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JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Department of Corrections says it’s ready to execute Russell Bucklew, who was convicted of first-degree murder after a 1996 crime rampage.

The Oct. 1 execution date follows an April decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing Bucklew’s execution to move forward. It had been delayed numerous times in the 22 years since his conviction.

Bucklew has cavernous hemangioma, which causes weakened and malformed blood vessels, and tumors in his nose and throat could rupture and bleed. His attorneys argued death by lethal injection would lead to extreme suffering.

Gov. Mike Parson has yet to decide whether he will commute Bucklew’s death sentence. In June, after the Missouri Supreme Court issued a death warrant for Bucklew, Parson’s office said it would review the case.

As of Wednesday, the governor’s office had yet to receive a clemency petition from Bucklew’s attorneys, Parson’s spokeswoman said.

On Thursday, Missouri’s four Catholic bishops urged Parson to spare Bucklew’s life.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it would appear before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights next Tuesday in Washington to argue the United States and Missouri are “failing to implement their human rights obligations.”

Bucklew would be the first Missouri prisoner executed since Parson, a Republican, took office on June 1, 2018. It is the first execution for the Missouri Department of Corrections since January 2017.

Bucklew is scheduled to die by an injection of the drug Pentobarbital. Garry Brix, a Department of Corrections spokesman, said the department “is prepared to carry out the execution of Russell Bucklew on Oct. 1.” 

He said the department had 28 doses of the drug in its inventory. Brix declined to say how the drugs were acquired.

In 1996, Bucklew, now 51, shot and killed Michael Sanders, with whom Bucklew’s ex-girlfriend was staying. Bucklew then kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, before heading toward St. Louis.

He ultimately engaged in a shoot-out with police in Town and Country, injuring an officer before he was captured.

In April, the U.S. Supreme Court in April ruled 5-4 against Bucklew’s bid to halt his execution.

“The Eighth Amendment has never been understood to guarantee a condemned inmate a painless death,” Justice Neil Gorsuch said. “That’s a luxury not guaranteed to many people, including most victims of capital crimes.”

Also undecided is the fate of Marcellus Williams, another Missouri death row inmate. 

Williams was sentenced to death in 2001 for the brutal stabbing murder of former Post-Dispatch reporter and University City resident Lisha Gayle in 1998.

Then-Gov. Eric Greitens in August 2017 stopped Williams’ execution,  appointing a board of inquiry to investigate the case in light of an “inconclusive” DNA test.

The board met behind closed doors in Jefferson City in August 2018.

Former U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson, who sits on the board, told the Post-Dispatch last week that the panel was still considering the case.

The board is “continuing to review the materials that we’ve been provided concerning the case, and realize that it is an important case,” Jackson said.

The men Missouri has executed since 2000


Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6184

@JackSuntrup on Twitter

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