Burns, also of West Hamlin, disappeared after telephoning her mother in November 2002 to tell her she was leaving the Huntington Mall in Barboursville and heading home, about 15 miles away. She never got there. The disappearance set off a massive manhunt that led to her burned-out vehicle about 15 minutes south of Huntington. Burns' family has declined to comment.
Whether Fulks wants a reprieve isn't really up to him, said P.S. Ruckman, a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Ill., who blogs about clemency. While there's no law requiring an inmate to seek clemency, the president doesn't need the inmate's permission to grant it, either, Ruckman said.
"It's the government's decision to decide what's best for the people in these cases,'' Ruckman said. "The criminal has no say in it.''
Attempts to reach Amy Donnella, the federal public defender handling Fulks' case, were unsuccessful over several weeks. Fulks appeals have each been turned away in the courts, with the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting a last bid from him Dec. 4.
Federal executions are on hold while the Justice Department writes new regulations for carrying out lethal injections in response to lawsuits brought by several inmates. The last federal execution took place in 2003, when Louis Jones was put to death by lethal injection for a kidnapping resulting in a death.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley declined to discuss Fulks or his case, but said the process of rewriting the execution protocol is being finalized.
The decision to help the Burns and Donovan families find the remains of their loved ones is strictly a personal choice, Fulks said, and a way of easing the burden on his conscience. Fulks said he doesn't want his attorneys to raise the assistance given to the families in a bid to save his life.
Fulks and Basham were cellmates at the Hopkins County Jail in Madisonville, Ky., in 2002 where they were held on armed robbery charges. They were left in the jail's recreation yard unsupervised for about 90 minutes and security cameras weren't in their normal positions on the day they escaped.
The families of Burns and Donovan settled a lawsuit with the jail in 2008 for an undisclosed amount. Fulks and Basham were dismissed from the lawsuit.