Missouri Supreme Court sets execution date for Ozark murder convict

Posted: 11:43 AM, Feb 18, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-18 16:33:27-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An Ozark, Missouri, man who was convicted by a Cass County jury of a 1991 murder nearly 14 years ago is scheduled to be put to death in May.

After five trials — including two mistrials and three convictions, two of which were overturned — the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered Walter Barton be put to death “within the twenty-four hour period beginning at 6:00 p.m. on May 19, 2020,” according to an Amended Warrant of Execution handed down Tuesday.

The Supreme Court of Missouri’s decision paves the way for the Missouri Department of Corrections to carry out a death penalty sentence against Barton, 64, who has been convicted and sentenced to death three times for the Oct. 9, 1991, murder of Gladys Kuehler.

According to court documents, Barton killed Buehler, an 81-year-old woman who needed a cane to get around, during a confrontation in her mobile home by stabbing her 52 times.

Buehler also was sexually assaulted during the brutal slaying.

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned Barton’s initial conviction and two subsequent trials ended in mistrials, but Barton was convicted and sentenced to death again in 1998 by a jury in Benton County, Missouri.

According to the Christian County (Missouri) Headliner, that conviction and sentence was overturned based on perjured testimony the state failed to correct before Barton’s trial was moved to Cass County after a change of venue motion in October 2005.

After a five-day trial in March 2006, the Cass County jury found Barton “guilty of murder in the first degree of Gladys Kuehler (and) now assess and declare the punishment at death,” according to court records.

The jury cited Barton’s prior convictions for assault with intent to kill in August 1976 in Laclede County, Missouri, and first-degree assault in June 1984 in Howell County, Missouri, as aggravating factors.

The verdict also noted that Kuehler’s murder “involved depravity of mind, and as a result thereof, the murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman,” the Cass County jury said in a statement to the court after finding Barton guilty.

Barton was sentenced to death by lethal injection in July 2006. He appealed, but the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the conviction in December 2007.

The state’s highest court also overruled a motion for rehearing in January 2008 and a post-conviction relief motion in May 2013, affirming the latter decision in a May 2014 ruling.

The Missouri Supreme Court overruled another motion for a rehearing in June 2014 before Barton “sought relief in various federal courts,” according to the Court’s order setting Barton’s execution date.

The Supreme Court of the United States denied Barton’s request for review on Nov. 18, 2019.

The state then filed a motion on Nov. 19, 2019, to set an execution date.

Missouri has executed 89 people since 1989. Most recently, the state put Russell E. Bucklew to death by lethal injection on Oct. 1, 2019.

The original Missouri Supreme Court Warrant of Execution handed down Tuesday set Barton's execution date on May 20, but the Court vacated that order and issued the Amended Warrant of Execution later Tuesday afternoon.