Amber McLaughlin becomes first trans woman to be executed in US history

A graphic showing US trans prisoner Amber McLaughlin wearing a white t-shirt and looking towards the camera. In the background there is a faded trans flag with a shadow of prison bars cast over it and another image of Amber McLaughlin looking to the left

Amber McLaughlin, the first trans woman to be given the death penalty in United States history, has died by lethal injection in Missouri.

McLaughlin, 49, was executed at 6.51pm on Tuesday (3 January) at a facility in Bonne Terre, Missouri after being convicted of murdering her former girlfriend, 45-year-old Beverly Guenther, in 2003. 

The state’s governor, Mike Parson, denied McLaughlin clemency on Tuesday ahead of her execution, after her attorneys petitioned Parson in December, stating she has expressed remorse, and noting she has been diagnosed with brain damage and foetal alcohol syndrome. 

Parson said in a statement: “McLaughlin is a violent criminal. Ms Guenther’s family and loved ones deserve peace.

“The State of Missouri will carry out McLaughlin’s sentence according to the court order and deliver justice.”

According to NBC News, on Tuesday McLaughlin made a final statement expressing remorse for the 2003 murder, then went on to speak with her spiritual advisor as the execution took place.

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“I am sorry for what I did… I am a loving and caring person,” the final statement read.

McLaughlin’s attorney Larry Komp said in a statement to the Kansas City Star: “Amber confronted her execution with great courage… and we take some solace in knowing Amber became her true self in what became her last years.”

Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri
McLaughlin was housed at Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri. (Google Maps)

Ahead of the murder almost two decades ago, McLaughlin reportedly “terrorised” Guenther, showing up at her workplace repeatedly, and leading Guenther to obtain a restraining order. 

McLaughlin fatally stabbed Guenther on 20 November 2003 as she attempted to return home from work, with McLaughlin then leading police officers to where she had dumped Guenther’s body.

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006, with a judge sentencing her to death. Until her death on 3 January, she was held in a prison which houses male inmates.

Her petition for clemency from execution contained details of childhood abuse her attorneys claimed were not presented to the jury at the time of her trial. 

According to the petition, McLaughlin was “abandoned” by her mother during childhood and placed into the foster care system. The application goes on to highlight the abuse and trauma McLaughlin suffered in foster homes.

Due to her difficult upbringing, she reportedly battled depression which led to “multiple suicide attempts,” the petition says.

Komp told CNN in December that her execution “would highlight all the flaws of the justice system and would be a great injustice on a number of levels”.

“It would continue the systemic failures that existed throughout Amber’s life where no interventions occurred to stop and intercede to protect her as a child and teen,” he said.

“All that could go wrong did go wrong for her. There is so much hate out there, so I admire Amber and her courage as she embraces who she is.”