McALESTER, Okla. (AP) _ A career criminal who was convicted of raping and killing a young mother more than 20 years ago was put to death Tuesday. Frank Duane Welch, 46, was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m. after receiving a lethal mixture of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Welch was executed for the death of Jo Talley Cooper, 28, whose murder went unsolved for nearly a decade. Welch was serving time in prison for a kidnapping charge in 1997 when he was linked by DNA to the killings of Cooper and Grady County resident Debra Stevens, whose nude body was discovered in her family's home outside Tuttle less than three months after Cooper's death.

``For the Cooper and Stevens families, there's nothing that can change the horrible thing I've done,'' Welch said while strapped to a gurney. ``I'm truly, truly sorry for all the hurt and pain I've caused ya'll.

``I take full responsibility for what I've done. There's no excuse for it. There never was.''

As the lethal combination of drugs flowed into Welch's arm, one of Welch's brothers, who was in a viewing room adjacent to the death chamber, began having breathing problems and collapsed to the floor. Prison medical personnel attended to him, but he refused to be transported in an ambulance, officials said.

There were no appeals pending for Welch, who was denied clemency by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Aug. 1.

Nearly two dozen members of Cooper's and Stevens' families witnessed Welch's execution.

``My sister Talley was a beautiful person and will always be remembered for her friendliness, her laugh and her love and passion for life,'' Cooper's brother, Jeb Anderson, of Franklin, Tenn., said after the execution. ``Now with the finality of the long legal process, it is our hope that the memory of her horrible death will diminish.''

Cooper, a Mississippi native who earned a master's degree in communications at the University of Oklahoma, was three months pregnant at the time of her death. She was tied up, raped and strangled while her infant son slept in the next room. Prosecutors believe Welch, who worked as a cable repairman in Norman for a short time in 1987, used his old uniform to get inside the women's homes.

Her son, Travis, is now 21 and lives in Madison, Wis., with his father, Tracy Cooper.

``None of this will ever bring my mom back,'' Travis Cooper said after Tuesday's execution. ``I miss my mom.

``We just want to remember all the good things about my mother.''

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