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Missouri death row inmate presses appeals, clemency bid

This Dec. 1, 2013 photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows David Zink, who was convicted of abducting and killing 19-year-old Amanda Morton in 2001. (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri inmate who killed a 19-year-old woman in 2001 after sexually attacking her and tying her to a cemetery tree pressed the state’s governor and the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution scheduled for Tuesday evening.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined, without comment, inmate David Zink’s claims that the death penalty was unconstitutional. On Monday, the St. Louis-based court rejected his challenge of the drug process used during lethal injections.

Attorneys for 55-year-old Zink still have appeals pending with the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of blocking the execution scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT at a state prison south of St. Louis. A clemency request is in Gov. Jay Nixon’s hands.

Jurors in western Missouri’s St. Clair County deliberated 90 minutes in 2004 before convicting Zink and recommending a death sentence for the killing of Amanda Morton. Authorities said Zink abducted her after hitting her car from behind on an Interstate 44 exit ramp a mile from her Strafford home. Morton was driving home after visiting a friend.

Police found Morton’s Chevrolet Cavalier abandoned on the ramp with the keys in the ignition, the engine running and the headlights and hazard lights on. Her purse, credit card and medication were found inside the vehicle.

Just months before the slaying, Zink had been released from a Texas prison after serving 20 years on rape, abduction and escape charges. Fearing that his drunken fender-bender with Morton could violate his parole and send him back to prison, Zink initially abducted Morton, taking her to a motel. That site’s manager later saw a televised news report about Morton’s disappearance, recognized her as the woman who had checked in with Zink, and gave investigators Zink’s name and license plate number from motel registration.

Zink, after being arrested at his parents’ home, led authorities to Morton’s buried body in a cemetery, confessing matter-of-factly and at times laughing on videotape that he had tied her to a tree there and told her to look up. When the bewildered Morton begrudgingly glanced skyward, Zink said, he snapped her neck.

Worried that Morton might regain consciousness, Zink admitted, he used a knife to sever her spinal cord at the neck and covered her body with leaves before retrieving from his home a shovel he used to bury her.

“If I think that you’re going to pose a threat to my freedom, it is set in my mind I want to eliminate you,” Zink says in his videotaped confession.

An autopsy later showed that Morton had eight broken ribs and 50 to 100 blunt-force injuries. Morton also had been sexually assaulted, with DNA evidence linked to Zink found on her body.

Jurors who convicted him found three aggravating circumstances that by law justified Zink’s death sentence, including that the killing “involved depravity of the mind and was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman,” the state Supreme Court has found.

Zink’s appellate attorneys did not accept requests by The Associated Press for interviews Monday.

Phone and Facebook messages left Monday with Morton’s mother and sister were not immediately returned.

Missouri has executed four men this year and 16 since November 2013. Only Texas has executed more inmates over that span.

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