Russell Bucklew, Missouri
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Russell Earl Bucklew was executed by the state of Missouri on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. Russell was pronounced dead at 6:23 pm CDT, inside the execution chamber at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He was 51 years of age and convicted of killing 27-year-old Michael Sanders on March 21, 1996, at Hickory Hollow trailer park in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. Russell has spent the past 22 years on Missouri’s death row.
Russell Bucklew, a former electrician, met Stephanie Pruitt in the summer 1995, while she was married to another man, with whom she had two children. By fall of 1995, Stephanie was divorced and dating Bucklew, whom she knew as Rusty. Around Christmas, Stephanie discovered she was pregnant, She lost the baby on Valentine’s Day and the relationship between Stephanie and Bucklew ended. Stephanie claims they broke up and Bucklew moved back into his parent’s house. Bucklew said they just needed a few days apart to cool off.
When Bucklew returned, he discovered that Michael “Mike” Sanders was now living with Stephanie in Bucklew’s trailer. Bucklew was furious and put a knife to Mike’s throat, telling him to get out or he would kill him. A few days later, Stephanie moved in with Mike.
Stephanie and Bucklew had another confrontation when she retrieved some of her clothes from Bucklew’s trailer. Stephanie, chained to a bed, agreed to meet Bucklew on March 21, 1996, and leave with him. Bucklew let her go. On March 21, 1996, Bucklew, after stealing guns, handcuffs, duct tape, and a car from his cousin, secretly followed and watched Stephanie all day. His goal was to catch her with Mike. When he saw return to Mike’s trailer, he decided that she was not going to meet him and decided to kill Mike and kidnap her.
Bucklew knocked on the door of Mike’s trailer. Six-year-old John Michael and 4-year-old Zach were playing Super Nintendo when they heard the knock. John Michael unlocked the door, at which time, Bucklew kicked the door in. He was armed with a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun, a .22 caliber revolver, extra ammunition, and holsters for the guns which were strapped to his body, two knives, two sets of handcuffs, a pair of rubber gloves, and a roll of silver duct tape.
Michael exited the bedroom where he had been talking with Stephanie about Bucklew. Stephanie’s father had loaned them a shotgun, but Michael barely knew how to use it. Nonetheless, he took it with him to confront Bucklew. Michael ordered his kids to the bedroom. Bucklew, furious that Michael had a weapon, shot Michael four times. All four bullets passed through the body.
Bucklew handcuffed Stephanie and took her with him. While handcuffing Stephanie, John Michael ensured that he and his brother were hiding. After hearing Bucklew drive away, the kids remained hiding for a time before emerging. John Michael and Zach were with their father as he died. John Michael later testified and identified Bucklew as the man who killed his father.
Bucklew forced Stephanie to perform several sexual acts, before raping her. Bucklew, with Stephanie in the vehicle, later got into a high speed chase with the police, which ended with him being shot and captured.
Three months later, before Bucklew went to trial, he escaped from prison by hiding in a garbage bag. A manhunt for Bucklew began as soon as correctional officers realized he was missing. Once again, it ended after a high speed chase. This time, though, he did not shoot back: he raised his arms and surrendered.
Russell Bucklew was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for his crime.
Please pray for peace and healing for the children, now adults, who witnessed this horrific event. Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Mike Sanders. Pray for peace and healing for the family of Stephanie, who was murdered on June 8, 2009, by her husband.
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