Missouri Executes Michael Shane Worthington

By Missourinet

Published 08/06 2014 04:09AM

Updated 08/06 2014 06:44AM

BONNE TERRE, Mo. -- Missouri has executed convicted killer Michael Shane Worthington 16 years after he pled guilty to the 1995 rape and murder of a Lake Saint Louis woman.

6 witnesses for Worthington watched the execution including relatives, his step-mother and a girlfriend, and he never looked away from them.  He was speaking to them when the curtain on the witness rooms opened, and while 5 grams of pentobarbital were administered at 12:01 a.m.  He appeared to quit talking to his family by 12:02 and appeared to quit breathing at 12:03.  The Department of Corrections places the time of death at 12:11.

Worthington tied with a Bible on his chest.

Worthington issued a final statement before his execution, including no apology for the crimes.  He said, “Thank you, I will finally get to live in peace with my true Father.  I’ll no longer have to suffer.  It’s really my beloved friends and family that will suffer.  May God forgive those who call this justice.  When in truth, it’s truly about politics and revenge.  Amen and peace to unto you all.”

He is the ninth inmate executed by Missouri since November.

The execution was carried out as scheduled after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his appeals. Governor Jay Nixon (D) then denied Worthington clemency, allowing the Department of Corrections to carry out the lethal injection.

The execution has drawn additional attention for being the first in the nation since Arizona inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood III took more than 90 minutes to die in an execution there last month. Missouri uses a different, one-drug procedure to carry out lethal injections than the one Arizona used that involved a combination of drugs.

Worthington, who was 43, confessed in 1999 to breaking into the condominium of his neighbor, 24-year-old Melinda “Mindy” Griffin, choking her until she was unconscious, raping her, and when she awoke and fought back, strangling her to death.

On the morning after the murder Worthington was pulled over while driving Griffin’s vehicle.  He was wearing a fanny pack containing jewelry that belonged to Griffin.  He was taken into custody after threatening to commit suicide.

DNA testing of semen found on Griffin’s body also tied Worthington to the crimes.

The facts that he committed the murder in connection with the rape and burglary were considered aggravating factors in his sentencing.

Missouri is next scheduled to execute convicted inmate Leon Taylor September 10, for the 1994 murder of Robert Newton in Independence.

Related:   Investigators: ‘no doubt’ executed Missouri inmate Worthington was guilty

Michael Shane Worthington spent 19 years in custody after the burglary, rape and murder of 24-year-old Melinda Griffin of Lake St. Louis. He was sentenced to death after confessing to those crimes, and his execution was carried out early Wednesday morning at the prison in Bonne Terre.

Worthington spent much of those 19 years attempting to cast doubt on his guilt. He claimed that his attorney at the time of the trial convinced him to plead guilty, and that he actually had no memory of the crimes due to drug and alcohol use that night. He also suggested that two other men had likely committed the murder as part of a burglary.

“There’s never been a doubt in my mind that Michael Worthington murdered Mindy Griffin,” says Lake St. Louis Police Department Chief Mike Force.

Force witnessed the execution, having worked Griffin’s case.

“19 years is a long time, and certainly across those 19 years you’d have plenty of time to imagine this story or that story or the other story,” says Force. “I think Mr. Worthington did a good job of imagining those. They changed constantly.”

Retired Lake Saint Louis Police detective Don Bolen agrees. He doesn’t recall that Worthington ever apologized for the crimes against Griffin.

“The only thing he was sorry about was being caught and being tried, and that he confessed,” says Bolen.

Both men have worked numerous cases including other murders, but felt the need to see this case through to the end. Bolen says Griffin was a vibrant person that was instantly liked by anyone who met her.

“I never met her, but I came to know her through other folks,” says Bolen. “She’s a wonderful person.”

Force says it was the people involved in the case that made it stick out.

“This is a wonderful family, a loving family. Mindy Griffin was an inspirational young lady who was doing great things in her life. She was young, beautiful, just on the brink of flowering in life. She was finishing up school, she was a volunteer for a lot of good causes - just a good person,” says Force. “To see that life wasted that way and the impact that it’s had on this family is a horrible thing.”

Griffin was attacked in her own condominium. Force is asked whether such cases should leave people wondering if they are safe anywhere.

“I talk to citizens groups all the time,” says Force. “I try to impress upon them the importance of never living in fear, but always living with awareness. I think if we make ourselves just a little more aware, I think we become safer.”

“In Mindy’s case I don’t think she could have done anything differently,” says Bolen. “Michael forced his way into her house, he hid in the closet. She had no reason to suspect anything was going on, anything was wrong … it’s just sad.”

Griffin’s family say there was no doubt of Worthington’s guilt from his first day at the Lake Saint Louis Police Department. They invited Force and Bolen to be among the witnesses to Worthington’s execution, along with members of the prosecution team and victims’ advocates, who they say helped the family deal with her death and the two decades that have followed.

(Mike Lear, Missourinet)

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