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Serial killer on death row escapes execution after doctors fail to find a vein

Thomas Eugene Creech who has killed five people in three states will now appeal his sentence
Thomas Eugene Creech who has killed five people in three states will now appeal his sentence - Idaho Department of Correction via AP

A serial killer on death row escaped execution after officials were unable to find a vein to administer the lethal injection.

Thomas Creech, 73, was due to be executed in Idaho on Wednesday after a series of legal challenges were denied.

Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the US, was strapped to a table as a medical team attempted to administer an IV to deliver a lethal injection.

At each site, the medical team cleaned the skin with alcohol, injected a numbing solution, cleaned the skin again and attempted to successfully place the IV catheter in a vein. Each attempt took several minutes.

At one point, Creech appeared to mouth “I love you” to a family member in the room.

However, after almost an hour of attempts on his arms, legs, hands and feet, the prison warden announced the execution would be halted.

The death warrant issued for his execution has now expired, and officials must decide whether to apply for a new warrant or abandon it entirely.

Sanda Kuzeta-Cerimagic, an Idaho department of correction spokesman, said: “The medical team could not establish an IV line, rendering the execution unable to proceed. As a result, the death warrant will expire. The state will consider next steps.”

Execution chamber in Idaho - with viewing area
Execution chamber in Idaho - with viewing area - AP Photo/Jessie L. Bonner

Creech was imprisoned in 1974 and has been convicted of five murders in three states. His death sentence was issued after he beat another inmate to death in 1981.

His legal team filed a flurry of last-minute legal challenges to his execution, including that his death was unconstitutional because he had been sentenced by a judge rather than a jury, and that he had received ineffective assistance from his lawyers.

A last-ditch attempt to have his case heard at the US Supreme Court was denied hours before the scheduled execution on Wednesday.

New appeal

Creech’s legal team said they would now file a new appeal, arguing that the state of Idaho, which has not administered an execution for 12 years, is unable to conduct the procedure humanely.

“Given the badly botched execution attempt this morning, which proves IDOC’s inability to carry out a humane and constitutional execution, undersigned counsel preemptively seek an emergency stay of execution to prevent any further attempts today,” his lawyers said in an application to US District Court.

Protestors gathered outside Idaho Maximum Security Institution while the execution was being attempted
Protestors gathered outside Idaho Maximum Security Institution while the execution was being attempted - Sarah A. Miller/Idaho Statesman via AP

Creech was first imprisoned for shooting John Wayne Bradford and Edward Thomas Arnold, two house painters who had picked up Creech and his girlfriend while they were hitchhiking.

He was serving a life sentence for those murders in 1981 when he beat David Dale Jensen, 22, to death in prison, Jensen was disabled and serving time for car theft.

In addition to the Idaho murders, Creech was convicted of killing both William Joseph Dean in Oregon and Vivian Grant Robinson in California in 1974. He was also charged with killing Sandra Jane Ramsamooj in Oregon that year, but the charge was later dropped in light of his other murder sentences.

The murderer’s supporters say he is now a changed man who spends his time in prison writing poetry, and have pushed to have his sentence converted to life without parole. He has married the mother of a correctional officer.