Missouri executes man accused of killing 3 people - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Missouri executes man accused of killing 3 people

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Missouri Department of Corrections, File). FILE - In this 2007 file photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections is John Middleton. (AP Photo/Missouri Department of Corrections, File). FILE - In this 2007 file photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections is John Middleton.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Mother, daughter die after Philly food truck blast

    Mother, daughter die after Philly food truck blast

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:53 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:53:53 GMT
    A mother and teenage daughter have died of injuries they suffered in a fiery explosion inside their food truck earlier this month, authorities said Thursday.More >>
    A mother and teenage daughter have died of injuries they suffered in a fiery explosion inside their food truck earlier this month, authorities said Thursday.More >>
  • Varying health premium subsidies worry consumers

    Varying health premium subsidies worry consumers

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:44 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:44:49 GMT
    Linda Close was grateful to learn she qualified for a sizable subsidy to help pay for her health insurance under the new federal law. But in the process of signing up for a plan, Close said her HealthCare.gov...More >>
    Linda Close was grateful to learn she qualified for a sizable subsidy to help pay for her health insurance under the new federal law. But in the process of signing up for a plan, Close said her HealthCare.gov account...More >>
  • Gov: Senator in plagiarism row deserves respect

    Gov: Senator in plagiarism row deserves respect

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:38 PM EDT2014-07-24 16:38:53 GMT
    Sen. John Walsh said his unattributed use of others' work in his master's thesis was not plagiarism but "a few citations that were unintentionally left out of a term paper" that he blamed in part on...More >>
    Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says he didn't know that Sen. John Walsh had plagiarized parts of his master's thesis when he appointed the former National Guard general to the Senate earlier this year.More >>
By JIM SALTER
Associated Press

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - A former methamphetamine dealer was executed Wednesday for killing three people in remote northern Missouri out of fear that they would report his drug activity to police.

John Middleton, 54, died Wednesday night from an injection of pentobarbital, the sixth execution in Missouri this year. Only Florida and Texas, with seven each, have performed more executions.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy "Happy" Hamilton and Stacey Hodge in early June 1995, then Alfred Pinegar several days later. He maintained to the end that someone else was responsible for the slayings.

"You are killing an innocent man," Middleton said in his final statement.

State officials, including Gov. Jay Nixon, disagreed.

"Tonight has brought a conclusion to a case that illustrates how methamphetamine can have such a monstrous impact on so many lives," Nixon said in a statement.

Michael Black, Pinegar's uncle, questioned why it took so long for the execution to occur.

"Nineteen years seems like a long time to wait for justice," he said following the execution.

Middleton was a small-time meth dealer in sparsely populated northern Missouri in the mid-1990s. After several drug suspects were arrested on June 10, 1995, he allegedly told a friend: "The snitches around here are going to start going down."

A day later, according to court records, Middleton and his girlfriend met Hamilton and Hodge on a gravel road. Prosecutors said Middleton shot and killed them both and hid the bodies in the trunk of Hamilton's car.

Pinegar, another meth dealer according to police, was shot in the face on June 23, 1995. His body was found in a field near Bethany.

Acquaintances say Middleton told them he killed all three. Police also had eyewitness accounts of Middleton purchasing ammunition in the hours before Pinegar's death. Middleton was convicted in 1997.

Middleton's girlfriend, Maggie Hodges, is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in all three deaths.

In February, a man whose name has not been disclosed because he fears retribution signed an affidavit saying that two rival meth dealers drove him to a rural area soon after Pinegar's death and accused him of being a snitch. He said the men showed him Pinegar's body, saying: "There's already been three people killed. You want to be number four?"

The witness said the two dealers then beat him unconscious with a baseball bat and raped his girlfriend.

Neither police nor the courts were swayed by the new witness. Harrison County Sheriff Josh Eckerson agreed to take a new look at the case but said his investigation found no evidence to back up the claims. He is convinced that Middleton was the real killer. Several court appeals claiming innocence were turned away.

Concerns about whether Middleton was mentally fit for execution, though, spurred a long delay in the execution, which occurred 19 hours after it was originally scheduled, at 12:01 a.m.

A federal judge granted a stay of execution late Tuesday, citing a need for a hearing to determine if Middleton was mentally ill. Courts have held it is unconstitutional to execute the mentally ill.

A federal appeals court overturned the stay later Wednesday and neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor the Missouri Supreme Court would halt the execution.

Missouri has executed one man each month since November, with the exception of May, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution of Russell Bucklew. Bucklew suffers from a rare congenital condition that causes weakened and malformed blood vessels as well as tumors in his nose and throat. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals plans a hearing on Sept. 9 to determine if lethal injection could cause him to suffer because of his medical condition.

Another execution is scheduled for Aug. 6, when Michael Shane Worthington is scheduled to be put to death for the rape and killing of a suburban St. Louis neighbor in 1995.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.