Wesley Purkey, Federal

 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Wesley Ira Purkey was executed by the federal government on Thursday, July 16, 2020. He was pronounced dead at 8:19 am local time inside the execution chamber at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Wesley was 68 years of age. He was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering 16-year-old Jennifer Long on January 22, 1998, in Kansas City, Missouri. Wesley spent the last 16 years of his life on federal death row.

Wesley’s execution was scheduled to occurred at 4 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. In the lead-up to the execution, the time was pushed back to 7 pm. Numerous legal appeals resulting the execution being delayed for over 12 hours.

 

According to his attorney, Wesley had a difficult childhood. He was beaten and humiliated by both of his parents. Wesley was sexually abused by his family and by a priest at the Catholic school he attended. Additionally, the nuns at the school “demeaned and brutalized him.” Wesley also allegedly suffered from dementia.

 

On January 22, 1998, Jennifer Long, a high school sophomore, disappeared in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

On October 26, 1998, 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales was beaten to death in her Kansas City, Kansas home. Wesley Purkey was arrested for the crime and being held at Wyandotte County Jail, awaiting trial, when he asked to speak to an FBI agent about a kidnapping and homicide that had occurred earlier. Purkey specifically wanted to speak to a federal agent because he wanted to be sent to a federal facility instead of a state institution.

 

Upon meeting with the federal agent, Purkey signed a form saying he understood his rights and was voluntarily waiving them. Purkey told the investigators that he was willing to plead guilty in the Kansas case and confess to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Missouri woman, provided that he would be placed in a federal penitentiary. While the agent was unable to promise anything, but they would pass the information along to the US Attorney.

 

Purkey confessed and gave an account of the kidnapping, rape, and murder, of a girl who was later identified as Jennifer Long. But Purkey refused to cooperate further, unless he was guaranteed to have his case federally prosecuted.

 

Several more meetings occurred, with Purkey providing a full, written confession, and taking law enforcement officials to the areas where he had disposed of Jennifer’s things and her dismembered body.

 

During his trial, Purkey maintained his guilt, although he denied kidnapping Jennifer and forcing her to travel across state lines. Purkey claimed that he thought she was a prostitute, who willing entered his truck and accompanied him home. Purkey further claimed that he fabricated the kidnapping claims in order to ensure his case would be federally prosecuted. Purkey was convicted and sentenced to death by a federal court for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Jennifer.

 

Since his conviction, many of Purkey’s appeals have argued that he should not have been sentenced to death, as it violated his agreement with the US attorney. Additionally, Purkey has argued that his multiple confessions to kidnapping, rape, and murder, should not have been allowed in court, as they violated his 5th Amendment rights. His appeals were all rejected.

 

Wesley Purkey was previously scheduled to be executed on Friday, December 13, 2019. That execution was stayed by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who issued the stay due to questions of legality over the planned method of execution. The stay was appealed and the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit lifted the stay of execution, allowing the execution to be rescheduled.

 

Please pray for the families of the Jennifer Long and Mary Ruth Bales. Please pray for strength for the family of Wesley Purkey.

 

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