A Missouri inmate was executed early Wednesday for abducting, raping and killing a Kansas City teenager as she waited for her school bus in 1989, marking the state’s fourth lethal injection in as many months.
Michael Taylor, 47, was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. at the state prison in Bonne Terre. Federal courts and the governor had refused last-minute appeals from his attorneys, who argued that the execution drug purchased from a compounding pharmacy could have caused Taylor inhuman pain and suffering.
Taylor offered no final statement, although he mouthed silent words to his parents, clergymen and other relatives who witnessed his death. As the process began, he took two deep breaths before closing his eyes for the last time. There were no obvious signs of distress.
His victim, 15-year-old Ann Harrison, was in her driveway, carrying her school books, flute and purse, when Taylor and Roderick Nunley abducted her. The men pulled her into their stolen car and drove her to a home, where they raped and fatally stabbed her as she pleaded for her life. Nunley was also sentenced to death.
Ann’s father and two of her uncles witnessed Taylor’s execution. They declined to make a public statement.
In their appeals, Taylor’s attorneys questioned Missouri’s use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the execution drug, pentobarbital. They also cited concerns about the state executing inmates before appeals were complete and argued that Taylor’s original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty.
After using a three-drug execution method for years, Missouri switched late last year to pentobarbital. The same drug had been used in three earlier Missouri executions, and state officials said none of those inmates showed outward signs of distress.
Still, attorneys for Taylor said using a drug from a compounding pharmacy, which unlike large pharmaceutical companies are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, runs the risk of causing pain and suffering during the execution.
The Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy Apothecary Shoppe agreed last week that it wouldn’t supply the pentobarbital for Taylor’s execution, forcing Missouri to find a new supplier. Attorney General Chris Koster’s office said a new provider had been found, but Koster refused to name the pharmacy, citing the state’s execution protocol that allows the manufacturer anonymity.
Taylor’s attorneys said use of the drug without naming the compounding pharmacy could cause the inmate pain and suffering because no one could check if the operation was legitimate and had not been accused of any violations.
Pete Edlund doesn’t want to hear it. The retired Kansas City police detective led the investigation into the teenager’s death.
“Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison,” Edlund said. “Get a damn rope, string them up, put them in the gas chamber. Whatever it takes.”
Ann stepped out of her home the morning of March 22, 1989, to wait in her driveway for her school bus.
Authorities said Nunley and Taylor, then in their early 20s, drove past in a car they had stolen after a night of binging on crack cocaine. One of the men jumped out of the car and grabbed Ann, forcing her into the vehicle. Both claimed the other did it.
The men drove to the home of Nunley’s mother. Ann was forced into the basement and raped – DNA testing linked Taylor to the crime. Afraid she would be able to identify them, the men used kitchen knives to stab the girl 10 times, including in her throat and torso, as she begged for her life.
She offered money if they would let her live. She died about 30 minutes later, according to the medical examiner.
The stolen car was then driven to a nearby neighborhood and abandoned, with Ann’s body in the trunk. She was found the next day. But the crime went unsolved for about six months until a $10,000 reward led to a tip, and Taylor and Nunley were both arrested, Edlund said. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to death.
The case left even veteran officers traumatized, Edlund said.
“She just turned 15,” the retired detective said. “It was a tragedy all the way around. This was an innocent child.”