A convicted killer serving a death sentence since 1997 took his final breath on Tuesday. A group of witnesses watched at the state prison in southeast Missouri’s Bonne Terre as 51-year-old Russell Bucklew was executed by lethal injection. Former Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle witnessed the execution.
“This was the final chapter of a 23-year saga from where Russell Bucklew had violently murdered Michael Sanders and had raped and terrorized Stephanie Pruitt and her children,” says Swingle. “It really was a feeling of satisfaction that finally this journey was over and this sociopath was put to death.”
Bucklew had argued for months that the death penalty would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment due to blood-filled tumors that had grown in his head, neck, and throat. He argued that a tumor on his neck could burst when given the lethal injection and cause him to choke on his own blood.
Death penalty opponents argued that Bucklew’s rare brain condition could have led to a brutal death. Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel said Bucklew’s health warranted a life sentence or getting released from prison because he said Bucklew is beyond the capacity to harm others. Swingle called the argument “laughable”.
Bucklew was convicted of murdering Michael Sanders of Cape Girardeau, who got involved with Bucklew’s ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Pruitt. Bucklew also raped and attacked Pruitt, beat two of her relatives over the head with a hammer and got into a gunfight with a state trooper.
Department of Corrections spokesperson Karen Pojmann says an autopsy is not planned and is not standard practice in execution cases.