A three-member panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2-1 vote, stayed the scheduled execution of Russell Bucklew scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday moments ago siding with the defense on the issue of the legitimacy of his physical condition. The state may seek to have the full court hear the matter or Petition the U.S. Supreme Court directly. The execution is halted for now.

Bucklew’s girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, left him on Valentine’s Day 1996. According to court records, over the next few weeks, he harassed her, cut her with a knife, and punched her in the face. Ray feared for her life and the lives of her children, so she moved into the Cape Girardeau County mobile home that her new boyfriend, Michael Sanders, shared with his children.

On March 21, after stealing his nephew’s car and taking two pistols, handcuffs, and duct tape from his brother, Bucklew followed Ray to Sanders’ home. Sanders confronted Bucklew with a shotgun inside the home. Bucklew fired two shots, one piercing Sanders’ lung. He bled to death.

Bucklew then kidnapped Ray and raped her. He was captured after a gunfight where a trooper and he was injured.

UPDATE: Bucklew was executed in 2019. His lawyers argued that he suffered from cavernous hemangioma. The rare disease causes blood-filled tumors in his head, neck, and throat. A permanent tracheostomy in his throat helps him breathe. His attorneys say in the clemency request that if one of the throat tumors bursts, Bucklew could suffer an excruciatingly painful death.

‘These unstable tumors are highly likely to hemorrhage during the stress of the execution, causing Russell to cough and choke on his own blood,’ the clemency request states.

Based on the court records, we agree that clemency was properly rejected. We are opposed to the death penalty. We think life without the possibility of parole/release would have been adequate. But once again, another cowardly and horrific killing.

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