Oklahoma executed Anthony Sanchez on Thursday, the tenth death sentence the state has carried out since ending a moratorium in 2021.
Sanchez, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 for killing Juli Busken, a 21-year-old dance student at the University of Oklahoma. Busken was abducted, raped and shot in the back of the head, police said.
Before his execution, Sanchez said he “didn’t kill nobody,” then disparaged his former attorneys, saying they were the “worst lawyers ever in the state of Oklahoma.”
He was pronounced dead at 10:19 a.m.
Sanchez’s last-minute appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied about 30 minutes before his execution on Thursday. Sanchez had asked the court to grant a stay, saying that his new attorneys needed time to review his case.
Busken’s family did not attend the execution. Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond witnessed the execution and said the Busken family “had found closure and peace.”
It took nearly a decade for Sanchez to be identified as a suspect in Busken’s murder. The trail went cold for detectives after her body was found at Lake Stanley Draper in December 1996. Witnesses reported seeing a red car with Arkansas plates, where Busken was from, driving around the lake around the time the murder was believed to have been committed. But the case remained unsolved.
Authorities honed in on Sanchez in 2004 after he was convicted in a burglary involving a woman who alleged he entered her home and tied her up. Sanchez’s DNA was collected in prison and matched a sample collected from Busken’s leotard.
Sanchez’s attorneys have claimed the DNA sample might not belong to their client and that his father Thomas Glen Sanchez, who went by Glen, was Busken’s real killer. Police sketches more closely resemble Glen Sanchez, who was older, gaunt, and had longer hair than his son. Glen Sanchez, died by suicide in 2022 after battling cancer and was an abusive alcoholic, according to his ex-girlfriend, Charlotte Beattie. Beattie has said Glen often alluded to playing a role in Busken’s murder.
Drummond called attempts to pin the killing on Sanchez’s father “ludicrous.”
“Instead of expressing remorse, he made the cowardly decision to try blaming the crime on his deceased father – a ludicrous allegation thoroughly discredited by DNA analysis,” Drummond said.
Drummond concluded earlier this year that Glen Sanchez was not the killer after obtaining some of his DNA from the state medical examiner’s office. In a legal filing earlier this week, the Attorney General’s office argued that it was unlikely that Sanchez’s original DNA match linking him to Busken’s rape and murder was a mistake.
“The odds of randomly selecting an individual with the same genetic profile are 1 in 200 trillion Caucasians, 1 in 20 quadrillion African Americans, and 1 in 94 trillion Southwest Hispanics,” the Attorney General’s office argued in the filing.
Outside of the DNA, there’s very little evidence connecting Sanchez to the crime. No murder weapon was ever recovered. Sancez told reporters over the years that he believes his DNA was planted at the scene, and that he doesn’t believe his father killed Busken.
Sanchez opted out of a clemency hearing in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board earlier this year, saying that even if the board recommended leniency, Gov. Kevin Stitt was unlikely to grant clemency. Stitt has only granted clemency in one previous death penalty case, commuting Julius Jones’ sentence from to life without the possibility of parole.
Oklahoma is tied with Texas for the most executions carried out in the last 23 months, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The execution spree began in October 2021 with the execution of John Marion Grant, eliminating 20% of Oklahoma’s death row.
Oklahoma’s last scheduled execution for 2023 is set for Nov. 30 when the state intends to put Phillip Hancock to death. Hancok was convicted in 2004 for killing Robert L. Jett Jr., 37, and James V. Lynch, 58.
Oklahoma executions since 2021
Oct. 28, 2021: John Marion Grant
Dec. 9, 2021: Bigler Jobe Stouffer II
Jan. 27, 2022: Donald Anthony Grant
Feb. 17, 2022: Gilbert Postelle
Aug. 25, 2022: James Allen Coddington
Oct. 20, 2022: Benjamin Cole
Nov. 17, 2022: Richard Fairchild
Jan. 12, 2023: Scott Eizember
July 20, 2023: Jemaine Cannon
Nov. 30, 2023: Phillip Hancock