‘That’s a man’: Trans woman facing execution for rape, murder cites mental illness to beg for mercy

As the first openly transgender “woman” set to be executed, Amber McLaughlin, 49, is begging Missouri Governor Mike Parson for mercy, claiming she suffers from mental health issues.

McLaughlin is making the plea as a woman, but she committed the brutal crimes that landed her on death row as a man.

In November 2003, as Scott McLaughlin, then 30, the murderer snatched his ex-girlfriend, 45-year-old Beverly Guenther from outside her place of employment, raped her, then stabbed her to death and dumped her body near the banks of the Mississippi River, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Guenther, who had taken out a restraining order against McLaughlin, was reported missing by her neighbors. When the cops questioned McLaughlin, he led them to her remains.

The 2006 trial lasted four days, McLaughlin was found guilty of first-degree murder, and the judge sentenced him to death.

But in 2018, after McLaughlin was sent to Potosi Correctional Center, he benefited from a successful transgender-rights case against the Missouri Department of Corrections brought by fellow inmate Jessica Hicklin that allowed Hicklin and others to access hormone therapy while in prison.

And just like that, Scott became Amber.


Now she wants her life spared, and her supporters are now acting as though “she” was never a “he.”

“It is extremely unusual for a woman to commit a capital offense, such as a brutal murder, and even more unusual for a woman to, as was the case with McLaughlin, rape and murder a woman,” state Corrections Department spokeswoman Karen Pojmann told NBC News in an email.

Federal public defender Larry Komp praised McLaughlin for her “great courage.”

“It’s wrong when anyone’s executed regardless, but I hope that this is a first that doesn’t occur,” he said. “Amber has shown great courage in embracing who she is as a transgender woman in spite of the potential for people reacting with hate, so I admire her display of courage.”

In the clemency letter to Governor Parson, McLaughlin’s lawyers noted their client’s history of mental illness and a traumatic childhood — issues the jury never got to hear.

The judge, rather than the jury, initially sentenced the murderer to death after the jury deadlocked on whether life behind bars or the death penalty was appropriate.

A new sentencing hearing was ordered by a St. Louis federal judge in 2016, citing faulty jury instructions and calling into question the effectiveness of McLaughlin’s attorneys.

In 2021, a federal appeals court panel upheld the death penalty for McLaughlin’s crimes.

According to Komp, Parson and McLaughlin’s lawyers are scheduled to meet on Tuesday.

In an email, Parson’s spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said, “These are not decisions that the Governor takes lightly.”

Were it up to Twitter, McLaughlin would likely smash the state-sanctioned trans-woman execution glass ceiling.

“HE had no mercy for HIS victim!” exclaimed one Twitter user. “That’s a man & will NEVER be female!”

“Why is her being transgender even an issue,” asked another, “the crime is the issue.”

“Should have thought about that before they broke the law!!” exclaimed a third. “Good riddance!!”


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