BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri officials waited into Wednesday night for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether the state could move forward with execution of death row inmate Allen Nicklasson, condemned for the killing of a Good Samaritan who stopped to help him and two friends who were stranded on the side of the road.
The Supreme Court was expected to announce its decision Wednesday morning, but by 7:15 p.m. there was no word from the court -- leaving the state less than five hours to carry out the sentence. The execution at the state prison in Bonne Terre could happen at any time Wednesday, according to Missouri statute, but would have to be rescheduled by the state Supreme Court if it did not happen before midnight Thursday.
Nicklasson, 41, had been scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for the 1994 murder of businessman Richard Drummond, who was shot to death after he stopped to help when a car carrying Nicklasson and two others stalled in central Missouri.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Tuesday over concerns about Nicklasson's legal representation. Nicklasson's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, has argued Nicklasson's original trial court wrongly excluded evidence about Nicklasson's diminished mental capacity at the time of the killing.
When the full appeals court refused to take up the case on Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"In the last nineteen years, Nicklasson has filed appeals or challenges to his convictions numerous times, in five different courts," Koster wrote in the appeal to the high court. "The time for enforcement of Missouri's criminal judgment against Allen L. Nicklasson is long, long overdue."
Herndon also appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and Gov. Jay Nixon to stop the execution but there were no signs that Nixon planned to intervene.
Nicklasson, Dennis Skillicorn and Tim DeGraffenreid were returning to Kansas City after buying drugs in St. Louis in August 1994 when their car broke down on I-70 near Kingdom City, Mo. When Drummond stopped to help, the men forced the 47-year-old Excelsior Springs businessman to drive west, then exit and head to a secluded area, where Nicklasson shot him twice in the head.
Nicklasson and Skillicorn then stole Drummond's car and drove to Arizona. When the vehicle broke down in the desert, they approached the home of Joseph and Charlene Babcock. Joseph Babcock was killed by Nicklasson after driving the men back to their vehicle, and Charlene Babcock was killed at the couple's home.
Both men were sentenced to life in prison for the Arizona killings. Both were sentenced to death in Missouri. Skillicorn was executed in 2009.
DeGraffenreid pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and did not receive a death sentence.