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Missouri man executed for killing his cousin, her husband in 2006

Brian Dorsey
Posted at 7:35 PM, Apr 09, 2024

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man was executed Tuesday for killing his cousin and her husband nearly two decades ago in an attack that left the couple’s 4-year-old daughter home alone and unharmed.

Brian Dorsey, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:11 p.m. after a single-dose injection of the sedative pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Karen Pojmann, communications director for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said in an email.

It was the first execution in Missouri this year after four in 2023, and it came hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the inmate’s final appeals.

Dorsey took a few deep breaths as the drug was injected, then several shallow, quick breaths. At one point he raised his head from the pillow and blinked hard. After several seconds, all movement stopped. A spiritual adviser seated next to the gurney continued to speak. It was unclear what he was saying — the room is soundproof.

Dorsey, in a final statement, expressed remorse and sorrow for the killings.

“Words cannot hold the just weight of my guilt and shame,” Dorsey said in the written statement.

Dorsey, 52, formerly of Jefferson City, was convicted of killing Sarah and Ben Bonnie on Dec. 23, 2006, at their home near New Bloomfield. Prosecutors said that earlier that day, Dorsey had called Sarah Bonnie seeking to borrow money to pay two drug dealers who were at his apartment.

Dorsey went to the Bonnies’ home that night. After they went to bed, Dorsey took a shotgun from the garage and killed both of them before sexually assaulting Sarah Bonnie’s body, prosecutors said.

Police said Dorsey stole several items from the home and tried to pay off a drug debt with some of the stolen goods.

A day after the killings, Sarah Bonnie’s parents went to check on the Bonnies after they had failed to show up for a family gathering. They found the couple’s 4-year-old daughter on the couch watching TV.

She told her grandparents that her mother “won’t wake up.” Dorsey surrendered to police Dec. 26 of that year.

Dorsey’s execution had raised new concerns about Missouri’s single-drug protocol, which includes no provision for the use of anesthetics.

Dorsey’s attorneys described him as obese, diabetic and a former intravenous drug user, all factors that could have made it difficult to obtain a vein to inject the lethal drug. When that happens, a cutdown procedure is sometimes necessary.

A cutdown involves an incision, then the use of forceps to pull tissue away from an interior vein.

A federal lawsuit on behalf of Dorsey argued that without a local anesthetic, he would be in so much pain that it would impede his right to religious freedom by preventing him from having meaningful interaction with his spiritual adviser, including the administration of last rites.

A settlement was reached Saturday in which the state took unspecified steps to limit the risk of extreme pain. The settlement didn’t spell out the specific changes agreed to by the state, including whether anesthetics would be available.

Pojmann said no cutdown procedure was necessary for Dorsey.

“It went smoothly,” she said. “No problems.”

About 85 protesters gathered outside the prison in support of Dorsey.

Hours before the execution, the Supreme Court turned aside both of Dorsey’s appeals without comment. His lawyers had urged the high court to step in, saying he had shown good behavior in prison and had been rehabilitated. They also argued a $12,000 flat fee paid to his two public defenders gave them incentive to hurry through the case. On their recommendation, Dorsey pleaded guilty despite having no agreement with prosecutors to spare him from the death penalty.

On Monday, Republican Gov. Mike Parson denied a clemency request that included signatures from 72 current and former state corrections officers who urged the governor to commute Dorsey’s sentence to life in prison without parole. They cited Dorsey’s virtually spotless record of good behavior behind bars. Parson, a Republican, is a former county sheriff. He has never granted clemency since taking office in 2018.

Parson, in a statement, said Dorsey “punished his loving family for helping him in a time of need. His cousins invited him into their home, where he was surrounded by family and friends, then gave him a place to stay. Dorsey repaid them with cruelty, inhumane violence, and murder.”

Missouri has scheduled its next execution June 11 for inmate David Hosier for his conviction in the 2009 killing of a Jefferson City woman. Five people have been executed in five different states this year — Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri.