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Killer of Missouri schoolgirl executed after appeals dismissed

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A Missouri man was executed early on Wednesday for raping and murdering a 15 year-old school girl, authorities said after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a flurry of petitions seeking a stay.

Michael Taylor died by lethal injection 25 years after he and an accomplice abducted Ann Harrison while she was waiting for a school bus. The two men then raped her and then stuffed her in the trunk of a car where they stabbed her to death.

The 47-year-old had pleaded guilty. But his attorneys launched a string of appeals, including one asserting the drugs used for lethal injection could subject him to a slow and tortuous death.

Before his execution, Taylor told Reuters that he had great remorse for his crime and said it was fueled by crack cocaine.

"I hurt for her family... No words can express the pain and anguish that they have lived with through the years. I can only wish them peace, and pray there will come a day when they can forgive me," Taylor said.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied several petitions on Tuesday night for a last-minute stay or further judicial review sought on Taylor's behalf by his attorney, John Simon.

"The abduction of Ann ... and her subsequent rape and murder, were crimes so brutal that they remain seared in the minds of many Kansas City residents," said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who had refused to grant Taylor clemency earlier in the day.

Taylor was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. local time at a prison in Bonne Terre, said Mike O'Connell, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

He did not use his right to request a specific last meal and was served potato soup and a sandwich, O'Connell added.

It was the state's 72nd execution in Missouri since the death penalty was reinstated there in the 1970s and the second this year.

"ULTIMATE PENALTY"

Taylor's family had sought for his death sentence to be converted to life in prison.

"It may be a small victory for the State of Missouri but Michael has won in the end," Taylor's family said in a statement.

"He has struggled for years with the guilt of not stopping a horrendous crime, and has dedicated much of his time in prison to the memory of Ann Harrison through his work with hospice, tutoring and mentoring inside and outside the prison walls," the statement said.

Before the execution, Ann's mother Janel Harrison also made a public statement, asking for justice.

"Regarding Taylor spending the rest of his life in prison...

when you commit the ultimate crime, which is murder, then there should be an ultimate penalty. If Ann had been allowed to live Taylor would have received a life sentence," she said.

Taylor was narrowly spared from execution in 2006 by a late court-ordered reprieve after revelations about problems with the state's lethal injection practices at that time.

(The story adds dropped word in fifth paragraph quote)

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Steve Gorman, Lisa Shumaker and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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