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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Killer Executed Minutes After Supreme Court Lifts Stay

(CN) - Missouri executed Allen Nicklasson for the 1994 killing of a good Samaritan, just minutes after the Supreme Court overturned a stay granted by the 8th Circuit.

Nicklasson was convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of Richard Drummond, 47, a technical supporter supervisor for AT&T, who stopped to help him and his friends after their car stalled on an interstate.

An accomplice, Dennis Skillicorn, was executed for the crime in 2009.

The Kansas City Star reported that Nicklasson declined interviews as the day of his execution approached. In its coverage of his death, it recounted his life and crime on the basis of a conversation he had with an Associated Press reporter four years ago.

During that interview, Nicklasson recalled a horrific childhood during which his mother, whom he described as a drug-addicted stripper, exposed him to all manner of abuse and once made him fight a Doberman for money.

Traumatized and suffering from bipolar disorder, Nicklasson said that by his late teens, he had slipped into a life of petty crime, mental illness and drug abuse.

He met Skillicorn while both men were in rehab, he said. At the time Skillicorn was newly released from prison, having been incarcerated for killing a man during a robbery.

In August 1994, the duo and a third man, Tim DeGraffenreid, embarked on a road trip from Kansas City to St. Louis to buy drugs. On their way back to Kansas City, the Chevrolet Caprice they were travelling in broke down. Then Drummond stopped and offered the men his help.

They responded by taking the good Samaritan hostage and forcing him, a gunpoint, to start driving them to their destination.

In his interview with the Associated Press, Nicklasson said he and his accomplices were initially undecided about Drummond's fate. He said they ordered him to pull off the highway in a secluded area, and that it was he who walked Drummond off into the woods.

Initially, he told the AP, he only intended to tie Drummond up to give the trio time to flee with his vehicle.

Instead, on the spur of the moment, Nicklasson said, he ordered Drummond to kneel on the ground. Then he shot him twice in the head.

Later, when Drummond's car eventually broke down -- in Arizona -- Nicklasson and Skillicorn walked to and knocked on the door of the home of Joseph and Charlene Babcock. In short order, they killed them both, The Kansas City Star said.

Nicklasson and Skillicorn were sentenced to life in prison for the Arizona killings and also sentenced to death in Missouri for Drummond's death. DeGraffenreid pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and did not receive a death sentence.

Nicklasson was originally scheduled to be executed on Monday, December 9, but a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit granted a last-minute stay of execution, citing concerns about his counsel at trial and sentencing.

The next day, the full appeals court refused to take up the case and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the Supreme Court.

The application to vacate the stay was presented to Justice Samuel Alito, who referred it to his fellow justices.

A sharply divided Supreme Court voted to vacate the stay at 10:07 p.m. on Wednesday, December 11, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting.

In her dissent, Ginsburg invoked her previous position in another capital-murder case out of Missouri, Bowersox v. Williams.

In that case she wrote in dissent, "at the very least, before acting irretrievably, this court might have invited prompt clarification of the Court o Appeals' [stay] order. Appreciation of our own fallibility, and respect for the judgment of an appellate tribunal closer to the scene than we are, as I see it, demand as much."

Their decision in hand, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon refused to grant clemency and Nicklasson, 41, was put to death by lethal injunction at 10:52 p.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

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