It leaves open the possibility for petitioning for a rehearing, but says it should "not be sought if Wrinkles intends merely to raise the same arguments (the court) has already addressed."