BONNE TERRE — Missouri early Wednesday executed a man who killed a good Samaritan who had stopped on the road to help him, ending a nearly four-year period without an execution in the state. Texas, meanwhile, executed its 15th prisoner this year.
Dennis Skillicorn, 49, received an injection at 12:23 a.m. at the prison in Bonne Terre and died 11 minutes later. It was the first execution in Missouri since Marlin Gray was put to death in October 2005.
As part of a lengthy final statement, Skillicorn apologized to the family of the victim, Richard Drummond, saying that "for the last 15 years I've lived with the remorse of my actions."
In Huntsville, Texas, Michael Lynn Riley also apologized as he was executed Tuesday for fatally stabbing a convenience store clerk during a robbery more than two decades ago.
"I know I hurt you very bad," Riley, 51, said to his victim's relatives, including her two daughters and husband. "I want you to know I'm sorry. I hope one day you can move on and, if not, I understand."
Executions in Missouri had been on hold shortly after Gray's death as the courts decided whether lethal injection in general, and the state's three-drug method in particular, violated constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
Some argued that if the initial anesthetic doesn't take hold, a third drug that stops the heart can cause excruciating pain. But the inmate would not be able to communicate the pain because of a second drug that paralyzes him.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lethal injection, and a federal judge ruled in favor of Missouri's execution method, opening the way for executions to begin again.
Skillicorn mouthed words to his wife and two spiritual advisers as the first drug was administered to him. Soon, he appeared unconscious.
As part of a new protocol, curtains in witness viewing areas were then closed for about two minutes while medical staff checked to make sure that Skillicorn was unconscious and that the catheters were working properly. Once confirmed, the next two drugs were administered, and he was pronounced dead a short time later.
In 1994, a car carrying Skillicorn, Allen Nicklasson and Tim DeGraffenreid stalled along Interstate 70 north of Fulton in Callaway County.
Drummond, from the northwestern Missouri town of Excelsior Springs, stopped to help, but was forced at gunpoint to drive the men toward Kansas City. On the way, the men stopped in a rural area, and Nicklasson shot Drummond in the back of the head.
Nicklasson and Skillicorn were convicted of first-degree murder. Nicklasson is also on death row. DeGraffenreid, who was 17 when the crime took place, served time for second-degree murder.
Supporters wanted Skillicorn's sentence commuted to life in prison, calling him a role model for other inmates. But in denying a clemency request Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon noted that Skillicorn was on parole for another murder at the time Drummond was kidnapped, robbed and killed. Nixon also noted that Skillicorn was convicted of two subsequent murders in Arizona just days after Drummond was killed.