Missouri set to execute first transgender woman in US

Unless clemency is granted by the governor, Missouri is set to become the first state in the nation to execute a transgender woman named Amber McLaughlin by lethal injection on Tuesday after being found guilty of the 2003 stalking, rape, and murder of his ex-girlfriend.

(Video Credit: KSDK News)

McLaughlin, 49, transitioned while in prison in 2019, long after being found guilty. He received consecutive sentences of death for first-degree murder, life for armed criminal action, and life for forcible rape. His original name is Scott McLaughlin.

According to the Associated Press, McLaughlin was in a relationship with 45-year-old Beverly Guenther in 2003. He would periodically show up at her office in St. Louis and hide inside the building according to court records. Eventually, Guenther obtained a restraining order against him.

Police would reportedly sometimes escort the ex-girlfriend to her car after work because she feared McLaughlin. Evidently with good reason.

On the evening of Nov. 20, 2003, Guenther’s neighbors called the police when she didn’t return home, according to the Associated Press.


Officers went to her office and found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. The following day, McLaughlin showed police where he had dumped Guenther’s body in the Mississippi River.

He was convicted in 2006 and then sentenced to death after a jury deadlocked on the sentence. In 2016, a court ordered a new sentencing hearing. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reinstated the death penalty for McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is also listed on the sex offender registry and was at one point was jailed for five years for the assault of a 14-year-old girl, according to the Daily Mail.

He has run out of appeals and his attorney, Larry Komp, told the Associated Press that clemency is being sought from the governor. It is unlikely he will receive it at this point.

The request for mercy does not focus on McLaughlin’s transition to female. Instead, the plea for clemency is citing his traumatic childhood and mental health issues that were never presented to a jury during trial.

The clemency petition reportedly asserts that when McLaughlin was with a foster parent as a toddler, the person rubbed feces in his face. He also claims his adoptive father used a stun gun on him.

His petition claims that he suffers from depression and that he has tried to kill himself numerous times.

As far as his gender identity goes, the petition asserts that he suffers from gender dysphoria.

“We think Amber has demonstrated incredible courage because I can tell you there’s a lot of hate when it comes to that issue,” Komp told the Associated Press in an interview on Monday. But he pointed out it was not the focus of the clemency request.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is currently reviewing the request for clemency, but time is running out as the execution is scheduled for Tuesday night.

The Death Penalty Information Center reports that there is no known case of a transgender inmate being executed in the U.S. to date. The Associated Press also says that it is the first instance of the death penalty being used on a woman since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. Except this isn’t a woman, biologically speaking.

Prior to 1976, the only woman to be executed in Missouri was Bonnie B. Heady, according to the Associated Press. She was put to death via the gas chamber on Dec. 18, 1953, for kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old boy.

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