OKLAHOMA CITY — It's been almost 19 years since Barbie Jarman's grandchildren were shot to death along with their 23-year-old mother, but she still has vivid memories of the children whom she described as "so very, very precious."
"The fact that they were murdered doesn't lessen what they were to you," Jarman said. "They still are very, very close to my heart. That doesn't ever change."
Cynthia Lynn Jarman and her two children, 5-year-old Tonya and 3-year-old Timmy, died in December 1993 after each was shot twice in the head. On Tuesday, the man convicted of first-degree murder in their deaths, Michael Hooper, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
For family members of the victims, Hooper's execution will culminate a long journey that began with the trauma of learning about their violent deaths.
"It's not going to change what happened. But justice will be served," said Diane Roggy, Cynthia Jarman's mother and grandmother to her children.
"The loss is still there. The pain never goes away," said Cynthia's sister, Renee Weber.
"It will never be over, in my mind, until they close my casket," Roggy said.
Hooper, 39, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder by a Canadian County jury that recommended he receive the death penalty. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hooper's convictions in 2002, but overturned his death sentences. Hooper was once again sentenced to death in 2004.
Prosecutors alleged the victims were with Hooper in a pickup truck in a mowed field when Hooper placed the muzzle of a 9mm pistol under the chin of his former girlfriend, Cynthia, and shot her. Blood in her lungs indicated she had time to draw a partial breath before he shot her execution-style in the right temple, authorities said.
Prosecutors say he shot the children to prevent them from being witnesses to their mother's murder. Each of the victims was shot twice in the head and their bodies were buried in a shallow grave in a field northwest of Oklahoma City.
As Hooper's execution nears, the thoughts of the victims' family members turned to the lives that were lost.
Cynthia Jarman, a cosmetologist, "was just a beautiful person, full of life," Weber said. "She was a very good mom."
"Timmy was a very bubbly little kid. He was just very playful," she added. "Tonya was very smart."
The children's uncle, Jeramy Jarman, said they "were amazing kids."
"These were my first experiences as an uncle. I was extremely proud," he said. "We had a lot of fun."
Family members said they were horrified when they learned that the children and their mother were dead.
"I didn't want it to be true. It's not a place you want to be," said Barbie Jarman. "It felt like a piece of my heart had been torn out. It was a physical pain."
"It was mortifying. It was a tremendous shock," Jeramy Jarman said. "I still don't understand it."
Family members said Hooper never publicly accepted responsibility for the victims' deaths. But Roggy and Weber said he tearfully admitted shooting them and apologized when they visited Hooper in prison about eight years ago.
"We have forgiven Mike," Weber said.
Just as the victim's family members suffered a loss, members of Hooper's family will also lose a family member when he is administered a lethal dose of drugs.
"And we grieve for them," Weber said.
"It will be the end of hoops that we have to jump through. But it's going to be a horrible thing for his family," Barbie Jarman said.
The 10th Circuit on Friday rejected Hooper's challenge to the state's death row procedures after he claimed he could suffer if the sedative given as part of a three-drug combination isn't effective. A federal judge had previously called the complaint speculative and said Hooper didn't show there was a "substantial risk of severe pain."
After the appellate court panel agreed Friday, Hooper's lawyer, Jim Drummond, said he had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the challenge.
Cynthia Jarman's estranged husband and the father of her children, James Robert Jarman, said it was difficult for him to discuss his feelings about the case. But he referenced online articles he has written in which he expressed opposition to Hooper's execution and wrote: "I just don't want anyone else to die".
"While I can never understand why he did what he did, I do feel compassion for him and his family and I forgive their transgressions. God will deal with him," James Jarman wrote in an article titled "Hard Ball - Death as a Deterrent."
"Maybe he will ask God for forgiveness and I could save a soul. I would like that," he wrote.
Jeramy Jarman said that after almost 19 years, he is ready for the case to come to an end.
"This man is just an animal as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I'm just ready to have him no longer share this earth with me."