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Missouri executes man for killing good Samaritan motorist in 1994

By Carey Gillam and Eric M. Johnson

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Missouri on Wednesday executed a man convicted of killing a motorist who had stopped on a highway to help him and two others whose car had broken down in 1994.

Allen Nicklasson, 41, was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. Central Time at a state prison in Missouri, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections said.

Nicklasson was found guilty of murdering motorist Richard Drummond, an AT&T supervisor who stopped on a highway to help Nicklasson and two others whose car had broken down.

The trio had stolen guns and ammunition from a home before their vehicle broke down. When Drummond stopped to offer them a ride, they abducted him, took him to a wooded area and shot him in the head, according to court records.

Nicklasson, who made no final statement, prayed with a prison chaplain for about two or three minutes before being given a lethal injection at a jail in Bonne Terre, roughly 60 miles southwest of St. Louis, said Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman Mike O'Connell.

Nicklasson ate a final meal of pizza and orange juice on Tuesday at about 4 p.m. He ate regular prison meals on Wednesday.

"He was calm, very collected throughout the process this evening," O'Connell said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday evening lifted a last-minute stay of execution for the Missouri man, clearing the way for the state to put him to death.

Nicklasson was scheduled to be executed early on Wednesday, but an Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel issued a stay to hear further arguments, including whether he had ineffective legal counsel during his trial and earlier appeals.

Missouri's attorney general appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, saying Nicklasson had numerous unsuccessful appeals over the years. The nation's highest court ordered the stay vacated on Wednesday night, according to a court official.

One of the men in Nicklasson's trio, Dennis Skillicorn, was executed in 2009. The third person, Tim DeGraffenreid, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a reduced sentence.

Nicklasson and Skillicorn were also convicted of killing an Arizona couple while on the run after Drummond's death.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon had halted Nicklasson's October 23 execution due to criticism over the U.S. state's planned use of propofol, an anesthetic widely used in medical procedures.

The case was one of many in a national debate over what drugs can or should be used for executions, as opponents of capital punishment pressure pharmaceutical companies to cut off supplies of drugs for executions.

Missouri is one of many U.S. states that have been seeking out execution drugs mixed in compounding pharmacies now that a growing number of manufacturers refuse to allow their drugs to be used for capital punishment.

The practice is controversial because compounded drugs are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Missouri in November also used a compounded pentobarbital, a short-acting barbiturate, to execute serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and Carey Gillam and Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Paul Simao and Philip Barbara)

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