• Thomas Creech, 73, had his execution stopped because the medical team couldn't find a vein to administer a lethal injection.
  • Officials said they would let his death warrant expire at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.
  • Creech is convicted of five murders and has been on death row for 43 years.

Idaho officials stopped the execution of a 73-year-old convicted serial killer after the medical team couldn't find his veins for a lethal injection.

Thomas Creech, who was imprisoned in 1974 and has been convicted of five murders in three states, was to be executed in Idaho Maximum Security Institution at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, per the state's corrections department.

But at around 11 a.m., Corrections Director Josh Tewalt announced that the execution could not proceed because the medical team was unable to establish an IV line.

Creech was returned to his cell, and his death warrant was set to expire that day at 11:59 p.m., per the department.

At a press conference held on Wednesday at noon, Tewalt said three medical professionals made a combined eight attempts to find Creech's veins for an IV line.

They tried his right arm, then his right leg, then his left arm, then his left leg, but were ultimately unsuccessful, Tewalt said.

"We are planning to allow the death warrant to expire because we don't anticipate a change in status or circumstance that would allow us to continue with the execution today," Tewalt said.

Executions in Idaho are rare. The state has eight inmates on death row, a small fraction of the some 2,300 people with death sentences in the US.

Creech's defense attorneys, from the Federal Defender Services of Idaho, criticized the corrections department for what they called a "botched" execution, per the local paper the Idaho Statesman.

"This is precisely the kind of mishap we warned the state and the courts would happen when attempting to execute one of the country's oldest death-row inmates in circumstances completely shielded in secrecy despite a well-known history of getting drugs from shady sources," said Deborah A. Czuba, a lawyer on the Federal Defender Services of Idaho's unit concerning death-row cases, per the outlet.

But Tewalt said the halting of Creech's execution showed that the system works.

"Some are characterizing today's events as a failure, but the opposite is true. The process worked to prevent a failure, and I think that's an important distinction," he said in a statement on his department's website.

Tewalt said authorities are discussing an execution by firing squad, but are struggling to find units or contractors willing to carry out such a task.

Creech's history with murder — and what he says is a life reversal

Creech grew up in Ohio but has been serving his sentences in Idaho after he was arrested there in 1974. He has been convicted of three murders in Idaho, one in California, and one in Oregon, per the Ada County Prosecutor's Office.

His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but he was put on death row again in 1983 after beating a 22-year-old inmate to death. Prosecutors said he killed his fellow prisoner so he would be moved to a preferred housing unit.

Creech has also admitted to killing at least 40 other people, and officials say they have strong evidence that can link him to six more murders.

Supporters for Creech's death sentence commutation say that he has changed from his serial killer days and renewed his faith as a Christian in 1993, per The Wall Street Journal.

In 1998, he married the mother of a corrections officer who was working at his detention facility, per the WSJ.

He has been on death row for 43 years, and told WSJ that he has tried to help mentor others in prison since undergoing a 1993 transformation.

Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jill Longhurst in January said that Creech could be "charming" and "likable" but that he was still the "sociopath he's always been."

Creech is not the only US inmate to be saved from death row — at least temporarily — by an unsuccessful IV.

Alva Campbell, a terminally ill patient, had his execution in Ohio stopped in 2017 because medical officers couldn't find a vein. He was 69 at the time and died a year later because of his illness.

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