true crime

At age 7, Paula Dyer was raped and murdered by a man her parents dearly trusted.

On April 15, 1985, Paula Dyer was raped and murdered by a man her family trusted.

She was just seven years old.

Her killer, Billy Ray Irick, had moved into the home Paula shared with her parents, Kenny and Kathy Jeffers, and her four siblings in Knoxville, Tennessee.

As a permanent boarder in the family’s home, Irick would regularly babysit the kids while Kenny and Kathy worked.

The kids began to refer to Irick as “Uncle Bill”.

At 9pm on April 15, 1985, Kathy put the children to bed. She then found Irick muttering to himself on the front porch.

According to Knox News, Irick told her he was “mad” because he wanted to hitchhike to Virginia, but Kenny had asked him to look after the children instead.

Kathy then left for work. When she arrived at her waitressing job at Hangsman Truck Stop, Kathy called her husband and told him to check on the kids. She said she had a “bad feeling” about Irick.

Kenny was unconcerned.

Billy Ray Irick: Image: Supplied.
Billy Ray Irick: Image: Supplied.

Around 12pm that night, Irick knocked on the neighbour's door and asked to use the phone. He then called Kenny and told him, "It's Paula, I can't wake her up".

When Kenny arrived home he found Paula half-naked on her mother's bed.

The young girl was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy found little Paula had been raped and then killed through either strangulation or suffocation.

Irick was arrested and after several hours of questioning, he admitted to raping and killing his friend's daughter.

As Knox News reports, Irick said the young girl had woken up in the night, complaining of a fever. He carried her into her mother's bed to help her get back to sleep. He claims he doesn't remember what happened next.


"When I lost it, it was when I raped her," he said in his statement.

The next year he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Now, over 30 years later, Irick is set to be executed.

The now 59-year-old will be executed via lethal injection at 7pm on Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee (12 noon on Friday AEST).

As the Tennessean reports, the inmate has requested a "super deluxe burger meal" for his last meal on earth.

“This combo includes a super deluxe burger, onion rings, and a Pepsi,” the Tennessee Department of Corrections said in a statement to the press.

Death row inmates' last meals are now capped at $20.

On Monday night, Irick was moved from his cell on death row to the prison's death watch area.

According to David Boucher at the Tennessean, these cells are located just a few metres from the death chamber. They are under 24 hour surveillance.

Irick will die wearing a shirt, cotton trousers, and either cotton socks or cloth house shoes.

To this day, Irick has never told authorities - or Paula's family - why he decided to brutally end such a young, promising life.