ORLANDO, Fla. – Convicted killer Markeith Loyd has been sentenced to death Thursday, and the family of Lt. Debra Clayton and Orlando leaders are sharing their approval of the judge’s ruling.
Judge Leticia Marques made her final decision months after a jury recommended the death penalty for Loyd, 46. Loyd was found guilty on five charges, including first-degree murder, in the shooting death of Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton outside a Walmart in 2017 while he was on the run for killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in December 2016.
“Very pleased that Judge Marques sentenced cop killer Loyd to death. Rest in peace Lt. Debra Clayton,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina, who was Orlando’s police chief at the time of Clayton’s death, said in a tweet.
“Although nothing can undo the heartache created by the defendant’s heinous actions, we hope that this brings solace to our community, knowing a dangerous murderer will face the highest penalty provided by law,” said Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon in a statement.
After the sentencing, Clayton’s family spoke to the media.
Ashley Thomas, Clayton’s sister, said she is well with the sentencing and “I know the family is well with this decision as well.”
“It’s been a hard five years just knowing that, just reliving it every day like you’re reliving it every day, but today, I felt her presence. I know she can rest and hopefully just heal from here,” she said.
“March the 3rd, 2022 — God is so awesome,” Quincy Morris, Clayton’s cousin, said. “The outcome is what he wanted it to be.”
Morris became emotional as she spoke about her memories of Clayton.
“He (Loyd) just took so much away from me that it hurts,” she said “Now, she can rest in peace.”
Watch Clayton’s family reactions below:
After the family addressed the media, Mina and Rolon spoke as well.
“All these families have suffered. Debra Clayton’s family has suffered, Sade Dixon’s family has suffered, Norm Lewis’ family has suffered, all because of the evil actions of Markeith Loyd,” Mina said. “So now it’s time for Markeith Loyd to suffer for 23 hours a day in his cell not knowing when that death sentence is going to come.”
Mina said Loyd tried to communicate with him during his trial.
“It was very hard to sit there in the courtroom and listen to his nonsensical outbursts and really just showing the community he was a violent person,” the sheriff said. “He would look over at us. He passed me a note through his lawyer at one point during trial and I have nothing to say to him. I’m glad he’s being put to death.”
“This has been a long and emotional ride, right. And the fact of the matter is that Markeith Loyd not only took lives, but he also affected many others, including his family, the families of everyone affected by his actions, and justice has been served today,” Rolon said.
Lieutenant Clayton impacted the lives of those around her throughout the @citybeautiful. Her legacy will live on because, just as Lieutenant Clayton made it her life’s work to guide our youth in a positive direction, we will continue to do that in her honor. pic.twitter.com/0AV7mxYT5b— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) March 3, 2022
Prosecutor Ryan Williams called Clayton a very special person and said, “I think the jurors recognized that their verdict was on her behalf.
“It’s just a long time and people make sacrifices for their families, I’ve made sacrifices, the two men next to me have,” Williams said tearfully, referring to Mina and Rolon standing next to him. “... It’s rewarding and frankly I try to make myself angry as I go through the process and it channels me ‘cause I know people depend upon what I do. Now that it’s over, it’s a little easier to let down a little bit.”