Walter Barton, Missouri


Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Walter Barton has been executed by the state of Missouri.  Read more here.

Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to halt the execution of Walter Barton.  Walter's execution will be the first execution in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in early March.   

Updated: Monday, May 18, 2020

Walter E. Barton is scheduled to be executed on at 6 pm local time, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Sixty-four-year-old Walter is convicted of the murder of 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler in Ozark, Missouri on October 9, 1991. Walter has been on death row in Missouri for the last 25 years.

Walter allegedly sustained a brain injury as a child that resulted in him being prone to violent outburst. Additionally, Walter alleges he has limited intellectual functioning, possible due to fetal alcohol syndrome. Walter also alleges 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 notices 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 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.


The Missouri Supreme Court has refused to halt Barton's execution.  Attorneys for Barton were arguing that he should not be executed because he is innocent.  They also argued that Barton had a traumatic brain injury that left him impaired, making him incompetent and ineligible to be executed.


Missouri Governor Mike Parson has announced that he is not planning to halt the scheduled execution of Barton due to the coronavirus pandemic. Attorneys for Barton have filed appeals in federal and state courts seeking to have the execution halted.  The attorneys argue that the execution should be stayed, as carrying it out will violate social distancing rules.  Additionally, the governor's focus on the pandemic could hinder his ability to throughly review the clemency petition for Barton.  The Department of Corrections has stated that it is able to carry out the execution, and has implemented additional safety protocols due to the pandemic.  Each of the three witness rooms will have a limited number of people, and masks and hand sanitizer will be provided, along with everyone having their temperature taken prior to entering the prison complex.


A stay of execution was granted to Walter Barton by District Judge Brian Wimes on Friday, May 15, 2020.  Judge Wimes stayed the execution over questions regarding the blood splatter evidence used during his trial.  According to a new expert for the defense, if Barton had killed the woman he is convicted of killing, there would have been more blood on his clothing.  The testimony of a jail house informant is also being questioned.  The state appealed the stay to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, who lifted the stay of execution on Sunday, May 17, 2020. Attorneys for Barton plan to appeal to teh Supreme Court of the United States, asking them to stay the execution.  


Pray for the peace and healing for the family of Gladys. Pray for strength for the family of Walter Barton. Pray that if Walter is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, that evidence will be provided prior to his execution. Pray that Walter may come to find a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.



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