Man executed for knifing family
A US man who killed his girlfriend and her two-year-old daughter with a butcher's knife has been executed.
Richard Strong, 48, was executed at the Missouri state prison in Bonne Terre for the deaths of Eva Washington and her daughter Zandrea Thomas more than 14 years ago.
He was the fourth man to die by injection in Missouri this year and the 16th since November 2013. Only Texas has executed more inmates over that time.
"Jehovah-Jireh, you're my provider. Your grace is sufficient for me. Forgive me for my sin," Strong said in his final statement, according to corrections officials.
No family members or other witnesses attended the execution on Strong's behalf. He had earlier met his mother, brother, sister-in-law and two daughters, but none of them witnessed his death.
Washington's sister, Virgil Samant, witnessed the execution and said she might feel compassion for Strong one day, "but for now I don't give a damn. He can rot in hell".
The bodies of Ms Washington and her daughter were found in October 2000 in her apartment in the St Louis suburb of St Ann. A large butcher's knife was found on a bed next to a pool of blood.
Strong and Ms Washington's daughter together, three-month-old Alyshia Strong, was also on the bed but was not harmed.
St Ann police received an emergency call from Ms Washington's apartment on October 23 2000 and heard a scream. Officers headed to the apartment, where Strong met them outside.
He initially told them Ms Washington was sleeping then said she had gone to work. Officers saw bloodstains on his hand and Strong tried to run. When they caught him, he admitted to the killings. Inside, police found the bodies and the unharmed baby.
Strong's lawyer, Jennifer Herndon, said Strong and Ms Washington suffered from mental illness and frequently argued.
"He just snapped," Ms Herndon said. "It was just sort of a powder keg waiting to explode. It wasn't a healthy relationship."
Alyshia was taken in by Strong's mother. Despite the killings, she grew close to her father, frequently visiting him in prison. A clemency request to governor Jay Nixon relied heavily on Alyshia's words describing the importance of her father in her life.
"l know some people probably wonder how I can have a relationship with my father given that he killed my mother, but we are very close," the girl, now 14, wrote.
"I understand that my father needs to face consequences and to pay for what he did, but I do not think it is right for me to lose my father as part of the punishment," she added.
On Monday, she said: "I've never been angry with my dad and I've learned to forgive."
Strong's fate was sealed when Mr Nixon declined the clemency request and the US Supreme Court refused to intervene.
The defence had asked the court to halt the execution because Strong was mentally ill, suffering from severe depression.