Missouri executes man for killing woman and two children in 1998
A man has been executed in Missouri for the murder of a woman and her two children nearly two decades ago.
Mark Christeson, 37, was given a lethal injection in Missouri's first execution since May.
The murders of Susan Brouk, 36, her 12-year-old daughter, Adrian, and nine-year-old son, Kyle, traumatised the rural area around the town of Vichy in 1998.
Christeson was hours away from execution in 2014 when the US Supreme Court granted a temporary stay.
This time, though, the court allowed the execution to proceed, and Governor Eric Greitens declined a clemency request for Christeson, the first inmate to be put to death since the Republican took office.
As the lethal drug was administered, Christeson mouthed "I love you" to his brother and sister-in-law who attended the execution.
He was pronounced dead eight minutes after the lethal injection, a Department of Corrections spokesman said.
"It was a heinous crime. I'm just happy to see justice finally served," said Maries County Sheriff Chris Heitman after Christeson's execution, which he witnessed.
"I have regrets for the family that it took so long, but I hope it provides closure to them."
Harley Brouk, the half-sister of the two children who were killed, said: "There's not a day that goes by that I do not miss them, and I wish that they were here."
On February 1, 1998, Christeson, then 18, and his 17-year-old cousin, Jesse Carter, decided to run away from the home outside Vichy where they lived with a relative.
They took shotguns and went to a rural home about half a mile away where Ms Brouk and the children lived.
The cousins planned to steal Ms Brouk's Ford Bronco, said Terry Daley Schwartze, Maries County's prosecutor at the time of the killing and now.
When they arrived at the home, Christeson and Carter tied the children's hands with shoelaces.
Investigators said Christeson forced Ms Brouk into a bedroom and raped her. When they went back into the living room, Adrian recognised Carter and said his name.
"We've got to get rid of 'em," Christeson told Carter, according to court records.
The family was forced into the Bronco. Christeson and Carter loaded it with electronics and other items and drove to a pond.
Christeson kicked Ms Brouk in the ribs and cut her throat, and then cut Kyle's throat and held the boy under water until he drowned.
Carter held Adrian while Christeson pressed on her throat until she suffocated, and then Carter pushed the girl's body into the pond.
As Ms Brouk struggled to stay alive, the cousins tossed her into the pond, where she drowned.
Her sister alerted authorities a few days later that the family was missing.
A Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter spotted one of the bodies in the pond, leading to a search that found all three bodies.
Christeson and Carter drove to California, selling Ms Brouk's household items along the way.
A detective in California's Riverside County recognised the cousins from photos police had circulated. They were arrested eight days after the killings.
Carter agreed to testify against Christeson and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Supreme Court intervened in 2014 amid concerns about the ineptitude of Christeson's earlier lawyers.
They missed a 2005 deadline to file an appeal against his death sentence - standard procedure in death penalty cases.
Lawyers for Christeson again argued that he deserved a federal court review, and raised concerns about his mental competence, claiming he had an IQ of 74. But this time, the courts declined to step in.