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updated 1/6/2011 8:03:57 PM ET 2011-01-07T01:03:57

A death row inmate was executed Thursday for the murder of a convenience store worker found brutally beaten with a baseball bat almost 16 years ago.

Billy Don Alverson, 39, was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. local time at Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said.

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Alverson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for the Feb, 26, 1995, death of 30-year-old Richard Yost, the night manager of a convenience store in Tulsa. Yost's body was found bound and beaten on the blood-soaked floor of the store's cooler.

Alverson's execution was the first in the U.S. in 2011, according to Kenneth England, spokesman for the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. Seventeen other executions are scheduled across the nation, including another one in Oklahoma next week, England said.

Alverson was one of four men convicted of first-degree murder in Yost's death. Prosecutors have said Yost received 54 blows from the bat and all four men participated in the beating, although Alverson has said he never hit Yost.

Three of Alverson's co-defendants were also sentenced to death. One of them, 31-year-old Darwin Brown, was executed in January 2009.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 in December to deny clemency for Alverson. Members of Yost's family, including his former wife and mother-in-law, and the president and CEO of Yost's former employer submitted letters to the board asking that it deny clemency.

Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said Alverson has requested a large pepperoni and Italian sausage pizza and a large Dr. Pepper as his last meal.

The next death row inmate scheduled for execution in Oklahoma is Jeffrey David Matthews, 38. He was convicted in the January 1994 murder of 77-year-old Otis Earl Short, Matthews' great-uncle, during a robbery of Short's home. The execution is set for Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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