COLUMBIA - Nina O'Mailia didn't return to see her son's killer, William "Junior" Downs, executed Friday evening.
"The execution gives me nothing," Ms. O'Mailia wrote in an e-mail from her Portland, Ore., home. "I found closure when I forgave Mr. Downs in 2002."
Mr. Downs, who turned 39 Wednesday, was executed by lethal injection at 6:17 p.m. for the murder seven years ago of 6-year-old Keenan O'Mailia, of North Augusta.
The child's body was found near Riverview Park in April 1999, a day after he disappeared while riding his bike.
Mr. Downs said he saw the boy, stopped him, asked his name, then threw him to the ground, raping and then strangling him.
He pleaded guilty in 2002 and requested the death sentence.
After a year on death row, he pleaded not guilty to murder and sexual assault charges in the 1991 death of 10-year-old James Porter, whose body was found in the Augusta Canal two months after he disappeared.
Police said Mr. Downs later confessed to that killing.
James' mother, Kathy Porter Favors, witnessed Friday's execution but made no statement afterward.
Media witnesses said Mr. Downs said nothing and never looked at the witnesses in the final minutes of his life.
Ms. O'Mailia said she now feels "pity and sorrow" for Mr. Downs.
She also said she wants to make sure that her son isn't forgotten.
She keeps Keenan's ashes in an urn, fills her home with pictures of her son and shares her story with other parents and children in hopes of keeping them safe.
As for her son, she believes he's happy.
"Keenan is in heaven," she said. "I believe once you're in heaven, the things that happen on this earth don't matter. Keenan is praising God for who He is and what He's done."
Nine people protested outside Friday's execution, including Rose-Louise Terry of Great Britain, whose husband, Gary Dubose Terry, is on death row in South Carolina.
"(Capital punishment) doesn't bring the victim back, and revenge is only sweet for a short time," Ms. Terry said.
Mr. Downs is the 36th person executed in South Carolina since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
This spring, the Legislature passed a law allowing the death penalty for criminals who are convicted twice of sexually assaulting children younger than 11.
The Associated Press and Greg Rickabaugh contributed to this report.
Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.