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Oklahoma executes Bigler Stouffer for 1985 slaying of schoolteacher

Bigler Stouffer, shown here in a prison photo taken in 2018, is scheduled to die Dec. 9.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Bigler Stouffer, shown here in a prison photo taken in 2018, is scheduled to die Dec. 9.

Updated Dec. 9, 12:07 p.m.

Oklahoma executed a man Thursday for the 1985 shooting death of an Oklahoma City-area schoolteacher after courts rejected his claim that the state’s lethal injection method would result in unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Bigler Stouffer II, 79, received a three-drug lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m. Department of Corrections officials said Stouffer was killed without complications, which was supported by media witnesses.

Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor, who asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to resume executions after a more than six-year pause by requesting dates for seven inmates in August, issued a two-sentence statement within 30 minutes of Stouffer being pronounced dead.

"The State's execution of Bigler Stouffer was carried out with zero complications at 10:16 this morning. Justice is now served for Linda Reaves, Doug Ivens, and the people of Oklahoma," O'Connor said.

Representatives from the attorney general's office have been at John Marion Grant and Stouffer's executions, but O'Connor himself has not.

Stouffer was the first person executed in Oklahoma since Grant convulsed on the gurney and vomited during his lethal injection in October as the state ended a six-year execution moratorium brought on by concerns over its protocols.

Stouffer had maintained his innocence in the attack on Linda Reaves and her boyfriend, Doug Ivens, that left Reaves dead and Ivens seriously injured. Stouffer claimed at his parole board hearing last month that Ivens was shot as the two men fought over a gun at Ivens’ home, and that Reaves was already dead when he arrived.

Prosecutors say Stouffer went to the home to borrow the gun from Ivens, then fatally shot Reaves and wounded Ivens in an attempt to gain access to Ivens’ $2 million life insurance policy. At the time, Stouffer was dating Ivens’ ex-wife.

Stouffer and his attorneys had argued in court filings that the state’s three-drug execution method poses a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering and that Stouffer should be included among other death row plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the protocols. But his request for a stay of execution was denied.

Gov. Kevin Stitt rejected clemency for Stouffer despite a 3–2 recommendation from the state’s Pardon and Parole Board that his sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole.

The board cited concerns with Oklahoma's lethal injection procedure when they made the recommendation. Two weeks later, however, the board denied clemency for Donald Grant and Gilbert Postelle in separate hearings. Those proceedings happened after a state witness testified in a court hearing on Stouffer's request for a stay that John Grant's execution was "smooth."

Chair of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty the Rev. Don Heath said in a statement he hoped Stouffer died peacefully.

"I don’t see how this brings peace to anyone else. Killing a 79-year-old man is not justice. It is vengeance. What does it say about us? I’m afraid it says that we worship a God who is vengeful and wrathful, instead of a God of mercy and grace," Heath said.

Associated Press reporter Sean Murphy contributed to this story.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.