Herbert Smulls, a convicted killer, was executed late Wednesday night via a lethal dose of pentobarbital. The 56-year-old murderer was the third individual to die by the death penalty in Missouri since November.
In 1991, Smulls called jeweler Stephen Honickman and set up an appointment to meet at his store in suburban St. Louis under the pretense of wanting to buy a diamond for his fiancée, the Associated Press reported
What was intended to be a robbery ended being a homicide with Smulls, along with a 15-year-old accomplice, shooting Honickman to death and severely injuring the jeweler's wife, Florence, who reportedly survived the ordeal by pretending she was dead while lying in a pool of blood.
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"I felt pain and terror while I lay on the floor playing dead while the murderers ransacked our office," Florence told reporters Wednesday night after the execution.
Florence, flanked by her adult son and daughter, also asked why it took 22 years of appeals before Smulls was put to death.
"Make no mistake, the long, winding and painful road leading up to this day has been a travesty of justice," she said.
The convicted killer apparently mouthed a few last words to two witnesses, who were not identified, before taking two deep breaths and expiring. The entire execution process took nine minutes, during which Smulls reportedly showed no pain.
Smulls' accomplice, Norman Brown, who was a minor when the crime was committed, was consequently sentenced to life in prison without parole.
According to the AP, Smulls' attorneys filed a series of last minute appeals throughout the days leading up to the execution. The last such appeal was reportedly filed within a half an hour of the execution and was not denied until 30 minutes after his death.
After killing Honickman, Smulls was stopped 15 minutes later by police who after searching his vehicle recovered both the stolen jewelry and weapons he used for the crime in his car, according to St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
"It was a horrific crime," McCulloch told the AP. "With all the other arguments that the opponents of the death penalty are making, it's simply to try to divert the attention from what this guy did, and why he deserves to be executed."
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