Missouri carries out first U.S. execution since pandemic began

(Reuters) - A Missouri man convicted of murdering an elderly woman three decades ago was put to death in Missouri on Tuesday, marking the first execution in the United States since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Walter Barton, 64, was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. local time (2310 GMT) at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri, state corrections officials said. He was executed for the 1991 murder of Gladys Kuehler, 81.

Barton was convicted of stabbing Kuehler more than 50 times in her Ozark, Missouri home in the trailer park she managed. Kuehler, an acquaintance of Barton, had planned to lend him $20 on the day of the murder, court documents showed.

After numerous changes of venue, two mistrials and two overturned convictions, Barton was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in March 2006. Since then, he filed several unsuccessful appeals in state and federal court.

Barton was the first inmate to be put to death in the United States in the last two months after U.S. states halted 11 pending executions for various reasons, including five that were postponed by Texas due to the pandemic, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Alabama carried out the country’s last execution when it put to death Nathaniel Woods on March 5, about two weeks before many governors issued stay-at-home orders.

Barton was the first inmate executed in Missouri in 2020 and the sixth in the United States this year.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty, David Gregorio and Lincoln Feast.