A federal death row inmate from Kansas who raped, killed and dismembered a 16-year-old girl and beat an 80-year-old woman to death wants the chance to present claims that his trial lawyer was ineffective.
Attorneys for Wesley Ira Purkey on Tuesday requested a stay of his execution, currently scheduled for Dec. 13.
Purkey is among five death-row inmates across the country set to be executed in the next five months. The executions, which the Justice Department announced in July, would be the first carried out by the federal government since 2003.
The Kansas City Star reports the defense argued that his trial lawyer failed to investigate his traumatic childhood, which included sexual abuse by alcoholic family members and a Catholic priest.
“Mr. Purkey is not ‘the worst of the worst,’” his attorney, Rebecca Woodman, said in a statement. “Had the jurors heard this information, at least one of them might have voted for a life sentence.”
Purkey, of Lansing, was sentenced to death for the 1998 killing of Jennifer Long after picking her up in Kansas City, Missouri. Purkey raped Long, stabbed her repeatedly and used a chainsaw to cut her body into pieces. He burned her remains in a fireplace and then dumped her ashes 200 miles away in a septic pond in Clearwater, southwest of Wichita.
Nine months later, Purkey was arrested in the killing of 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales, of Kansas City, Kansas. He pleaded guilty to Bale’s murder and was handed a life sentence.
A federal jury in the Western District of Missouri found Purkey guilty in 2003 of kidnapping Long, resulting in her death. Prosecutors sought the death penalty. Purkey has remained at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Long’s mother, Glenda Lamont, has said she planned to attend the execution.
“I don’t want to say that I’m happy,” Lamont said in July. “At the same time, he is a crazy mad man that doesn’t deserve, in my opinion, to be breathing anymore.”
Purkey’s lawyers said they are also seeking clemency from President Donald Trump, urging him to commute Purkey’s death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. They cited his dementia diagnosis and his remorse.
“He has not forgiven himself, and so he cannot ask for forgiveness from you or your office,” his attorneys wrote in his clemency petition. “He asks only for your intervention, which would simply permit him to die in prison, at this late stage of his life.”
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