Michael Bueke executed for 1983 shootings, murder

Alcatraz penitentiary

Ohio prisons carry out their fifth execution this year. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

On May 13, Michael Bueke was executed by lethal injection — more than 20 years after his crimes.  His appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court had been denied, as well as his request for Governor Ted Strickland to grant him clemency.  He was pronounced dead just before 11 a.m. at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility.  He had gone on a crime spree along Interstate 275 outside of Cincinnati, killing one and wounding two others in 1983. He was convicted several months later, and sentenced to death.

Michael Bueke: The Mad Hitchhiker

In spring of 1983, Michael Bueke was hitchhiking through the state of Ohio.  He flagged down Gregory Wahoff, then pulled a gun on him and forced him to drive to a rural area. Wahoff attempted to flee as Bueke forced him to turn over his car at gunpoint, and in fleeing Wahoff was shot several times. He was paralyzed as a result. Two weeks later, Robert Craig was found dead in a ditch, shot in the head. The weapon was found to be the same used to shoot Wahoff. Bueke latergot a ride from Bruce Graham, who was also robbed of his car and shot. Death row inmates cost more to house securely, and the lengthy appeals process means far more cost to taxpayers to execute an inmate rather than just put him in lockup.

Quick conviction

Michael Bueke was quickly convicted of the shootings and the slaying.  At the time, he claimed he needed to steal a car to rob a bank in order to pay for an attorney to defend him on pending drug charges, according to the Associated Press.  Appeals were lodged by his defense, including testimony that his mental status was altered by brain damage. While awaiting execution for the past 27 years, he converted to Catholicism. He expressed a great deal of remorse for his crimes.

Clemency denied by Governor Strickland

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bueke appealed to Governor Ted Strickland for clemency.  Strickland, a former psychologist for Ohio state prisons, sided with the parole board and refused the request the day before the execution was due. The presiding judge in the original conviction, Norbert Nadel, has said the sentence was long overdue, and there was never question over guilt. Michael Bueke was the fifth inmate executed in Ohio this year, the 14th under Strickland’s tenure.  Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999, and Bueke’s is the 38th death sentence to be carried out.

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