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'Tourniquet killer' put to death in first US execution of 2018

Chicago (AFP) - A confessed murderer in Texas, dubbed the "tourniquet killer" for the way he strangled his victims, on Thursday became the first inmate executed in the United States in 2018.

Anthony Shore was put to death for raping, torturing and murdering three girls and a young woman in Houston in the 1980s and 1990s. His oldest victim was 21, and the youngest was nine.

Prior to his execution Shore apologized for his crimes.

"No amount of words could ever undo what I've done. To the family of my victims, I wish I could undo that past. It is what it is," he said.

Shore also addressed persistent doubts about whether there are other unknown victims, saying he will "die with a clear conscience" and that there were "no others."

He was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m. (0028 GMT), according to authorities.

Shore became the first inmate to be put to death this year in the US.

Last year 23 people were executed in eight states -- a near historic low, according to the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Information Center.

Another 39 people were handed death sentences in 2017, the organization said.

The 55-year-old Shore was known as the "tourniquet killer" for strangling his victims to death with an improvised compression device consisting of rope and a tightening tool.

Shore was caught in 2003 after police matched DNA found on the body of one of his victims, 21-year-old Maria Del Carmen Estrada, to a sample he had submitted after being convicted of molesting his two daughters.

He confessed to his crimes and asked for the death penalty. But, an earlier execution date in October was postponed after last-minute questions about another possible murder.

Prosecutors feared Shore was going to falsely confess to another crime to spare a fellow death row inmate. That inmate, Larry Swearingen, has been granted DNA testing in his case.

"We have proceeded as the law directs and satisfied all doubts," said the local prosecutor, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.

"Even Shore's own family believes the death penalty is appropriate for his crimes."

In appeals, Shore's lawyers argued he should be spared execution because he suffered brain damage in a car accident in the early 1980s -- an argument judges rejected.