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BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) - A former methamphetamine dealer has been executed for killing three people in rural northern Missouri.

Fifty-four-year-old John Middleton was put to death Wednesday in the sixth execution in Missouri this year. Only Florida and Texas, with seven each, have performed more.

Middleton was convicted of killing Randy "Happy" Hamilton, Stacey Hodge and Alfred Pinegar in 1995. Authorities say he killed the three out of fear that they would report his drug activity to police.

His girlfriend is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in all three cases.

Middleton's attorneys claimed he was innocent, citing a new witness who came forward in February saying that rival meth dealers, not Middleton, were responsible for the killings. They also claimed he was mentally ill.

Attorney General Chris Koster made the following statement about Middleton:

Twenty years ago, John Middleton murdered three people out of fear they would expose him as the drug dealer he was. He received the death penalty for each of his three murders. This evening, Mr. Middleton paid the ultimate price for his choices.

Gov. Jay Nixon issued the following statement:

Tonight has brought a conclusion to a case that illustrates how methamphetamine can have such a monstrous impact on so many lives. Alfred Pinegar, Randy Hamilton and Stacey Hodge were murdered by meth dealer John Middleton to keep them quiet about the selling of this insidious drug in northern Missouri.
Middleton's calculated killings in June 1995 would take three lives, and cause pain and suffering to those families. The juries acted appropriately in each of these murder trials in deciding that the fitting punishment was the death penalty.
I ask that Missourians remember Alfred Pinegar, Randy Hamilton and Stacey Hodge at this time, and join us in keeping their loved ones in their thoughts and prayers.

Michael Black, uncle of Alfred Pinegar, one of the victims read the following statement at a press briefing after the execution:

Nineteen years seems like a long time to wait for justice. It's a lifetime for a little girl who had to grow up without her father. Alfred was 29 years old when he was murdered by John Middleton. Our family has waited all this time, never forgetting that our son, grandson, uncle, nephew, father and best friend is not with us. In those 19 years, we, as a family, have had to live with the thoughts of John Middleton being able to enjoy a meal, the smell of spring in the air or any number of simple pleasures. These are things that Alfred, Randy and Stacey cannot enjoy. These simple things we cannot share with Alfred.
So today, justice was served. I can now go to my nephew, my friend's grave and tell him it's done now, he has finally been punished for his crimes. We would like to thank George Marts, Ms. Stollings, the Missouri Highway Patrol, the State Attorney General's Office, the Missouri Department of Corrections and Gov. Nixon, for their dedication to see justice carried out.
The last thing I would like to say is: may God receive John into his arms, forgiving his sins, as I pray God will forgive mine.

Middleton's final written statement said:

You are killing an innocent man.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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