By Dan Margolies – Kansas News Service
Two men convicted of the rape and murder of Kansas children more than two decades ago are among four men scheduled to be put to death in the first federal executions scheduled to take place in 17 years.
The Justice Department announced this week that Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl in 1998, will be executed on July 15, and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who raped and murdered a 10-year-old girl in 1999, will be executed on Aug. 28.
“The American people, acting through Congress and Presidents of both political parties, have long instructed that defendants convicted of the most heinous crimes should be subject to a sentence of death,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a news release. “The four murderers whose executions are scheduled today have received full and fair proceedings under our Constitution and laws. We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
Purkey, now 68, admitted to abducting Jennifer Long as she was walking home from high school, raping and murdering her in his Lansing, Kansas, home and then dismembering her body. A federal jury convicted him in 2003 of kidnapping resulting in a child’s death and he was sentenced to death. His execution was originally set for Dec. 13, but legal challenges delayed it.
Purkey was also convicted in state court of bludgeoning to death an 80-year-old woman with polio.
Nelson, now 45, in 2001 admitted to abducting Pamela Butler, who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas City, Kansas, home, raping her and strangling her with a wire. Her body was found in a wooded area in Grain Valley, Missouri.
Since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, only three federal executions have taken place, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. One of them was of Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his role in the 1995 terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.
After a botched state execution in Oklahoma in 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the death penalty is applied in the U.S. The Trump administration ordered the resumption of executions last year.
The two other men scheduled to be executed are Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group who murdered an Arkansas family of three, including an 8-year-old girl; and Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people.
Lewis’ execution is scheduled for July 13. Honken’s is scheduled for July 17.
All four men will be given lethal injections of the single drug pentobarbital, the same procedure used to execute inmates in Missouri.