Joseph Paul Franklin, the white supremacist who claimed responsibility for as many as 20 murders committed in several states between 1977 and 1980, was executed Wednesday morning in a Missouri prison. His execution had been delayed for six hours after district court judges stayed the execution on Tuesday. The two stays were later overturned.
Franklin was put to death for the murder of Gerald Gordon outside a synagogue near St. Louis in 1977, the only one of his many crimes that carried the death penalty:
Franklin, a paranoid schizophrenic, was in his mid-20s when he began drifting across the country. He bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977. No one was hurt, but soon, the killings began.
He arrived in the St. Louis area in October 1977 and picked out the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue from the Yellow Pages. He fired five shots at the parking lot in Richmond Heights after a bar mitzvah on Oct. 8, 1977. One struck and killed Gerald Gordon, a 42-year-old father of three.
Franklin got away. His killing spree continued another three years.
Several of his victims were interracial couples. He also shot and killed, among others, two black children in Cincinnati, three female hitchhikers and a white 15-year-old prostitute, with whom he was angry because the girl had sex with black men.
He finally stumbled after killing two young black men in Salt Lake City in August 1980. He was arrested a month later in Kentucky, briefly escaped, and was captured for good a month after that in Florida.
Franklin was convicted of eight murders: two in Madison, Wis., two in Cincinnati, two in Salt Lake City, one in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the one in St. Louis County. Years later, in federal prison, Franklin admitted to several crimes, including the St. Louis County killing. He was sentenced to death in 1997.
Franklin declined to make a final statement, but told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday that he was sorry for his crimes and that he no longer harbored hatred for Jews and blacks.
Franklin was the first person executed in Missouri in three years and the first to be put to death in the state with pentobarbital. The drug has been in short supply in U.S. prisons since its Danish manufacturer restricted shipments in 2011. The manufacturer and human-rights groups have said that executions are a misuse of the drug. Franklin’s dose was prepared by a compounding pharmacy.