In 1998, Wesley Purkey made headlines when he was arrested for the murder of Mary Bales and, later, the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in Missouri.
The latter happened on January 22nd of the same year when he lured 16-year-old Jennifer Long into his pickup truck after spotting her outside a grocery store.
The 46-year-old Kansas native drove her to his home, where he raped and stabbed her to death. After killing her, he used a chainsaw to dismember her body and partially burned it in a fireplace.
After that, he buried her remains in a septic pond in Clearwater, Kansas. Till today, her remains remain undiscovered.
He was not immediately caught for this crime, hence, 9 months after, he perpetrated another.
This time, he beat an 80-year-old woman named Mary Bales to death using a claw hammer. This happened in October 1998 when he was called to help fix a kitchen tap in her home.
The next morning, he returned to the scene, intending to cover his tracks by burning down the house. However, Mary’s neighbor saw him in the backyard and called the police.
He was arrested and sentenced to life in prison. It was after this that he confessed to killing Jennifer Long as well. Thus, in 2003, he was handed the death penalty.
Efforts To Overturn His Sentence
Due to his deteriorating mental health, there have been efforts to overturn his sentence in recent times. This is not the first time the issue of his mental health had come up. Before his trial in 2003, it was considered, but the jurors decided he should be put to death for killing Jennifer Long.
More recently, his lawyers have argued that he is clearly not well enough to be executed since he is suffering from advancing Alzheimer’s disease in the later stages of his life.
Although many issues regarding Purkey’s case have arisen and been settled in the last two decades, experts said that with regard to mental fitness for execution, the issue could only be addressed once a date is set.
The US Supreme court rejected all pleas, and his execution was set for July 16, 2020. At 8:19 a.m. local time at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, Purkey was put to death via lethal injection known as Pentobarbital.
Purkey’s Final Words
“I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused Jennifer’s family. I am deeply sorry, I deeply regret the pain I caused to my daughter, who I love so very much. This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever.”
Jennifer’s family were present at the execution and her father, William Long said:
“We took care of today, what we needed to take care of. It has been a long time coming. He needed to take his last breath – he took my daughter’s last breath. And there’s some resolve. There is no closure, and there never will be because I won’t get my daughter back.”
A Grim Autopsy Reveals That He Died Excruciatingly
After Wesley Purkey’s execution, some grim details surrounding his death have come to light. Although he was put to death by injecting pentobarbital, which was supposed to give him a painless death, an autopsy revealed otherwise.
Rather than dying painlessly, he was in excruciating pain when he died. According to the autopsy, he suffered “severe bilateral acute pulmonary edema” and “frothy pulmonary edema in the trachea and main stem bronchi.”
Simply put, fluids entered his lungs and trachea, making him feel a near-drowning sensation. One medical expert describes it being “among the most excruciating feelings known to man.”
According to Dr. Gail Van Norman who interpreted Purkey’s autopsy, the flash flooding filling of his lungs could only have happened while he was alive. Hence, he was most likely alive to feel every bit of the excruciating pain before he died.
It seems like a common effect of the injection. She went further to explain:
“It is a virtual medical certainty, that most, if not all, prisoners will experience excruciating suffering, including sensations of drowning and suffocation from pentobarbital.”
Purkey had requested pecan pie as his last supper but asked to have it later. If only he knew that there would be no later.