Missouri executes transgender inmate convicted of murder
BONNE TERRE, Mo. (KTVI) – The Missouri Department of Corrections carried out its execution of Amber McLaughlin early Tuesday evening becoming what is believed to be the first transgender woman executed in the U.S.
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 and 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 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 Guenter, 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.”
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 she 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.
In 2003, long before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with Beverly Guenther. After they stopped dating, McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records. Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.
Guenther’s neighbors called police the night of Nov. 20, 2003, when she failed to return home. Officers went to the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped. Authorities said she had been raped and stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.
A court in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing for McLaughlin, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.
McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago, according to Jessica Hicklin, who spent 26 years in prison for a drug-related killing before being released a year ago. Hicklin, now 43, sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, challenging a policy that prohibited hormone therapy for inmates who weren’t receiving it before being incarcerated. She won the lawsuit in 2018 and became a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin. McLaughlin did not receive hormone treatments, however, Komp said.
Another Missouri inmate, Leonard Taylor, is scheduled to die Feb. 7 for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.