“Done what he had to do”

There’s a lot of interest in the scheduled execution of Dennis Skillicorn, scheduled for one minute past midnight. I assume that’s because it’s been a few years since Missouri’s last execution.

In March of 2000, I witnessed the execution of James Hampton. Here’s an excerpt from the case facts on MissouriDeathRow.com (a site I maintain for our company):

“At some point during their drive Hampton learned from his police scanner that the authorities were searching for Ms. Keaton. According to his trial testimony, Hampton decided to kill Ms. Keaton after learning that the police were looking for him. Hampton drove Ms. Keaton to the farm of the real estate agent from whom he had learned about Ms. Keaton. Hampton blindfolded Ms. Keaton and took her into a wooded area about one-half mile from the real estate agent’s farm. He then killed Ms. Keaton by repeatedly striking her in the head with a hammer. He then buried her and burned all of her belongings.”

Note the similarity (to me) of the final minutes of Skillicorn’s victim:

“They (Dennis Skillicorn and Allen Nicklasson) directed Drummond to exit I-70 at the Highway T exit. They proceeded four miles on to County Road 202 to a secluded area where they ordered Drummond to stop his vehicle. As Nicklasson prepared to take Drummond through a field toward a wooded area, Skillicorn demanded Drummond’s wallet. Knowing Nicklasson had no rope or other means by which to restrain Drummond and that Nicklasson carried a loaded .22 caliber pistol, Skillicorn watched as Nicklasson lead Drummond toward a wooded area. There, Nicklasson shot Drummond twice in the head. Skillicorn acknowledged hearing two shots from the woods and that Nicklasson returned having “already done what he had to do.” Drummond’s remains were found eight days later.”

The controversy surrounding Missouri’s execution protocol notwithstanding, I’ll always remember Hampton’s final moments as seeming much less terrifying than that blindfolded walk into the woods.

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