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Oklahoma executes inmate; Missouri execution stayed

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma on Tuesday executed a man convicted of raping and murdering two elderly women in the 1980s, while Missouri appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to be allowed to proceed with an execution.

Ronald Clinton Lott, 53, was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m. Central Time (0006 GMT on Wednesday) after a lethal injection at a state prison in Oklahoma, state Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.

Lott was the 37th person executed in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Lott was convicted of raping and killing Anna Laura Fowler, 83, in 1986 and Zelma Cutler, 90, in 1987 in their Oklahoma City homes. DNA evidence linked him to the crimes.

He made no final statement, Massie said.

"Ronald Lott was sentenced to death by a jury of his peers for the heinous and unconscionable acts he committed against Anna and Zelma in their homes," Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement.

According to Oklahoma criminal appeals court records, evidence presented at trial suggested Lott attacked the women and sat on their chests, breaking their ribs. Both had numerous bruises and were asphyxiated.

Another man, Robert Lee Miller Jr., had originally confessed to the rape and murder of the two women and served 11 years, seven on death row, before DNA evidence led authorities to Lott. Miller was released in 1998.

Lott was the fifth man executed in Oklahoma in 2013. The state is also scheduled to execute Johnny Dale Black, 48, on December 17 for his conviction in the 1998 stabbing death of Ringling, Oklahoma, horse trainer Bill Pogue.

In Missouri, state officials asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday night to lift a federal appeals court stay and allow them to proceed with the execution of Allen Nicklasson, scheduled for early Wednesday.

Nicklasson, 41, is arguing that his lawyers were ineffective. An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on Monday stayed his execution and the full Eighth Circuit on Tuesday denied a Missouri request to rehear the decision.

The Supreme Court will not rule on the issue before 8 a.m. Central Time Wednesday, according to the Missouri Attorney General's office, citing the Supreme Court clerk.

Nicklasson was found guilty of murder for the August 1994 shooting of motorist Richard Drummond, who stopped on a highway to help Nicklasson and two others whose car had broken down.

The three had stolen guns and ammunition in a home burglary before their vehicle broke down. When Drummond stopped to offer them a ride, the men abducted him, took him to a wooded area and shot him in the head, according to court records.

One of the men, Dennis Skillicorn, was executed in 2009. The third person, Tim DeGraffenreid, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a reduced sentence.

Nicklasson and Skillicorn were also convicted of killing an Arizona couple while on the run after killing Drummond.

Nicklasson had been scheduled to die October 23, but Missouri Governor Jay Nixon halted the execution due to broad criticism over the state's planned use of the drug propofol, widely used as an anesthetic in medical procedures.

The case is one of many caught up in a national debate over what drugs can or should be used for executions, as capital punishment opponents pressure pharmaceutical companies to cut off supplies of drugs for executions.

Missouri in November used pentobarbital, a short-acting barbiturate, mixed by a compounding pharmacy to execute serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City, Carey Gillam and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler and Paul Simao)

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