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A man has been executed in the US for the rape and murder of a dance student which went unsolved for years until DNA from the crime scene was matched to him while he was in prison for burglary.

Anthony Sanchez, 44, protested his innocence as he was strapped down in the death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

He was declared dead 11 minutes after the lethal drugs started to be administered.

While Sanchez maintained he had nothing to do with the 1996 killing of 21-year-old Juli Busken, he took the unusual step of opting not to present a clemency application to the state’s pardon and parole board, which many viewed as the last chance to spare his life.

Ahead of his execution, Sanchez criticised his former lawyers and thanked his supporters, including his spiritual adviser who was in the chamber with him.

He said: “I’m innocent.

“I didn’t kill nobody.”

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At one point during the procedure, a member of the execution team entered the chamber and reattached an oxygen monitor that prison officials said had malfunctioned.

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Shortly before he was put to death, the US Supreme Court rejected a request for a stay of execution submitted by his new lawyer, who had said he needed more time to go through the case evidence.

The Rev. Jeff Hood and supporters of Oklahoma death row inmate Anthony Sanchez proclaim his innocence during a news conference at the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City, May 25, 2023. Sanchez said Thursday, June 22, in a phone interview from death row that he plans to reject his opportunity for a clemency hearing in the case. (AP Photo/Sean Murphy)
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Sanchez’s supporters insisted he was innocent. Pic: AP

Juli Busken’s family ‘has found closure and peace’

Ms Busken had just completed her last term at the University of Oklahoma when she was abducted on 20 December 1996, from the car park of her apartment complex.

Her body was found later near a lake on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.

She had been bound, raped and shot in the head.

Busken had performed as a ballerina in several dance performances during her time at the university and a scholarship was set up in her name at the College of Fine Arts.

Years later, Sanchez was in jail for burglary when DNA from the victim’s clothing was matched to him.

He was convicted and sentenced to die in 2006.

None of Ms Busken’s family attended Thursday’s execution, but state attorney general Gentner Drummond said he had spoken to them several times in recent months.

He said: “Juli was murdered 26 years, nine months and one day ago. The family has found closure and peace.”

‘False DNA’

Sanchez had long maintained his innocence.

In an interview earlier this year from death row. “That is fabricated DNA.

“That is false DNA. That is not my DNA. I’ve been saying that since day one.”

He said he had declined to seek clemency because even when the five-member pardon and parole board takes the rare step of recommending it, governor Kevin Stitt was unlikely to grant it.

BALLERINA KILLED
Anthony Castillo Sanchez is led by deputies into the Cleveland County Courthouse for the start of his trial Monday, Jan. 30, 2006. Sanchez faces charges of first degree murder, rape, sodomy and kindnapping in the 1996 death of Oklahoma University dance student Jewell "Juli" Busken. (AP Photo/Norman Transcript, Kevin Ellis)


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ID:	060130011657
Submission Date:	Jan 30, 2006 16:09 (GMT)
Creation Date:	Jan 30, 2006 00:00 (GMT)
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Sanchez is the third inmate put to death in Oklahoma this year. Pic: AP

Sanchez said: “I’ve sat in my cell and I’ve watched inmate after inmate after inmate get clemency and get denied clemency. Either way, it doesn’t go well for the inmates.”

Mr Drummond maintained the DNA evidence unequivocally linked Sanchez to Ms Busken’s killing.

He said the odds of randomly selecting an individual with the same genetic profile were one in 94 trillion.

‘Brutal rapist and murderer’

“There is no conceivable doubt that Anthony Sanchez is a brutal rapist and murderer who is deserving of the state’s harshest punishment,” Mr Drummond said in a recent statement.

A private investigator hired by an anti-death penalty group argued the DNA evidence may have been contaminated.

Ballistic evidence

But former Cleveland county district attorney Tim Kuykendall, who was the county’s top prosecutor when Sanchez was tried, has said while the DNA evidence was the most compelling at trial, there was other evidence linking him to the killing, including ballistic evidence and a shoe print found at the crime scene.

Mr Kuykendall said recently: “I know from spending a lot of time on that case, there is not one piece of evidence that pointed to anyone other than Anthony Sanchez.

“I don’t care if a hundred people or a thousand people confess to killing Juli Busken.”

Sanchez is the third inmate put to death in Oklahoma this year and the tenth since the state resumed carrying out the death penalty in 2021 ending a six-year moratorium introduced over concerns about its execution methods.

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House explodes in Virginia as police surround armed suspect inside

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House explodes in Virginia as police surround armed suspect inside

A house exploded as police were investigating reports of gunshots being fired from the property by a man.

Footage of the blast in the US showed a huge fireball shoot up into the air as the entire home went up in flames and collapsed, spraying debris all around.

Witnesses said the explosion shook nearby buildings and that they could hear it from miles away.

Officers had gone to the address in Arlington, Virginia, at about 4.45pm on Monday after neighbours said they heard the sound of a weapon being fired.

The cause of the blast is being investigated. Pic: AP
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The explosion in Arlington, Virginia, could be heard and felt miles away. Pic: AP

They later determined the shots came from a flare gun, Arlington County police spokesperson Ashley Savage told reporters.

