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Oklahoma executes Michael Dewayne Smith, the first death row inmate to be killed in 2024

Michael Dewayne Smith
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Michael Dewayne Smith

This story was updated at 11:25 a.m., Thursday, April 4.

Oklahoma executed its first death row inmate of the year Thursday morning.

He was put to death at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester shortly after 10 a.m.

Michael Dewayne Smith, 41, was convicted of the murders of 40-year-old Janet Moore and 24-year-old Sharath Babu Pulluru in separate events on February 22, 2002.

Moore was shot at her apartment in east Oklahoma City as Smith was looking for her son, Phillip Zachary, whom Smith mistakenly thought was a snitch. Smith said he shot her because she panicked and yelled for help when he arrived.

Smith then went to A&Z Food Mart in south Oklahoma City and shot Pulluru, whom he believed had made comments to The Oklahoman about another store clerk shooting and killing a gang member during a robbery in 2000. Pulluru, who did not make those comments, was shot nine times, doused with lighter fluid and set on fire.

At the time of those murders, Smith was 19 years old and a member of an Oklahoma City street gang called the Oak Grove Posse. Prosecutors allege Smith was also known as “Hoover Killer” or “HK.”

Smith was also fugitive on the run for his role in the November 2001 shooting death of Otis Payne outside Lexus Club in Northeast Oklahoma City. He was sentenced to life in prison for that crime, after admitting he handed the gun to the shooter, David Burns.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to deny clemency for Smith in March.

In his clemency hearing, Smith addressed the board over video call and restated his claim of innocence, despite having confessed to the murders days after his arrest. He claimed he was high on PCP at the time of his confession.

Members of Moore’s family were present at the hearing and asked the board to deny clemency. They also read a statement on behalf of Pulluru’s family making the same request.

Following his execution, Moore's family issued a statement.

"We would like to share our appreciation to the staff who have gone above and beyond for our family. It does not go unnoticed or in vain, as we were constantly reminded this is justice for a loss that has caused a ripple for generations to come. Today and always, we honor the mother, the sister, the aunt, the cousin, and the angel on Earth and in heaven," the family's statement said. “The memory of her life, her work, and her deeds will continue to live on. Justice has been served.”

The Pulluru family also issued a statement.

"Sharath was the life of our family," the statement said. "We are a very close family and his sudden death in such a violent manner has affected our families' lives every day since. He will forever live in our hearts. We are thankful justice was served today."

Attorney General Gentner Drummond had requested the board deny clemency because Smith’s innocence claims have been repeatedly denied in court.

“Michael Smith’s outrageous claims of innocence have been repeatedly rejected in court,” Drummond said in a statement. “He is a ruthless killer who has confessed to his crimes on multiple occasions. There is no doubt in my mind that his request for clemency should be denied.”

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty released a statement panning the execution.

“Michael Smith was a troubled and vulnerable young man with intellectual disabilities," said Rev. Don Heath, who chairs the coalition. "He was ill-served by advisers who encouraged him to proclaim his innocence instead of accepting responsibility for his crimes. That cost him any chance for clemency. He needed mercy and forgiveness and got none.”

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Ryan LaCroix joined KOSU’s staff in 2013. He hosts All Things Considered, Oklahoma Rock Show, Oklahoma Rock Show: Rewind, and Oklahoma Music Minute.
Robby grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Journalism degree. Robby has reported for several newspapers, including The Roanoke Times in southwest Virginia. He reported for StateImpact Oklahoma from 2019 through 2022, focusing on education.
Hannah France started her work in public radio at KBIA while studying journalism at the University of Missouri. While there, she helped develop and produce a weekly community call-in show, for which she and her colleagues won a Gracie Award. Hannah takes interest in a wide variety of news topics, which serves her well as a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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