Richard Norman Rojem Jr., 66, has been on death row for nearly four decades for the 1984 kidnapping, rape, and murder of his former stepdaughter Layla Dawn Cummings, age 7.

Oklahoma has scheduled the execution of Rojem on June 27. It would be Oklahoma’s second execution this year. If the execution is carried out, it will occur nearly 40 years after Layla Cumming’s death. 

Rojem was accused of harassing Layla Cumming’s family after he murdered her by sending letters and having friends visit them. Layla’s mother wrote in a victim impact statement that Layla’s father committed suicide shortly after the first murder trial ended.

“But that was not before Rojem spent the last year tormenting him with lies, conspiracy and cover up theories alleging there were others that were responsible for her death,” Mindy Cummings wrote. “He taunted Don with accusations that he had failed to protect his daughter and that it was, therefore, his fault.”

Rojem’s first two death sentences from Washita County were thrown out of court due to procedural errors. He was sentenced to death for a third time in 2007 in Custer County. 

Richard Rojem raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth while seeking clemency on Monday morning. He told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board he didn’t kill Layla Cummings. ASHLYND HUFFMAN/The Frontier

Six years before Rojem raped and murdered Cummings, he sexually assaulted two teenage girls in Michigan in 1978. He served four years in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Oklahoma Attorney General’s prosecutors said Rojem was also sexually violent against his ex-wife Mindy Cumming, who divorced him after he sexually abused Layla Cummings.

Rojem abducted Cummings from her apartment in July 1984 while her mother worked her second job at McDonald’s. A farmer later found Cummings’ body in a field near Burns Flat. She died from multiple stab wounds. 

Rojem also has had a history of violent behavior in prison. He has been written up for misconduct eight times in prison for assault and disobeying and disrespecting staff, according to the Department of Corrections. Prison staff also cited him for misconduct in 2020 for possessing sharp weapons.

The Oklahoma Attorney General prosecutors also accused Rojem of conspiring with other prisoners in a murder-for-hire plot in 1986. Rojem allegedly relayed messages about a plan to kill witnesses in the case against Bigler Stouffer, another man on death row, who was executed in 2021. Rojem wasn’t prosecuted for his role in the scheme because he agreed to testify against Stouffer, according to prosecutors. 

On June 17, Rojem told the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board he did bad things in his past, but he didn’t kill Cummings. His lawyer asked the board to commute his sentence to life in prison. 

“We’re not suggesting Richard Rojem should be released. All we’re asking is that you commute his death sentence,” Paul S. McCausland said. “If he’s a bad person, he will remain in prison for the rest of his life. But the quality of the evidence in this case was poor to begin with.”

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 5-0 against recommending clemency for Rojem.

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