Missouri to execute convicted killer of girlfriend and her daughter

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 09, 2015 7:02 AM

(Reuters) - Missouri is scheduled on Tuesday to execute a man convicted of fatally stabbing his girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter almost 15 years ago.

Richard Strong, 48, is scheduled to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. CDT at a Missouri state prison. He would be the fourth person executed in Missouri this year and the 16th in the United States if the execution is carried out.

According to court records, Strong had dark red stains on the pants of his knees and was sweating profusely when police responded to a 911 call at his girlfriend's home near St. Louis in October 2000.

An officer kicked in the door after seeing what appeared to be blood on Strong's hand. Strong ran, repeatedly shouting: "Just shoot me" and then: "I killed them" when he was captured moments later, according to court papers.

Authorities found the bodies of Eva Washington and Zandrea Thomas, who had been stabbed nine and 21 times respectively. Strong's 3-month-old daughter with Washington was unharmed.

The couple's daughter, Alyshia Strong, now a teenager, has asked Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to grant her father clemency, saying it would be wrong for her to suffer another loss. The petition was under review, a spokesman for Nixon said.

In appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, Strong's attorneys have argued for a stay of execution, saying he has a history of mental illness and major depression and did not have the capacity to make a rational decision when he committed the killings.

Strong's father was an abusive alcoholic who bruised and bloodied his mother on a regular basis and had numerous criminal offenses, the attorneys said.

They have also sought a stay based on a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges the use of a particular drug in lethal injections and have argued that Missouri's execution method posed a substantial risk of causing severe and unacceptable pain and suffering.

Missouri prosecutors opposing a stay said in court filings that the state had carried out "uniformly rapid and painless executions on almost a monthly basis using pentobarbital as the lethal chemical since November 2013."

The state offers valium and midazolam as voluntary sedatives before executions, but five of the last six inmates executed have not received pre-execution sedatives, Missouri said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Peter Cooney)