Case files: Russell Earl Bucklew

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Russell Earl Bucklew

Russell Earl Bucklew

Age: 41

Location: Missouri Department of Corrections: Potosi Correctional Center

Sentence: Death plus 60 years

Charges: first-degree murder, forcible rape, burglary, kidnapping, armed criminal action

Victim: Michael L. Sanders, killed March 21, 1996


* Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle has said that before serial killer Timothy W. Krajcir, Bucklew was the "most evil man he ever prosecuted," and at trial, referred to Bucklew as a "a homicidal and bloodthirsty Energizer bunny."

* Court records showed that Bucklew had been treated for a medical condition involving tumors on his face and neck, called angioma, and suffered from deep depression.

* After Bucklew's escape from the Cape Girardeau County Jail three months after his arrest for Sanders' murder, the jail reconsidered their "trusty" system. Bucklew escaped by hiding in a trash bag with the aid of a jail trusty.

* Bucklew used the Jon Bon Jovi song "Blaze of Glory" as his theme song when he kidnapped and raped his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, fleeing with her north on the interstate. His reign of terror ended in a high-speed chase in St. Louis, Mo., during which Bucklew exchanged gunfire with Missouri State Highway Patrol and was shot several times.

* Stephanie Ray later married John Shuffit, who killed her on June 8, 2009 before taking his own life.

Russell Bucklew is currently awaiting execution on Missouri's death row for the murder of Michael H. Sanders, a romantic rival who he shot and killed on March 21, 1996, the same night he kidnapping and raped his former girlfriend.

Russell Bucklew, the only killer in history to have Bon Jovi lyrics play a role in his trial, is one of two men currently sitting on Missouri's Death Row for murders committed in Cape Girardeau County.

Bucklew was convicted in April of 1997 of rape, kidnapping, murder, burlgary, and armed criminal action, charges that involved kidnapping his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Ray, at gunpoint minutes after he shot and killed Michael H. Sanders, Ray's new boyfriend,

Bucklew was sentenced to death and has been housed at Potosi Correctional Center ever since.

The murder occurred on the evening of March 21, 1996, Ray was getting ready to prepare dinner and her children were playing video games when she heard Sanders' 6-year-old son say someone was at the door.

Worried it might be Bucklew, who had recently threatened Ray with a knife, Sanders checked out the window, and withdrew a shotgun Ray's father had loaned her for protection.

By the time Sanders got to the door, however, Bucklew was already inside the trailer, a pistol in each hand, and screamed at Ray and Sanders to get down, Ray later testified at trial.

Sanders didn't have time to react before Bucklew shot him in the chest. When Ray threw herself in front of his fallen body in an attempt to protect him from another gunshot wound, Bucklew hit her in the face with a handgun and dragged her into the kitchen. Then he returned to the doorway and shot Sanders three more times, while Sanders's two sons and Ray's two daughters cried and screamed.

Bucklew handcuffed Ray, took her as hostage, and raped her in the car on a back country road before heading north on the interstate.

"He said he was going to go down in a blaze of glory and take out as many cops as he could," Ray later testified.

A neighbor who heard the gunshots called the police, and Sanders was pronounced dead when they arrived at the mobile home, triggering activation of the Cape Girardeau County-Bollinger County Major Case Squad.

Later that night, Bucklew was captured in St. Louis after a high speed chase and gun battle with Missouri highway patrolmen on Interstate 270. He was wounded in the firefight and hospitalized in critical condition, and Ray suffered a gunshot wound to the leg from Bucklew's gun.

On June 17, after Bucklew had recovered from his injuries and was housed in the Cape Girardeau County Jail without bond, he again led police on an all-out manhunt when he escaped with the help of an inmate trusty by hiding in a trash bag.

Bloodhounds, a helicopter, and scores of police combed the countryside for Bucklew in 90-degree heat for nearly three days before he was captured in a stolen truck near Egypt Mills after using a hammer to attack Ray's mother and her friend at their home. Ray was in protective custody since Bucklew's escape at the time.

Bucklew was convicted on April 4, 1997, by a Boone County jury and sentenced to death the next day.

Stephanie Ray, who later became Stephanie Shuffit, died on June 8 at her Perryville, Mo., home at the hands of her estranged husband, John Shuffit, who then turned the gun on himself.