Missouri appeals Nicklasson stay to Supreme Court

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The fate of Missouri death row inmate Allen Nicklasson is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster late Tuesday appealed a stay of execution granted by a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over concerns about Nicklasson’s legal representation at trial and sentencing. The full appeals court declined to take up the case Tuesday, prompting Koster’s appeal to the Supreme Court.

“In the last nineteen years, Nicklasson has filed appeals or challenges to his convictions numerous times, in five different courts,” Koster wrote in the appeal. “The time for enforcement of Missouri’s criminal judgment against Allen L. Nicklasson is long, long overdue.”

Nicklasson, 41, is scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1994 murder of businessman Richard Drummond. Drummond was fatally shot after stopping to help when a car carrying Nicklasson and two others stalled along Interstate 70 in central Missouri.

Nicklasson’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said Nicklasson was “optimistic and happy” in the hours before the scheduled execution, still hopeful the stay would hold.

“He says he’s OK either way, but in the end I’ve found that no one wants to die,” Herndon said.

Herndon has also appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and Gov. Jay Nixon to stop the execution.

Nicklasson, Dennis Skillicorn and Tim DeGraffenreid were returning to Kansas City after buying drugs in St. Louis in August 1994 when their car broke down on I-70 near Kingdom City. When Drummond stopped to help, the men forced the 47-year-old Excelsior Springs businessman to drive west on I-70, exit and drive to a secluded area where Nicklasson shot him twice in the head.

Nicklasson and Skillicorn then stole Drummond’s car and drove to Arizona. When the vehicle broke down in the desert, they approached the home of Joseph and Charlene Babcock. Joseph Babcock was killed by Nicklasson after driving the men back to their vehicle, and Charlene Babcock was killed at the couple’s home.

Both men were sentenced to life in prison for the Arizona killings. Both were sentenced to death in Missouri. Skillicorn was executed in 2009 even though Nicklasson said he was solely responsible for killing Drummond. DeGraffenreid pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and did not receive a death sentence.

Nicklasson declined interview requests this week. But in a 2009 interview with the Associated Press, he recalled a childhood of abuse and mental illness. He said he had watched his mother shoot up heroin, and she fed him Alpo dog food for dinner and once made him fight a Doberman for money.

Missouri had been preparing for its second execution in three weeks, after going nearly three years without an execution. Racist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was executed Nov. 20, marking the first execution in Missouri using a single drug, pentobarbital.

The state previously used a three-drug method of executions, but changed protocols after drugmakers stopped selling the lethal drugs to prisons and corrections departments. The pentobarbital used in Missouri executions comes from an undisclosed compounding pharmacy — the Missouri Department of Corrections declines to say who makes the drug, or where.

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