BONNE TERRE, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Corrections carried out its execution of Amber McLaughlin early Tuesday evening. She was the first openly transgender inmate to be killed by the state.
The execution was carried out at 6:39 p.m. at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. McLaughlin, 49, died via lethal injection. She was declared dead by 6:51 p.m.
On Jan. 1, 2023, McLaughlin submitted her last statement to the DOC: “I am sorry for what I did. I am a loving and caring person.” McLaughlin signed the statement as Scott.
McLaughlin was sentenced to death on Nov. 3, 2006, for the murder of ex-girlfriend Beverly Guenther. During the 2005 trial, prosecutors said McLaughlin, then known as Scott, stalked Guenther, abducted her as she left her job, and stabbed her to death.
McLaughlin was convicted of rape and murder in 2005. However, St. Louis County jurors failed to reach a unanimous consensus on the death penalty. The presiding judge ultimately made the death sentence determination.
Governor Mike Parson released a statement after the execution, opting to use McLaughlin’s deadname:
Today, the State of Missouri carried out Scott McLaughlin’s sentence as ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court. McLaughlin was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2003 brutal rape and murder and of Beverly Guenther. McLaughlin terrorized Ms. Guenther in the final years of her life, but we hope her family and loved ones may finally have some peace.Gov. Mike Parson
Parson declined McLaughlin’s clemency request, which cited McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard during her trial. A foster parent rubbed feces in her face when McLaughlin was a toddler, and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her, according to the petition. It cited severe depression that resulted in multiple suicide attempts, both as a child and as an adult.
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. But McLaughlin’s sexual identity was “not the main focus” of the clemency request, her attorney, Larry Komp, said.
McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi. But, according to Komp, McLaughlin never received hormone treatments.
Relatives of the victim expressed frustration that their loss had been overshadowed by the attention given McLaughlin. Two of Guenther’s relatives witnessed Tuesday’s execution, feeling someone should be there to represent her.
One relative said no one should die the way Guenther did and described her as a charismatic woman, who loved her family and had many friends. Relatives said Guenther was an animal lover who paid her bills and easily won over friends with her personality.
Shopping, lunch dates, talking on the phone, getting pedicures, going to weddings, and celebrating holidays are just some of the events family members said they have missed sharing with Guenther.
Guenther’s family said even though the death penalty does not bring her back, they feel McLaughlin needed to be held accountable and are pleased Governor Parson rejected a plea for clemency.
McLaughlin is only the second woman to be put to death in Missouri. The first, Bonnie Heady, was executed on Dec. 18, 1953, for the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Bobby Greenlease.
The Missouri Department of Corrections is scheduled to execute another inmate, Leonard Taylor, on Feb. 7. Taylor was convicted in the November 2004 murders of his girlfriend and her three young children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.