Missouri Plans First US Execution Since Pandemic Began

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020

A Missouri man who was convicted of stabbing to death an elderly trailer park manager three decades ago is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on Tuesday, marking the first execution in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Walter Barton, 64, is scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. local time (0000 GMT) at Missouri’s death chamber in Bonne Terre for the 1991 murder of Gladys Kuehler, 81.

Barton was convicted of stabbing Kuehler more than 50 times in her Ozark, Missouri, home in the trailer park she managed. Kuehler, an acquaintance of Barton, had planned to lend him $20 on the day of the murder, court documents showed.

After numerous changes of venue, two mistrials, and two overturned convictions, Barton was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in March 2006. Since then, he filed several unsuccessful appeals in state and federal court.

As of Tuesday, Barton had a pending request for the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told reporters on Monday the execution would move forward as scheduled, according to local media.

Barton would become the first inmate to be put to death in the United States in the last two months after handful of states halted 11 executions for various reasons, including five that were postponed by Texas due to the pandemic, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Alabama carried out the country’s last execution when it put to death Nathaniel Woods on March 5, about two weeks before many governors issued stay-at-home orders.

Barton would be the first inmate executed in Missouri and the sixth in the United States this year.

By Brendan O’Brien