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Ohio to execute convicted killer using new two-drug method

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio man convicted of the 1989 rape and murder of a pregnant woman is set to be executed on Thursday using a new two-drug lethal injection method the state adopted last year.

Dennis McGuire, 53, is scheduled to be put to death at a state prison in Ohio on Thursday morning using a combination of the sedative midazolam and pain killer hydromorphone, according to the state corrections department.

Ohio added the two-drug combination for lethal injections as a substitute after it had difficulty obtaining pentobarbital, a drug whose manufacturer has objected to its use in executions.

A federal judge on Monday rejected McGuire's appeal that the drug combination never tried in the United States would put him at a substantial risk of severe pain. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday denied his request for a stay of execution.

McGuire was convicted of the rape, kidnapping and murder of Joy Stewart, whose body was found by hikers in woods in western Ohio a day after she had been seen talking with McGuire, according to court records.

Stewart, who was seven months pregnant, had been stabbed twice in the neck and raped, according to prosecutors. She had abrasions on her neck in the pattern of her blood-soaked shirt and a blood wipe-mark on her right arm.

McGuire initially accused his brother-in-law of killing Stewart, but DNA tests cleared the man and pointed to McGuire.

Two days before a hearing on his petition for clemency in December, McGuire admitted in a letter to Ohio Governor John Kasich to killing Stewart. He said they had been in an extramarital affair and he killed her during a heated argument.

The parole board voted unanimously against commuting McGuire's death sentence and Kasich denied him clemency. If his execution is carried out, McGuire would be the third man executed in the United States in 2014.

Ohio had planned to use the two-drug method in November to execute condemned killer Ronald Phillips, but Kasich stayed his execution to assess whether Phillips' non-vital organs or tissues could be donated to relatives or others after his death.

(Editing by David Bailey and Eric Walsh)

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