Missouri executes inmate for 1998 killing over child support

Updated at: 04/14/2015 11:22 PM
By JIM SALTER

(AP) BONNE TERRE, Mo. - BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri inmate was executed Tuesday night for killing a man in a fit of rage over child support payments 16 years ago.

Andre Cole, 52, became the third convicted killer put to death this year in Missouri. His fate was sealed after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down several appeals, including one claiming Cole was mentally ill and unfit for execution.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon refused a clemency petition that raised concerns about the fact that Cole, who was black, was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury.

Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Cole was executed by lethal injection at 10:15 p.m. and pronounced dead nine minutes later.

In the execution chamber, Cole nodded as relatives blew kisses his way. He chose not to make a final statement. He breathed deeply a few times as the drug was administered.

Cole declined any sedatives prior to the execution. He also declined to order a last meal and instead received the day's inmate tray, O'Connell said.

Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement he hoped "that the sentence carried out tonight brings those forever impacted by this tragedy a sense of justice and a measure of closure."

Cole and his wife, Terri, were married for 11 years and had two children before divorcing in 1995. The couple fought about visitation and he was upset about child support payments, authorities said.

By 1998, Cole was $3,000 behind in child support. Koster said Cole became angry when he learned that a payroll withholding order was issued to his employer, taking the money out of his check.

"Before I give her another dime, I'll kill (her)," Cole told co-workers, according to Koster.

The first deduction appeared on his Aug. 21, 1998, paycheck. Hours later, Cole forced his way into his ex-wife's home by throwing a tire jack through a glass door, Koster said. He was confronted by Anthony Curtis, a friend who was visiting.

Andre Cole used a kitchen knife to repeatedly stab Curtis, then Terri Cole. Curtis died but Terri Cole survived.

Cole fled the state but surrendered 33 days later. He claimed at trial that he did not bring a weapon into Terri Cole's house and that Curtis initiated the attack with a knife.

No relatives of Terri Cole or Anthony Curtis attended the execution.

Andre Cole's brother, DeAngelo Cole, 38, of Las Vegas, said the attack was out of character for his sibling. He called it a crime of passion.

"It was a one-time thing," DeAngelo Cole said. "He didn't have a history of that kind of behavior."

Cole's attorney, Joseph Luby, said Cole's mental health deteriorated during the more than a decade he spent in prison. He said Cole was plagued by psychosis and constantly heard voices in his head.

The courts were not convinced.

Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the execution based on mental health concerns. The U.S. Supreme Court also turned away appeals based on Missouri's secretive method of obtaining the execution drug pentobarbital and over how instructions were given to the jury.

The jury itself was the source of the clemency request to Nixon. Advocates for Cole, including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and others, said his case was among many in which St. Louis County prosecutors unfairly prohibited black jurors from hearing a death penalty case involving a black suspect.

All 12 jurors in Cole's case were white. Kimber Edwards, who was scheduled for execution in May, was also convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. The Missouri Supreme Court, without explanation, canceled the execution orders for Edwards earlier this month.

Missouri tied Texas for the most executions in 2014 with 10. Missouri has now executed 15 men since November 2013.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)