Missouri set for first execution in U.S. since pandemic began

Posted at 12:12 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 13:12:44-04

O'FALLON, Mo. — The coronavirus pandemic put a pause on U.S. executions, but that is likely to change as Missouri prepares to execute an inmate for the slaying of an elderly woman nearly three decades ago.

Walter Barton would be the first person executed in the U.S. since Nathaniel Woods was put to death in Alabama on March 5. Soon thereafter, efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus shut down the U.S. economy and led to strict limits on social distancing, including inside prisons.

At least three states have put executions on hold in the intervening 2½ months.

Barton has been convicted and sentenced to death three times for the Oct. 9, 1991, murder of Gladys Kuehler. The Ozark, Missouri, man stabbed the 81-year-old woman 52 times and sexually assaulted her, according to court records.

In 2006, a Cass County jury found Barton guilty of the murder and sentenced him to death.