Walter Barton, Missouri
May 19, 2020
Walter Barton was executed by the state of Missouri on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. He was pronounced dead at 6:10 pm local time, inside the execution chamber at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Walter was 64 years of age. He was convicted of the murder of 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler in Ozark, Missouri on October 9, 1991. Walter spent the last 25 years of his life on death row in Missouri.
Walter allegedly sustained a brain injury as a child that resulted in him being prone to violent outburst. Additionally, Walter alleged he had limited intellectual functioning, possibly due to fetal alcohol syndrome, and that he was abused as a child.
Gladys Kuehler was the manager of the Riverview Mobile Home Park and lived on the premises in a trailer. She was unable to get around without the help of a cane. On October 9, 1991, Gladys had several visitors, beginning with Carol Horton, around 9 am. Carol left around 11 am, and the owners of the trailer park, Bill and Dorothy Pickering visited her after lunch until around 2 pm. Former residents of the park then visited with Gladys until around 2:45 pm, when Gladys said she was going to lay down and take a nap, as she was not feeling well.
On the same day, Walter Barton visited his friend Carol Horton. Around 2 pm, Barton stated that he was going to visit Gladys and see if he could borrow some money. Barton returned to Carol’s trailer, saying Gladys had agreed to lend him the money and told him to return later. Around 3 pm, Barton again went to Gladys’ trailer. At approximately 3:15 pm, owner Bill called Gladys, and a male, later identified as Barton, picked up the phone, saying Gladys was in the bathroom and unavailable.
Gladys’ granddaughter called twice between 3 and 4 pm and did not receive any answer.
Around 4 pm Barton returned to Carol’s trailer, acting “totally different” and hurried to the bathroom. Barton spent a long time in the bathroom, alleging he needed to clean up because he had been working on a car. Carol thought she could smell blood and noticed dark spots on Barton’s clothing and shoes.
Around 4:15 pm, Carol stated she was going to check on Gladys. Barton told Carol not to go because Gladys was resting. Barton then left. Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, Carol knocked on Gladys’ door several times, never receiving a response. Gladys’ granddaughter had also been attempting to reach Gladys and was unsuccessful. The granddaughter went to Carol’s trailer, expressing concern. The two agreed to call the police, but saw a police officer, Officer Hodges, who agreed to meet them at Gladys’ trailer after answering another call.
Carol and the granddaughter, while waiting, saw Barton at another trailer and asked him to come with them and check on Gladys. Barton agreed to do it, but at a later time. When Officer Hodges returned, they discovered the door to the trailer was locked and a locksmith was called. Upon gaining entry to the trailer, Gladys was discovered lying on the floor between the bed and the wall in her bedroom, partially nude. She had been stabbed to death. Some of her clothes were found on the floor in front of the toilet, which had its seat left up.
Upon questioning, Barton initially lied, saying he had only been in the victim’s trailer between 2 and 2:30. When questioned about the apparent blood on his clothing, Barton said he must have gotten it when he went into the trailer after the locksmith opened it, however, no one else who went into the trailer had any blood on them and no one saw Barton get close enough to the body to get blood on himself. The blood on his shirt was later identified as the victim’s blood and and expert testified that the impact pattern was consistent with blood spatter from a wound, not accidentally brushing against some blood.
Additionally, a check missing from Gladys’ checkbook, was later found, made out to Barton.
While in prison awaiting his trial in prison, Barton threatening to kill another inmate “like he killed that old lady.” Another inmate also heard him talking about the crime.
Barton’s first two trials ended in mistrials. His next two trials resulted in death sentences, however his sentences were overturned. His fifth trial also sentenced him to death.
Walter Barton was the first inmate executed as lockdown restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic began to be lifted in some states. Attorneys for Walter unsuccessfully argued that his execution should be stayed due to the pandemic. Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced that he would not halt the execution due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Department of Corrections stated that it was able to carry out the execution, and implemented additional safety protocols due to the pandemic.
Pray for the peace and healing for the family of Gladys. Pray for strength for the family of Walter Barton.
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