Wesley Ira Purkey

In another case originating in Kansas City, Wesley Purkey kidnapped, raped, and killed 16-year old Jennifer Long in 1998. A troubled East High School sophomore, Long skipped school on January 22, 1998.

Later that day, she got into Purkey’s truck, apparently voluntarily. Beyond that, the precise circumstances of her death are lost.

Her disappearance was initially attributed to family issues before being reclassified as suspicious.

Purkey was arrested months later for the murder of 80-year old Mary Ruth Bales in Kansas. In custody, on December 15, 1998, he confessed to killing Long, whose body he said he dismembered and burned; her remains were never recovered. Before committing the killing, Purkey stated that he crossed from Missouri to Kansas, triggering federal jurisdiction.

Purkey, who had a long criminal record and a history of drug problems, was charged with Long’s murder in October 2001. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003.

Efforts to prevent Purkey’s execution centered on evidence that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and brain damage. A federal district judge issued a stay of the basis of that evidence. That stay was upheld by a federal appellate court. However, the Supreme Court vacated that stay by a 5-4 vote and the Trump Administration, of course, refused to intervene.

Wesley Ira Purkey was executed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, on July 16, 2020. He was 68-years old and had been on death row for almost two decades.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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