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Missouri death row inmate to be baptized days ahead of scheduled execution

Amber McLaughlin, the first openly transgender woman set to be executed in the United States, is getting baptized three weeks prior to her scheduled execution date.

ST. LOUIS — The first openly transgender woman set to be executed in the United States is getting baptized three weeks prior to her scheduled execution date.

Amber McLaughlin raped and stabbed her ex-girlfriend in 2003.

There is no known case of an openly transgender inmate being executed in the U.S. before, according to the Anti-Execution Death Penalty Information Center.

The crime

5 On Your Side searched through our own archives, uncovering what happened on Nov. 20, 2003.

The victim's neighbor said Guenther was in fear of her ex-girlfriend for six months.

According to the neighbor, we learned a police officer was walking Guenther from work to her car for a week.

However, the one time she stopped asking for an escort, the murder happened.

Guenther was about to file another order of protection against McLaughlin the very next day, when she was abducted from her job in Earth City.

Her body was then found in south St. Louis.

The neighbor said, "I think it was one of those, if I can't have you, nobody can have you, kind of things."

The conviction

McLaughlin was convicted of murder. 

However, a jury couldn't decide on death or life in prison.

Michelle Smith is the co-director for Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, also known as MADP.

"After a jury deadlocked, in our state a judge can make a decision on a life sentence," Smith said. 

Advocates such as Smith want a different outcome.

"Amber had a difficult childhood and had some mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities. We always give condolences to the victim's family, but death doesn't solve anything," Smith added.

What's next

Smith said McLaughlin has been meeting with a spiritual advisor for the past month.

On Tuesday, McLaughlin is scheduled to get baptized.

This is a similar act to Missouri death row inmate Kevin Johnson, who was baptized by his spiritual adviser a few days leading up to his execution.  

Johnson even had his spiritual advisor in the chamber when he was executed on Nov. 29. 

Now, McLaughlin is fighting for her life. 

She is asking Missouri Gov. Mike Parson for clemency. 

"Amber’s attorney is meeting the governor’s office. That is about a clemency application. It talks about the case and Amber’s life. It’s to get the compassion and empathy for Amber, we will be presenting to them tomorrow," Smith said.

McLaughlin’s lawyers cited her traumatic childhood and mental health issues in the clemency petition

If that doesn't work, Smith said, McLaughlin's attorney has also filed a petition with the state's Supreme Court.

Next Tuesday, MADP will be going to Jefferson City with a petition for McLaughlin. 

Smith said it has several thousand signatures and they will rally at the Capitol.

Parson's office released a statement to 5 On Your Side:

"As with all clemency decisions, clemency applications are submitted to the parole board for review and recommendation. The materials are then sent from the parole board to the governor’s legal team who conduct an extensive review and meet with the governor on the matter. The governor then considers the matter and makes a decision when he is prepared to do so. These are not decisions that the governor takes lightly, and the process is underway as it relates to the execution scheduled for January."

McLaughlin is scheduled to die on Jan. 3.

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