KUNA, Idaho (AP) — Idaho on Wednesday halted the execution of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech, one of the longest-serving death row inmates in the U.S., after a medical team repeatedly failed to find a vein where they could establish an intravenous line to carry out the lethal injection.

Creech, 73, was imprisoned in 1974 and has been convicted of five murders in three states and suspected of several more. He was already serving life in prison when he beat a fellow inmate, 22-year-old David Dale Jensen, to death in 1981 — the crime for which Creech was to be executed more than four decades later.

Creech was wheeled into the execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution on a gurney at 10 a.m.

Three medical team members tried eight times to establish an IV, Corrections Director Josh Tewalt told a news conference afterward. In some cases, they couldn’t access the vein, and in others they could but had concerns about vein quality. They attempted sites in his arms, legs, hands and feet. At one point, a medical team member left to gather more supplies. The warden announced he was halting the execution at 10:58 a.m.

The Idaho Department of Corrections said its death warrant for Creech would expire, and that it was considering next steps. Creech’s attorneys immediately filed a new motion for a stay in U.S. District Court, saying “the badly botched execution attempt” proves the department’s “inability to carry out a humane and constitutional execution.”

“This is what happens when unknown individuals with unknown training are assigned to carry out an execution,” the Federal Defender Services of Idaho said in a written statement. “This is precisely the kind of mishap we warned the State and the Courts could happen when attempting to execute one of the country’s oldest death-row inmates.”

Six Idaho officials, including Attorney General Raul Labrador, and four news media representatives, including an Associated Press reporter, were on hand to witness the attempt — which was to be Idaho’s first execution in 12 years.

The execution team was made up entirely of volunteers, the corrections department said. Those tasked with inserting the IVs and administering the lethal drug had medical training, but their identities were kept secret. They wore white balaclava-style face coverings and navy scrub caps to conceal their faces.

The IV sites appeared to be in the crook of his arms, his hands, near his ankles and in his feet. At one point, the medical cart holding supplies was moved in front of the media witness viewing window, partially obscuring the view of the medical team’s efforts.

With each of the attempts to insert an IV, the medical team would clean the skin with alcohol, inject a numbing solution, clean the skin again and then attempt to successfully place the IV catheter in a vein. Each attempt took several minutes, with medical team members palpating the skin around the IV site and looking closely while trying to position the needles.

Creech frequently looked toward his family members and representatives, who were sitting in a separate witness room. His arms were strapped to the table, but he often extended his fingers toward them.

He appeared to mouth “I love you” to someone in the room on occasion.

After the execution was halted, the warden approached Creech and whispered to him for several minutes, giving his arm a squeeze.

Creech’s attorneys filed a flurry of late appeals hoping to forestall his execution. They included claims that his clemency hearing was unfair, that it was unconstitutional to kill him because he was sentenced by a judge rather than a jury — and that the state had not provided enough information about how it obtained the lethal drug, pentobarbitol, or how it was to be administered.

But the courts found no grounds for leniency. Creech’s last chance — a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court — was denied a few hours before the scheduled execution Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, Creech spent time with spent time with his wife and ate a last meal including fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and ice cream.

A group of about 15 protesters had gathered outside the prison Wednesday, at one point singing “Amazing Grace.”

An Ohio native, Creech has spent the vast majority of his life behind bars in Idaho, though his crimes occurred in several western states. He was first imprisoned in Idaho in 1974 for the shooting deaths of John Wayne Bradford and Edward Thomas Arnold, two house painters who had picked up Creech and his girlfriend while they were hitchhiking. He was serving a life sentence for those murders in 1981 when he beat Jensen to death. Jensen was disabled and serving time for car theft.

Jensen’s family members described him as a gentle soul who loved hunting and being outdoors during Creech’s clemency hearing last month. Jensen’s daughter was just four years old when he died, and she spoke about how painful it was to grow up without a father, piecing together everything she knows about her dad from other people’s descriptions and memories.

Creech’s supporters have pushed to have his sentence converted to life without parole, saying he is a deeply changed man. Several years ago he married the mother of a correctional officer, and former prison staffers said he was known for writing poetry and frequently expressing gratitude for their work.

During his clemency hearing, Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jill Longhorst did not dispute that Creech can be charming. But she said he is nevertheless a psychopath — lacking remorse and empathy.

In addition to the Idaho murders, Creech was convicted of killing both William Joseph Dean in Oregon and Vivian Grant Robinson in California in 1974. He was also charged with killing Sandra Jane Ramsamooj in Oregon that year, but the charge was later dropped in light of his other murder sentences.

In 1973, Creech was tried for the murder of 70-year-old Paul Schrader in Tucson, Arizona, but was acquitted of the crime. Authorities still believe he was responsible for Schrader’s death, and say that Creech provided information that led them to bodies of two people near Las Vegas and one person near Baggs, Wyoming.

Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed a law authorizing execution by firing squad when lethal injection is not available. Prison officials have not yet written a standard operating policy for the use of firing squad, nor have they constructed a facility where a firing squad execution could occur. Both of those things would have to happen before the state could attempt to use the new law, which would likely trigger several legal challenges in court.

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