LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) A condemned Ohio inmate appeared to gasp
several times and took more than 15 minutes to die Thursday as he was
executed with a combination of drugs never before tried in the U.S.
Death row inmate Dennis McGuire made several loud snorting or snoring
sounds during one of the longest executions since Ohio resumed capital
punishment in 1999.
Ohio officials used intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative
midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put McGuire to death for
the 1989 rape and fatal stabbing of a pregnant woman, Joy Stewart.
McGuire's adult children sobbed a few feet away in a witness room as
they looked on at the state death house in Lucasville in southern Ohio.
McGuire thanked Stewart's family for a letter he apparently received
from them referring to "kind words" he said meant a lot. "I'm going to
heaven, I'll see you there when you come," he said.
In attempting to halt his execution, McGuire's attorneys argued he
was at substantial risk of a medical phenomenon known as air hunger,
causing him to experience "agony and terror" as he strained to catch his
The state had adopted the new execution method after supplies of the state's previous drug dried up.
McGuire opened and shut his left hand as if waving to his daughter,
son and daughter-in-law. More than a minute later he raised himself up,
looked in the direction of his family and said, "I love you. I love
McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort,
as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several
minutes. He also opened and shut his mouth several times without making a
sound as his stomach rose and fell.
"Oh my God," his daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she observed her father's final moments.
A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire's last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.
Previous executions with the former execution drugs took much less
time, and typically did not include the types of snorts and gasps that
State attorneys had disputed claims that McGuire would experience
terror as he was put to death with the new method. A federal judge sided
with the state but acknowledged the new method was an experiment. At
the request of McGuire's lawyers, Judge Gregory Frost ordered the state
to photograph and then preserve the drugs' packaging boxes and vials and
the syringes used in the execution.
McGuire, 53, was sentenced to death for killing Stewart in Preble
County in western Ohio. The newlywed was eight months pregnant at the
Stewart's slaying went unsolved for 10 months until McGuire, jailed
on an unrelated assault and hoping to improve his legal situation, told
investigators he had information about the woman's Feb. 12, 1989, death.
His attempts to blame the crime on his brother-in-law quickly unraveled
and soon he was accused of being the Joy Stewart's killer, according to
More than a decade later, DNA evidence confirmed McGuire's guilt, and
he acknowledged that he was responsible in a letter to Gov. John Kasich
"One can scarcely conceive of a sequence of crimes more shocking to
the conscience or to moral sensibilities than the senseless kidnapping
and rape of a young, pregnant woman followed by her murder," Preble
County prosecutors said in a filing with the state parole board last
His attorneys argued McGuire was mentally, physically and sexually
abused as a child and has impaired brain function that makes him prone
to act impulsively.
"Dennis was at risk from the moment he was born," the lawyers said in
a parole board filing. "The lack of proper nutrition, chaotic home
environment, abuse, lack of positive supervision and lack of positive
role models all affected Dennis' brain development."
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show McGuire
unsuccessfully sought a reprieve in recent weeks to try to become an
organ donor. In November, Kasich granted a death row inmate an
eight-month reprieve to let the prison system study his request to
donate a kidney to his sister and his heart to his mother.
Kasich said McGuire couldn't identify a family member who would receive his organs, as required under prison policy.
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