First openly transgender person executed in US for 2003 murder of ex-girlfriend
Missouri has executed Amber McLaughlin, 49, for the murder of her ex-girlfriend in 2003, making it the first time in the U.S. that an openly transgender person has been executed.
McLaughlin died from lethal injection at 6:51 p.m. Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Corrections said. “I am sorry for what I did,” wrote McLaughlin in her final statement, which was released by the department of corrections. “I am a loving & caring person.”
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McLaughlin and her attorneys petitioned Republican Gov. Mike Parson for clemency, asking him to commute her death sentence. The clemency request focused on several issues, including McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard in her trial. It says she suffers from depression and attempted suicide multiple times.
The petition also included reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes anguish and other symptoms as a result of a disparity between a person’s gender identity and their assigned sex at birth.
However, Parson’s office denied the request for clemency, saying in a statement that the family and loved ones of her victim, Beverly Guenther, “deserve peace.”
There was no known case of an openly transgender inmate being executed in the U.S. before, according to the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center.
Before transitioning in prison, McLaughlin was in a relationship with Guenther. McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records. Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.
Guenther’s neighbors called police the night of Nov. 20, 2003, when she failed to return home. Officers went to 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 the body had been dumped.
McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after a jury deadlocked on the sentence. A court in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.
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Nationally, 18 people were executed in 2022, including two in Missouri. Kevin Johnson, 37, was put to death Nov. 29 for the ambush killing of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer. Carmen 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 scheduled to die Feb. 7 for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.