BONNE TERRE, Mo. –
A Missouri inmate was executed Tuesday for a 2003 murder in what is believed to be the first execution of a transgender woman in the United States.
Amber McLaughlin, 49, was found guilty of stalking and murdering an ex-girlfriend, then dumping her body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis. McLaughlin’s fate was decided the previous Tuesday when Republican Governor Mike Parson refused a request for clemency.
McLaughlin spoke quietly to a spiritual counselor by his side as the lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected. McLaughlin breathed heavily a few times and then closed his eyes. She was declared dead a few minutes later.
“I apologize for what I did,” McLaughlin said in a final written statement. “I am a loving and caring person.”
A database on the website of the Anti-Death Execution Information Center shows that 1,558 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s. All but 17 of these people have been executed. the person executed was a male. The center said there were no previously known cases of an openly transgender prisoner being executed. McLaughlin began his conversion about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi.
The clemency petition cited McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health problems, something the jury never heard during her trial. According to the petition, her adoptive parents smeared poop on her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father stuns her with a gun. It cited severe depression that led to multiple suicide attempts, both as a child and as an adult.
The petition also includes reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes distress and other symptoms as a result of a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and the gender assigned to them. indicated at their birth. However, her attorney, Larry Komp, said McLaughlin’s gender identity was “not the main focus” of the clemency request.
In 2003, long before becoming transgender, McLaughlin was in a relationship with Beverly Guenther. After they stop dating, McLaughlin will show up at his office in suburban St. Louis, where 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hid in the building, according to court documents. Guenther received a restraining order and officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.
Guenther’s neighbors called the police on the night of November 20, 2003 when she failed to return home. Police arrived at the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where corpses were dumped. Authorities said she was raped and stabbed multiple times with a steak knife.
McLaughlin was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2006. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after a jury deadlocked on the verdict. Komp said Missouri and Indiana are the only states that allow judges to pronounce death sentences.
A court in 2016 ordered a trial of the new sentence, but a federal appeals court panel restored the death penalty in 2021.
“McLaughlin terrorized Ms. Guenther during the last years of her life, but we hope her family and loved ones can finally find peace,” Parson said in a written statement following the execution.
McLaughlin’s transition began about three years ago, according to Jessica Hicklin, who served 26 years in prison for drug-related murder before being released a year ago. Hicklin, now 43, sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, challenging its policy to ban hormone therapy for inmates who did not receive it before incarceration. She won the case in 2018 and became a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin. However, McLaughlin was not receiving hormone treatment, Komp said.
Hicklin describes McLaughlin as an extremely shy person who came out of her shell after she decided to be transgender.
Hicklin said: ‘She always had her dad’s smile and jokes. “If you ever talk to her, it’s always dad jokes.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated there are 3,200 transgender inmates in the nation’s prisons and prisons. Perhaps the most famous case of transgender prisoners being treated is that of Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst who served seven years in prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks until General President Barack Obama reduced his sentence in 2017. The military agreed to pay for hormone therapy for Manning in 2015.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a court filing that state prison officials must treat an inmate’s gender identity status the same way they would treat other health conditions. mental health or other medical, regardless of when the diagnosis occurred.
The only woman ever executed in Missouri is Bonnie B. Heady, executed on December 18, 1953 for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy. Heady was executed in the gas chamber, alongside another kidnapper and murderer, Carl Austin Hall.
Nationwide, 18 people have been executed by 2022, including two in Missouri. Kevin Johnson was executed in November for the ambush that killed a Kirkwood, Missouri police officer. Carman Deck was executed in May for killing James and Zelma Long during a robbery at their home in De Soto, Missouri.
Another Missouri inmate, Leonard Taylor, is expected to die on February 7 for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.