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Missouri Executes Man Who Raped, Killed Teen in 1989

BONNE TERRE, Mo. — A man convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing a 17-year-old girl in suburban St. Louis was executed early Wednesday in Missouri, marking the state's fifth execution in as many months.

Jeffrey Ferguson abducted Kelli Hall as she finished her shift at a Mobil gas station in St. Charles on Feb. 9, 1989. Her naked, frozen body was found 13 days later on a St. Louis County farm, and investigators determined she had been raped and strangled.

Ferguson, 59, was pronounced dead shortly after midnight at the state prison in Bonne Terre.

In an attempt to spare his life, Ferguson's attorneys made last-minute court appeals challenging, among other things, the state's refusal to disclose where it gets its execution drugs. Supporters said Ferguson, who expressed remorse for the crime, became deeply religious in prison, counseled inmates and helped start a prison hospice program.

"Society doesn't gain anything by his execution," Rita Linhardt of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said Tuesday. "He's not the same man he was 24 years ago."

His attorney also said he was an alcoholic who blacked out the night of the murder.

But St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Ferguson's good deeds in prison didn't make up for the senseless killing of an innocent teenager. Calling the crime "unspeakable," he noted that it took several minutes for Hall to die.

"She gets abducted, abused in unspeakable manner by this guy and then slowly murdered and dumped in a field like a bag of garbage," McCulloch said.

The courts appeared to agree: The U.S. Supreme Court, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the governor all refused to halt the execution.

— The Associated Press