BONNE TERRE, Mo. – A Missouri inmate has been put to death for raping and killing a neighbor in 1995, the first lethal injection in the U.S. since an execution in Arizona went awry last month.
The Missouri Department of Corrections said early today that Michael Worthington was executed by lethal injection at the state prison and was pronounced dead at 12:11 a.m. He is the seventh Missouri inmate executed this year.
He had been sentenced to death for the attack on Melinda “Mindy” Griffin during a burglary of her Lake St. Louis condominium.
The U.S. Supreme Court and Missouri’s governor declined to block the execution. Worthington’s attorneys had cited the Arizona execution and two others that were botched in Ohio and Oklahoma, and the secrecy involving the drugs used in Missouri.
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Worthington was sentenced to death in 1998 after pleading guilty to Griffin's death, confessing that in September 1995 he cut open a window screen to break in to the college finance major's condominium in Lake St. Louis, just west of St. Louis.
Worthington admitted he choked Griffin into submission and raped her before strangling her when she regained consciousness. He stole her car keys and jewelry, along with credit cards he used to buy drugs.
DNA tests later linked Worthington to the slaying.
Worthington, much as he did after his arrest, insisted to the AP on Tuesday from his holding cell near the death chamber that he couldn't remember details of the killing and that he was prone to blackouts due to alcohol and cocaine abuse. He said a life prison sentence would have been more appropriate for him.
"In 20 years, no one's seen or heard from me," he said. "If I'm the one who did it, what do they think life without parole is — a piece of cake?
Earlier Tuesday, Griffin's 76-year-old parents anticipated witnessing Worthington die.
"It's been 19 years, and I feel like there's going to be a finality," Griffin's mother, Carol Angelbeck, told the AP, after flying to Missouri from their Florida home. With the execution, "I won't have to ever deal with the name Michael Worthington again. I'm hoping for my family's sake, my sake, that we can go there (to the prison) and get this over with."
"In this case, there is no question in anyone's mind he did it, so why does it take 18 or 19 years to go through with this?" added Jack Angelbeck, Griffin's father. "This drags on and on. At this point, it's ridiculous, and hopefully it's going to end."
Worthington, when asked what he would say to Griffin's parents, directed his comments to her mother.
"If my life would bring her peace and bring Mindy back, I'd be fine with that. But it won't," he said. "It doesn't bring peace or closure. She's still going to have her broken heart."