BONNE TERRE, Mo. -- Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980, was put to death Wednesday in Missouri, the state's first execution in nearly three years.
Franklin, 63, was executed at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting at a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. Franklin was convicted of seven other murders and claimed responsibility for up to 20, but the Missouri case was the only one that brought a death sentence.
In the 1990s, Franklin confessed to the 1980 murders of two women in Pocahontas County who were on their way to a Rainbow Family Gathering in the Monongahela National Forest.
While questions about the legitimacy of his claim arose, his confession partially prompted a second trial for Jacob Beard, who had been convicted in 1993 of killing Nancy Santomero, 19, of Huntington, N.Y., and Vickie Durian, 26, of Wellman, Iowa.
A jury in Braxton County found Beard innocent after the second trial in May 2000.
Mike O'Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Franklin was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m.
The execution began more than six hours later than intended, and it took just 10 minutes.
Franklin declined to make a final statement. Wearing black-rimmed glasses with long hair tucked behind his ears, he swallowed hard as five grams of pentobarbital were administered. He breathed heavily a couple of times then simply stopped breathing.
Guards closed the curtains to the viewing area while medical personnel confirmed Franklin was dead.
"The cowardly and calculated shootings outside a St. Louis-area synagogue were part of Joseph Paul Franklin's long record of murders and other acts of extreme violence across the country, fueled by religious and racial hate," Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement read to reporters by George Lombardi, director of the Department of Corrections, after the execution.
Franklin's lawyer had launched three separate appeals: One claiming his life should be spared because he was mentally ill; one claiming faulty jury instruction when he was given the death penalty; and one raising concerns about Missouri's first-ever use of the single drug pentobarbital for the execution.