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High court clears way for execution of Mo. inmate

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JIM SALTER | December 11, 2013 11:20 PM EST | AP

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the state of Missouri in its bid to execute a man convicted of shooting a good Samaritan who stopped to help the Kansas City man and two friends who were stranded on the side of a highway in 1994.

The Supreme Court announced its decision late Wednesday night, and corrections officials moved quickly to prepare for the execution of Allen Nicklasson at its prison in Bonne Terre. Missouri uses a lethal injection of the sedative pentobarbital to execute inmates. The state used the drug for the first time in last month's execution of serial killer Joseph Franklin.

Nicklasson, 41, had been scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay Tuesday over concerns about Nicklasson's legal representation.

When the full appeals court refused to take up the case on Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster appealed to the Supreme Court.

"In the last nineteen years, Nicklasson has filed appeals or challenges to his convictions numerous times, in five different courts," Koster wrote in the appeal to the high court. "The time for enforcement of Missouri's criminal judgment against Allen L. Nicklasson is long, long overdue."

Nicklasson's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, also appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to stop the execution, but there were no signs that Nixon planned to intervene.

Nicklasson, Dennis Skillicorn and Tim DeGraffenreid were returning to Kansas City after buying drugs in St. Louis in August 1994 when their car broke down on Interstate 70 near Kingdom City. When Richard Drummond stopped to help, the men forced the 47-year-old Excelsior Springs businessman to drive west, then exit and head to a secluded area, where Nicklasson shot him twice in the head.

Nicklasson and Skillicorn then drove Drummond's car to Arizona. When the vehicle broke down in the desert, they approached the home of Joseph and Charlene Babcock. Joseph Babcock was killed by Nicklasson after driving the men back to their vehicle, and Charlene Babcock was killed at the couple's home.

Both men were sentenced to life in prison for the Arizona killings. Both were sentenced to death in Missouri. Skillicorn was executed in 2009.

DeGraffenreid pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and did not receive a death sentence.