- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

POTOSI, Mo., Feb. 5 (UPI) — Kenneth Kenley, convicted of killing one person and shooting two others during a series of robberies in early 1984, was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday.

Kenley, 42, was pronounced dead at 12:03 a.m. He was the first person executed in Missouri this year.

Kenley never refuted charges that he carried out a series of robberies, including one in a Poplar Bluff tavern in which Ronnie Felts was shot to death. Felts, 27, was killed because he did not respond quickly enough to orders from Kenley. Witnesses said Kenley shouted, "I'll make an example of you," and then shot Felts in the head.

Kenley, 42, committed a series of robberies in Missouri and Arkansas Jan. 3-4, 1984, to gain money for drugs. The spree included a break-in at a sporting goods store where he obtained his weapons.

Kenley robbed or attempted to rob a food mart, a tavern, a package store and a motel, repeatedly threatening his victims by saying, "I've already killed once tonight." He was captured in Corning, Ark., while changing getaway cars, police said.

Prosecutors said he later stabbed a fellow inmate who was handcuffed and once took a prison librarian hostage.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Regina Sanders, a step-aunt of Kenley's, spoke to him by telephone earlier this week. "He said, 'If they're going to do it, they're going to do it.'" Sander said she asked Kenley why he killed Felts and the convict responded, "I had a death wish," the Post-Dispatch said.

Gov. Bob Holden and the U.S. Supreme Court each late Tuesday turned down requests from Kenley to stop the execution.

Kenley's appeals have centered on the competence of his attorneys and whether he is brain damaged. His death sentence initially was overturned in 1991, the appellate court ruling his inexperienced attorney had done a poor job of defending him. However, a second jury re-sentenced him to death.

Missouri has executed 60 prisoners since 1989. Another 63 people are on the state's death row.

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