Missouri executes man in '89 rape, killing of teen

Associated Press Updated: February 26, 2014 at 11:47 am • Published: February 26, 2014 0

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — Ann Harrison was waiting for her school bus, standing in the driveway of her Missouri home with her flute, school books and purse, when two men pulled up asking for directions. One of the men then grabbed the 15-year-old girl, pulled her into their stolen car and sped away that morning in 1989.

The next day, her body — repeatedly stabbed — was found in the trunk of an abandoned car. Police would later learn she had been raped and begged for her life, even offering her attackers money if they let her go.

The case paralyzed her Kansas City community before a tip six months later led police to Michael Taylor.

Nearly 25 years after the brutal killing, Taylor was executed on Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre. His last-minute appeals to halt the lethal injection were denied by the governor and federal courts.

His attorneys had argued the execution drug, pentobarbital, likely would cause Taylor inhumane pain and suffering. The state refused to name the compounding pharmacy that provided the drug, which his lawyers said made it impossible to know the drug's origins or whether the pharmacy had been accused of past wrongdoing.

Pete Edlund didn't want to hear it. The retired Kansas City police detective led the investigation into Ann's death — a case, he said, that left even veteran officers traumatized.

"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."

Taylor offered no final statement before his early-morning execution, though 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.

The 47-year-old was pronounced dead at 12: 10 a.m., marking Missouri's fourth lethal injection using pentobarbital in as many months.

Ann's father and two of her uncles also witnessed Taylor's execution. They declined to make a public statement.

In their appeals, Taylor's attorneys cited concerns about the state executing inmates before appeals were complete and argued Taylor's original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty. But much of the debate focused on Missouri's use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the pentobarbital.

After using a three-drug execution method for years, Missouri switched late last year to pentobarbital. The same drug was used in three previous Missouri executions, and state officials said none of the 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 process.

The Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy Apothecary Shoppe agreed last week that it wouldn't supply the pentobarbital for Taylor's execution, which left Missouri to find a new supplier. But Attorney General Chris Koster's office later disclosed that a new provider had been found but refused to name it, citing the anonymity granted by state law to members of the execution team.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Taylor's appeals about an hour before his lethal injection began, though three justices dissented, saying they supported granting a stay.

Authorities say Taylor and Roderick Nunley, then in their early 20s, drove past Ann's home as she waited outside in the driveway the morning of March 22, 1989. They were in a car they had stolen after a night of binging on crack cocaine.

One of the men jumped out of the car — both men claimed it was the other — grabbed Ann and forced her into the vehicle. The men then drove to the home of Nunley's mother. Ann was forced into the basement and raped, and 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. 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. Nunley is awaiting execution.

"She just turned 15," the retired detective said. "It was a tragedy all the way around. This was an innocent child."

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