Wesley Purkey, Federal



Updated: Monday, December 9, 2019

Wesley Ira Purkey was scheduled to be executed on Friday, December 13, 2019, at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.  His execution has been stayed.  Sixty-seven-year-old Wesley has been sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in January 22, 1998, in Kansas City, Missouri. Wesley has spent the last 16 years on death row in a federal prison.

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 is also allegedly suffering 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 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 have been rejected.


Wesley Purkey's execution has been stayed by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who halted all four federal executions scheduled throughout December 2019, and January 2020.  Judge Chutkan issued the stays of execution after arguments that the federal execution protocol is unconstitutional because it violates a 1994 federal statute that says federal executions shall be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.”  In announcing the resumption of federal executions earlier this year, Attorney General Barr announced that the execution would be carried out using a single drug, instead of a three-drug process used in most states.  Judge Chutkan has found that simply using lethal injection does not satisfy that statue, but the a drugs and process need to also be similar. The Justice Department appealed in an attempt to have the stay of execution lifted.


The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States both upheld the stay of execution for federal executions granted by Judge Chutkan.  While there were no dissents in the Supreme Court ruling, three of the Supreme Court Justices wrote that they believed the lower court should be able to resolve the issue within 60 days and urged the lower court to not delay in the case.


In a separate appeal, lawyers for Wesley are arguing that he is ineligible to be executed because he has Alzheimer's.  Lawyers for Wesley allege that his condition is so advanced that Wesley is unable to know or understand why he is being executed.  Allegedly, Wesley believes the government wants to executed him for making complaints about prison conditions.  His lawyers argue that executing him would violate his 8th Amendment rights.


Please pray for the families of the Jennifer Long and Mary Ruth Bales. Please pray for strength for the family of Wesley Purkey. Please pray that if Wesley is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evident will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Wesley may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



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