A man who raped a seven-year-old girl twice and watched as she gasped for air as he strangled her to death will take his own final breaths tomorrow.

Billy Ray Irick, now 59, has spent 30 years on Death Row , but in less than 24 hours he will be executed with a lethal injection.

It will finally be closure for little Paula Dyer’s family – and justice.

Irick was supposed to be looking after the little girl along with her four siblings when he launched his murderous attack in April 1985 at the home he had been living for the past year in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Paula’s parents Kenny and Kathy had taken Irick under their wing, when he was 26, after hearing of his traumatic childhood where he endured years of abuse, and battled with drink and drugs.

He was working as a dishwasher when he met Kenny and they struck up a friendship. Irick was then introduced to Kathy and moved into their family home along with five of their eight children.

But on the morning of Paula’s murder, Irick had argued with Kathy and she kicked him out. And, although hesitant, she had no choice but to let him babysit while she went to work as no one else was available.

Just hours later, Irick called Kenny and told him he was "unable to wake Paula up."

Paula was found half-naked on her mother’s bed with a puddle of blood between her legs. She was taken to hospital where doctors tried for 45 minutes to save her.

The judge, John James Duncan Jr, described the incident as the most brutal case in his career.

Irick never revealed why he did it, although some have speculated it was revenge for Kathy kicking him out the home.

A jury of eight men and four women sentenced Irick to die in the electric chair, which was scheduled for May 4, 1987, according to News.com .

But over the following decades, the case was postponed during ongoing debates around acceptable methods of execution, and last-ditch appeals including claims of new evidence and testimonies that Irick suffered from mental illness.

With his hours now numbered, Irick has requested his final meal to be a ‘super deluxe’ burger with onion rings and a Pepsi – a far more lavish meal than what Paula had before she died at his hands.

She ate a cold supper of canned corn and peas.

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This week Kathy – Paula’s broken mother – sobbed and said she wants the world to remember her daughter’s name.

She told New.com: “I am sick of hearing about his pain and his suffering. What about her pain and her suffering? She was seven years old, raped, sodomised, and strangled to death.

"I’m sorry, I feel nothing for his pain. Nothing at all. God, forgive me, but I don’t.

“I don’t think Paula can rest in peace until this is resolved. I honestly don’t believe she can. Paula needs to rest in peace.”

Irick will be executed at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution today, Thursday August 9, at 7pm (1am UK time).

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