As officers tried to serve a search warrant at the home, “the suspect inside the residence discharged several rounds”, she said.

“The house subsequently exploded.”

The cause of the blast is being investigated. Pic: AP
Image:
The cause of the blast is being investigated. Pic: AP

It happened at around 8.25pm as officers were trying to make contact with the person inside – who has not been named by police.

Officials have not been able to go into the home and could not confirm whether there were any deaths. The suspect was inside when the explosion occurred, Ms Savage said.

“At this point, we’re only aware of one individual who was inside the home,” she added.

Some police officers suffered minor injuries and no one needed to be taken to hospital.

Carla Rodriguez, of South Arlington, said she could hear the explosion more than two miles away.

“I actually thought a plane exploded,” she said.

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Bob Maynes thought maybe a tree had fallen on his house when he heard the explosion.

“I was sitting in my living room watching television and the whole house shook,” he said.

“It wasn’t an earthquake kind of tremor, but the whole house shook.”

The cause of the blast is being investigated, Arlington Fire Department officials said.

FBI agents and federal fire investigators are at the scene and assisting in the investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.

The blaze was under control by 10.40pm.

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Ex-US ambassador Manuel Rocha accused of being Cuban spy

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Ex-US ambassador Manuel Rocha accused of being Cuban spy

A former US ambassador to Bolivia has been charged with secretly acting as a Cuban agent for “more than 40 years”.

Manuel Rocha, who was arrested at his Miami home on Friday, served as the top US diplomat to Bolivia between 2000 and 2002.

Prosecutors from the US Justice Department accuse him of promoting the Cuban government’s interests, Sky’s US partner NBC News reported.

This is not a crime unless it is done on US soil without registering with the department as a foreign lobbyist, the broadcaster added.

Rocha, 73, appeared in court on Monday and is alleged to have begun his “clandestine activity” on Cuba’s behalf in 1981 or earlier.

It was one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government by a foreign agent, department officials said.

He met Cuban intelligence operators, lied to US government officials about his travels and contacts and used a passport obtained through a false statement, prosecutors claimed in court documents filed in Florida.

The charges reflect a harsher approach by the department towards the prosecution of illicit foreign lobbying.

Bolivian President Hugo Banzer (L) with Victor Manuel Rocha in 2000
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Bolivian President Hugo Banzer (L) with Manuel Rocha in 2000

During his 25-year career as a US diplomat, Rocha served as ambassador to Bolivia and held another senior post – head of mission – in Argentina.

He worked for the US Interests Section in Havana in the mid-1990s, a time when the US lacked full diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s communist government.

Prosecutors claim Cuba’s notoriously sophisticated intelligence services first began using Rocha in 1981 when he first joined the US State Department.

They added that the alleged links continued well after he left government service more than two decades later.

The FBI learned about the relationship last year, it is alleged, and arranged a series of undercover meetings with an agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operator.

In one encounter in Miami last year, Rocha is alleged to have said: “I always told myself, ‘The only thing that can put everything we have done in danger is – is … someone’s betrayal, someone who may have met me, someone who may have known something at some point’.”

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Born in Colombia, Rocha joined the US foreign service in 1981.

As ambassador to Bolivia, he warned Bolivians that if they voted for Evo Morales in the upcoming election, the US would cut off aid to the poor South American country.

Rocha also served in Italy, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and worked as a Latin America expert for the US National Security Council.

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New York stabbing: Knifeman kills four members of his extended family, including two children, police say

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New York stabbing: Knifeman kills four members of his extended family, including two children, police say

Four people, including two children, have been killed by a relative in New York, according to police.

Those stabbed to death included a 12-year-old boy, an 11-year-old girl, a 44-year-old woman and a man in his 30s.

Officers were called to reports of an incident in the city’s Queens borough after a girl said “her cousin is killing her family members”.

The 11-year-old was found in front of the house and the other three were found inside bedrooms, police added.

A fifth person, a 61-year-old woman, is in a critical condition in hospital after suffering from multiple stab wounds.

The scene in New York
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The scene in New York

Suspect Courtney Gordon, 38, was shot dead by police.

The two officers who responded to the scene on Sunday morning were also stabbed, police said.

Jeffrey Maddrey, NYPD chief of patrol, said one officer was struck in the neck and the other in the face.

The two officers were taken to hospital and are expected to recover.

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“The weapon that was used to injure the officers was a typical kitchen steak knife,” Mr Maddrey told a press conference on Saturday.

He said it is unknown at this stage if it was the same weapon used against the other victims.

Mr Maddrey said additional offers sent to the scene were not able to enter the home immediately because there was a fire inside the living room.

It is believed Gordon had been visiting the family at their home in the Far Rockaway neighbourhood.

“This scene was chaos. Multiple victims, a house on fire, and a mad man on a rampage, on a mission,” Patrick Hendry, the head of the New York Police Department’s police union, said.

“The skill that this police officer had shooting and stopping the threat after he was being stabbed. Unbelievable skill,” he said.

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