Thacker began his killing spree on Dec. 23, 1999 when he kidnapped Laci Dawn Hill in Bixby, Okla. At the time, Thacker was looking for someone to rob in order to be able to purchase Christmas gifts for his wife, Trena Thacker and her two children. He responded to a pool table advertisement placed by Hill and after an attempt to rob her proved unsuccessful, Thacker took Hill to a remote cabin where he proceeded to tie her to a chair then violently raped her. Thacker testified in 2002 that he intended to leave her tied to the chair but was concerned that she would escape and turn him in to the authorities. Thacker then began to strangle Hill but Hill's resistance was formidable and he was forced to stab her twice in the chest in order to kill her. Hill was found dead in the cabin six days later having succumbed to penetrating knife wounds in her left lung, which caused massive internal bleeding and ultimately her death.
Hill's death led to a warrant for Thacker's arrest being issued on Dec. 30, 1999. Thacker fled into Missouri, managing to stay one step ahead of police as he hid in the woods for two days. While in Missouri, Thacker broke into several homes, including that of Forrest Reed Boyd, who unfortunately returned home during Thacker's crime. Thacker stabbed Boyd in the back several times, making him Thacker's second victim. Thacker took Boyd's vehicle and credit cards and fled into Tennessee, but he experienced car trouble crossing the bridge from Missouri into Tennessee.
"Ray was a great Christian man," said Ray's oldest brother, Jerry Patterson in a June 2012 interview with the State Gazette. "There was no need for him (Thacker) to do what he did. He (Ray) would have helped him with whatever he needed."
The State Gazette revisited the case this week with District Attorney General Phil Bivens after the announcement was made by Oklahoma courts to set an execution date for Thacker. Bivens said that Thacker struck him as a guy who was going to do whatever he could do to stay free.
"He was pure evil," said Bivens by phone. "This guy is the worst of the worst."
Thacker was only the second death penalty case that Bivens tried in his over 20-year tenure as district attorney. He will be the first put to death, as the defendant in his first death penalty case died of cancer while on death row. Bivens explained that the death penalty is reserved for cases that have aggravating circumstances such as prior murders, murders committed in the commission of a felony and flight from arrest. Bivens says that when aggravating factors are present, the death penalty option is then presented to the victim's family to get their opinion on the matter.
According to Bivens, in the early going of the case, Thacker was presented with a plea deal of life in prison if he pleaded guilty to Patterson's murder. The Patterson family was supportive of the deal. However, Thacker would not agree to the arrangement unless Oklahoma and Missouri also agreed to offer him life in prison for the other murders as well. Missouri accepted the agreement but Oklahoma did not, pushing the case to trial in Tennessee.
Bivens says that he will not attend the execution and says that although it may be surprising to some that Oklahoma set its execution ahead of Tennessee despite Thacker being convicted in Tennessee first, the truth of the matter is that currently no one is being executed in Tennessee because the state is out of the drugs used for lethal injection and they are currently unavailable.
Bivens believes that there is no redemption for someone like Thacker who killed three people in three states in less than two weeks. He also kidnapped a woman and her young children before releasing them when he was on the run.
The State Gazette spoke with Jerry Patterson on Saturday by phone and he said that he is glad to see it done. Jerry, who is a devout Christian, says he has forgiven Thacker but believes he has to pay his debt to society.
"The law of the land convicted him," said Patterson. "There is no doubt that he did it. It is a just reward for taking people's lives."
Jerry says he plans to travel to Oklahoma to witness Thacker's execution. He says that at the time, if given the opportunity, he will have some words for Thacker.
"I'm not sure what I will say to him or even if I will have an opportunity to say anything. I still need time to put my words together," he said.
Thacker will be executed on March 12 in Oklahoma by lethal injection.