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Alabama man gives thumbs-up before being executed for killing carnival boss

This undated photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Michael Wayne Eggers. Eggers, 50, was convicted of killing his employer and is set to be executed by the state of Alabama after dropping his appeals and asking to be put to death. Eggers is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 15, 2018, at a southwest Alabama prison. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

Alabama Department of Corrections / AP

ATMORE, Ala. -- A man convicted of killing the woman who hired him to work with a traveling carnival nearly two decades ago was executed Thursday night after dropping his appeals and asking to be put to death. Michael Wayne Eggers, 50, died at 7:29 p.m. CDT after receiving a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison.

He declined to give any last words, but briefly gave a thumbs-up signal to friends and family as the execution began. He was pronounced dead about 35 minutes after the death warrant was read.

Eggers was sentenced to death for the 2000 strangulation of his employer, Bennie Francis Murray. Prosecutors said Eggers admitted to strangling Murray during an argument after she hired him to work concessions for a traveling carnival. Her body was found in Walker County, northwest of Birmingham.

In 2016, following disagreements with his attorneys, Eggers dropped his appeals and asked Alabama to quickly schedule his execution. In a handwritten filing, he asked judges to allow his "immediate execution in the interests of truth, law and justice."

His former attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. They argued that Eggers suffered from schizophrenia and delusions and was mentally incompetent when he made the decision.

"Michael Eggers is severely mentally ill," his former attorneys wrote in a petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

His former attorneys argued that Eggers believed he was the subject of a government conspiracy and "would rather die than be represented by lawyers who do not support his delusional view of his case."

Eggers opposed efforts by his former attorneys to stop the execution. The petition to the Supreme Court was made without his consent. A prison spokeswoman said Eggers requested that no attorneys be allowed to visit him, or witness the lethal injection. Eggers met with friends and family Thursday, but not attorneys.

The state attorney general's office had asked the court to let the execution proceed.

The state argued that Eggers made a rational decision to drop his appeals. Lawyers for the state noted that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 upheld a district court's ruling that he was competent.