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Killer with rare condition facing 'one of most gruesome executions' in US history

Phil Thomas
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A killer due to be executed in Missouri could get a last minute reprieve because of a rare condition that would cause him a “gruesome” death.

Russell “Rusty” Bucklew was due to be put to death by lethal injection on Tuesday evening for crimes including murder, kidnapping and rape.

But campaigners are calling on state governor Mike Parson, a pro-death penalty Republican, to give Bucklew a stay of execution because he has a condition called cavernous hemangioma, which causes blood-filled tumours to grow in his head, neck and throat.

The American Civil Liberties Union has said that administering a lethal injection could cause his tumours to burst, making his execution “one of the most gruesome in US history”.

AFP/Getty
AFP/Getty

The group said: “This is cruel and unusual – and it will result in a bloody, botched execution that will be a stain on not only Missouri, but on this whole country.

“Rusty's execution will be the first to take place under Governor Mike Parson – and a botched, gruesome first execution like this one will tarnish his office. Parson has an opportunity right now to show that the people of Missouri choose compassion – not torture.

Bucklew was granted a stay of execution in 2014 by the Supreme Court but was refused one by the same body this year in a 5-4 decision, with Neil Gorsuch - one of Donald Trump’s appointees - writing that the killer’s victims deserved better.

In 1996 Bucklew, now 51, shot dead his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, Michael Sanders, before kidnapping and raping her. He tried to kill Mr Sanders’s six-year-old son but missed.

Bucklew was captured after wounding a police officer in a gunfight and later escaped - attacking his ex-girlfriend’s mother and boyfriend with a hammer - before being recaptured.