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Music Accompanies End of Killer’s Life

BOB ANEZMay 10, 1995

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) _ The first convict executed in Montana since 1943 went to his death in Marlboro Country fashion Wednesday, having a steak for his final meal and listening to country music as he received the lethal injection.

Duncan McKenzie Jr. wore headphones that sent barely audible Marty Robbins songs drifting through the otherwise silent death chamber.

McKenzie was 22 years old when he was convicted of the 1974 kidnapping and murder of Lana Harding, a teacher in a one-room school near Conrad in Montana’s wheat country. Prosecutors said he raped, choked the 23-year-old woman and bashed in her head after boasting he would have sex with a teacher in an old truck he just bought.

His lengthy appeals ended late Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution. Gov. Marc Racicot refused clemency after listening to McKenzie deny his guilt on Monday.

Ethel Harding, the victim’s mother, said she was was relieved and she felt better that McKenzie was dead. ``It had to happen,″ she said.

Corrections officials decribed McKenzie as cooperative and even jovial as the execution neared. They said he seemed resigned to his fate. Officials granted one of his last requests, to be allowed to listen to a cassette tape during his execution.

McKenzie ate a last meal Tuesday of steak, french fries, salad, milk and orange sherbert.

At 12:06 a.m., Corrections Director Rick Day asked McKenzie if he had any last words. McKenzie shook his head ``no.″ A minute later, McKenzie snored six times as a sedative that preceded the lethal drugs took effect. He issued a last deep gutteral sound and his breathing appeared to stop within another minute, but a doctor did not pronounce him dead until 12:22 a.m.

McKenzie’s lawyer had said no prisoner in the United States had remained on death row for as long, and that 20 years of waiting for an execution was cruel and unusual punishment. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting that argument as the basis for a stay of execution.

Despite Montana’s legendary swift frontier justice, the state had not executed a prisoner since a 1943 hanging.

McKenzie was the 20th person executed in the United States this year, and the 277th since the 1976 Supreme Court decision allowing states to resume capital punishment.

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