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Michael Taylor executed for killing Ann Harrison

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

The ensuing years have been agony for Ann Harrison's family, but one of her killers was put to death early Wednesday morning.

Michael Taylor, 47, was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. for killing the Raytown high school student.

Taylor offered no final statement. He declined to order a special last meal and was served a state issued meal tray that included potato soup and a sandwich.

He mouthed silent words to his parents, two clergymen and other relatives who witnessed his death. As the lethal injection process began, he took two deep breaths before closing his eyes for the last time. There were no obvious signs of distress.

His attorneys had mounted a flurry of last-minute appeals as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon denied him clemency.

George Lombard, director of the Department of Corrections, read the following statement from Nixon.

"Our thoughts and prayers tonight are with Bob and Janel Harrison, and the other members of Ann Harrison's family, as they remember the 15-year-old child they lost to an act of senseless violence. The abduction of Ann as she waited in her driveway for the school bus, and her subsequent rape and murder, were crimes so brutal that they remain seared in the minds of many Kansas City residents.

"Michael Taylor pleaded guilty to this horrible crime, and was convicted and sentenced to die for Ann's murder. That punishment has now been carried out.

"I ask that Missourians remember Ann Harrison at this time and join us in keeping her family in your thoughts and prayers."

Ann's father and two of her uncles witnessed Taylor's execution. They declined to make a public statement.

Taylor's accomplice, Roderick Nunley, remains on death row for the 1989 murder of the 15-year-old student who they abducted, raped, repeatedly stabbed and left to bleed to death. They both claimed they were high on crack cocaine at the time of their crimes.

Nunley, 48, still has ongoing appeals.

Appeals courts on Tuesday upheld a lower judge's rulings.

U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips refused to halt the execution based on separate claims that Missouri's one-drug execution method could cause a painful death, and that the state in three recent executions violated its own protocol by putting inmates to death while court cases were still pending. Taylor's attorney, John Simon, appealed to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but those appeals were rejected along with a claim that Taylor had ineffective legal counsel during his original trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals on Tuesday.

The days leading up to Taylor's execution were a flurry of activity involving the state's execution method, using only pentobarbital.

A week ago, the Apothecary Shoppe, an Oklahoma-based compounding pharmacy, agreed it would not provide the drug for Taylor's execution, leaving Missouri to scramble for an alternative. Two days later, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office said in a court filing a different supplying pharmacy had been found.

The state refuses to name the new supplier - Missouri's execution protocol provides anonymity.

"There is no reason to believe that the execution will not, like previous Missouri executions using pentobarbital, be rapid and painless," Koster's court filing read. A spokeswoman for Koster declined further comment Monday.

But Simon contends that since nothing is known about the pharmacy, there can be no guarantee that Taylor won't suffer during the execution, which would be a violation of his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

"The fact is that killing him will only devastate another family," Simon said. "It will simply replicate the cycle of violence."

Another appeal cited concerns about whether Missouri violates its own execution protocol by putting inmates to death before court cases are resolved. It said that all three of the recent executions - Joseph Paul Franklin in November, Allen Nicklasson in December and Herbert Smulls in January - occurred while appeals in three courts were still pending.

The state responded that attorneys for death row inmates file appeals without merit in the moments before executions, in part so that they can claim the execution proceeded unfairly.

Taylor and Nunley abducted Ann while she was waiting for a school bus in Kansas City on March 22, 1989. She was raped and stabbed to death, her body left in the trunk of a car. 

Taylor claimed his trial attorney convinced him to plead guilty to because she was unprepared for the case. Simon said it was Nunley who was responsible for the entire crime.

Supporters say a jury did not impose the death penalty and that Taylor like others in similar situations should have his sentence reduced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Taylor was hours away from being executed in 2006 when the procedure was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the three-drug lethal injection mixture Missouri was using at the time could constitute a cruel and unusual punishment if used incorrectly.

Opponents of the death penalty held a protest rally at the Country Club Plaza. They want Missouri to halt executions until a more humane method is found for executing people.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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