ST. LOUIS (AP) – When John Winfield went on a shooting spree in 1996 in St. Louis County, he killed two women and permanently blinded the mother of his two children. One of those children is now part of the effort to save him.
Winfield, 43, is scheduled to be put to death at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. It would be the fifth execution in Missouri this year and the seventh since November. But it also would be among the first since a botched execution in Oklahoma in April raised new concerns about the death penalty.
Executions also are scheduled Tuesday in Georgia and Wednesday in Florida.
Several court appeals seek to spare Winfield’s life, along with a clemency request before Gov. Jay Nixon. That request includes a letter from Symone Winfield, the inmate’s 22-year-old daughter.
“That’s my dad, and I love him,” she said.
Her mother disagrees. Carmelita Donald, left blind after being shot in the head 18 years ago, does not have a listed phone number but has said in media reports that she supports execution for Winfield.
The execution is on hold, at least for now. A federal judge in St. Louis on Thursday granted a stay of execution over claims that a prison worker was intimidated into dropping plans to write a clemency letter on Winfield’s behalf. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed, and the case is pending in the 8th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the 8th Circuit last week refused a separate stay request on Winfield’s concerns that the pentobarbital used in the execution could cause pain and suffering, and about the secret way the state obtains the drug from a compounding pharmacy. Attorneys for Winfield appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
There has not been an execution in the U.S. since Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett’s death on April 29. Lockett’s vein collapsed and he died of a heart attack 43 minutes later, even though the execution itself had been halted.
Several executions have been put on hold since then, but Marcus Wellons is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday in Georgia, and Winfield and John Henry in Florida are scheduled to die Wednesday.
By the spring of 1996, Winfield and Donald had been dating on and off for seven years. They lived separately but had two young children together.
Donald started dating another man, Tony Reynolds. Winfield suspected it and one night in September parked his white Cadillac outside Donald’s apartment. Donald and Reynolds returned home and saw the car. They left, and an acquaintance later drove Donald back to the apartment.
Winfield was still there. This time, he approached Donald, demanding answers about her relationship with Reynolds while pushing her down stairs, according to court records. Meanwhile, Arthea Sanders, who lived with Donald, slashed the tires of Winfield’s car.
Winfield became enraged and chased Sanders into a neighboring apartment, where Shawnee Murphy lived with her three children. Winfield shot Sanders in the head, killing her. He returned outside and shot Donald in the head, blinding her. Then he shot Murphy in the head, killing her, too.
Winfield ran away and was arrested at his home a short time later.
Despite the horrific crime, his attorneys say Winfield has been a model prisoner, even donating time to mentor new prisoners. Symone Winfield, who was 4 when the crime occurred, agrees. She said she frequently visits her father and he is a far different man now.
She remains hopeful that the execution won’t happen. If it does, she’ll likely be there.
“I’m a strong supporter of my dad and if he wants me there I will be there to support him,” Symone Winfield said.
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