Amber McLaughlin's final words revealed before she was executed

‘I am a loving and caring person’: Amber McLaughlin’s final words revealed before she became first trans inmate to be executed over killing her girlfriend in 2003

  • Amber McLaughlin, 49, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday
  • She spoke with a spiritual adviser as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected
  • In her final words, she said: ‘I am sorry for what I did’  
  • ‘I am a loving and caring person,’ she added
  • She was convicted of killing her girlfriend Beverly Guenther in 2003 
  • McLaughlin is believed to be the first transgender person to be executed 

Amber McLaughlin breathed heavily a few times, uttered her final words and shut her eyes as she was executed on Tuesday, becoming the first transgender woman to be put to death years after she was convicted of killing her ex-girlfriend. 

‘I am sorry for what I did,’ McLaughlin said in a final, written, statement. ‘I am a loving and caring person.’ 

McLaughlin, 49, spoke quietly with a spiritual adviser at her side as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected.

The Missouri inmate was convicted of stalking and killing former girlfriend Beverly Guenther, then dumping the body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis. A jury deadlocked on the sentence, but a judge sentenced McLaughlin to death in 2006.

Amber McLaughlin, 49, who is transgender, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday. McLaughlin is believed to be the first transgender person to be executed

McLaughlin spoke quietly with a spiritual adviser as fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected

McLaughlin, who previously went by Scott, was executed 17 years after she was convicted of killing and stalking her girlfriend Beverly Guenther, 45, and dumping the body near the Mississippi River in St. Louis in 2003.

McLaughlin was put to death by lethal injection after Republican Governor Mike Parson declined a clemency request hours before.

‘McLaughlin’s conviction and sentence remains after multiple, thorough examinations of Missouri law. McLaughlin stalked, raped, and murdered Ms. Guenther. McLaughlin is a violent criminal,’ Parson said in a statement confirming the execution would go ahead.

‘Ms. Guenther’s family and loved ones deserve peace. The State of Missouri will carry out McLaughlin’s sentence according to the Court’s order and deliver justice.’

McLaughlin started transitioning three years ago while in prison.

Beverly Guenther, 45, was killed by McLaughlin on November 20, 2003

 McLaughlin died by lethal injection 19 years after she killed her ex-girlfriend. She is pictured on the right before transitioning, in a mugshot from 2003 when she went by the name Scott

Republican Governor Mike Parson denied her clemency request hours before her execution

A database on the website for the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center shows that 1,558 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the mid-1970s. All but 17 of those put to death were men.

The center said there are no known previous cases of an openly transgender inmate being executed. McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi.

In addition, the clemency petition cited McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard during her trial.

She claimed in her petition that a foster parent rubbed feces in her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her. It also cited severe depression that resulted in multiple suicide attempts, both as a child and as an adult.

The petition also included reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes anguish and other symptoms as a result of a disparity between a person’s gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. 

But McLaughlin’s sexual identity was ‘not the main focus’ of the clemency request, her attorney, Larry Komp, said.

An undated post-transition photo of Missouri inmate Amber McLaughlin

McLaughlin officially began transitioning three years ago inside the prison, which is male dominated

In 2003, long before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with Beverly Guenther. After they stopped dating, McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records.

Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.

Guenther’s neighbors called police the night of November 20, 2003, when she failed to return home.

Officers went to the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped.

Authorities said she had been raped and stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after a jury deadlocked on the sentence.

Komp said Missouri and Indiana are the only states that allow a judge to sentence someone to death.

A court in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.

McLaughlin is listed on the Missouri Sex Offender Registry and was at one point incarcerated for the 1992 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl. She was released in May of 1997

McLaughlin spent years on death row at Potosi Correctional Center Prison in Mineral Point, Missouri, a prison for high-risk males and death row inmates

‘McLaughlin terrorized Ms. Guenther in the final years of her life, but we hope her family and loved ones may finally have some peace,’ Parson said in a written statement after the execution.

McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago, according to Jessica Hicklin, who spent 26 years in prison for a drug-related killing before being released a year ago.

Hicklin, now 43, sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, challenging a policy that prohibited hormone therapy for inmates who weren’t receiving it before being incarcerated. She won the lawsuit in 2018 and became a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin.

McLaughlin did not receive hormone treatments, however, Komp said.

Hicklin described McLaughlin as a painfully shy person who came out of her shell after she decided to transition.

‘She always had a smile and a dad joke,’ Hicklin said. ‘If you ever talked to her, it was always with the dad jokes.’

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated there are 3,200 transgender inmates in the nation’s prisons and jails.

Perhaps the best-known case of a transgender prisoner seeking treatment was that of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who served seven years in federal prison for leaking government documents to Wikileaks until President Barack Obama commuted the sentence in 2017. The Army agreed to pay for hormone treatments for Manning in 2015.

In 2015, the US Department of Justice wrote in a court filing that state prison officials must treat an inmate’s gender identity condition just as they would treat other medical or mental health conditions, regardless of when the diagnosis occurred.

The only woman ever executed in Missouri was Bonnie B. Heady, who was put to death on December 18, 1953, for kidnapping and killing a six-year-old boy. Heady was executed in the gas chamber, side by side with the other kidnapper and killer, Carl Austin Hall.

Nationally, 18 people were executed in 2022, including two in Missouri. Kevin Johnson was put to death in November for the ambush killing of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer. Carman Deck was executed in May for killing James and Zelma Long during a robbery at their home in De Soto, Missouri.

Another Missouri inmate, Leonard Taylor, is scheduled to die on February 7 for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.

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