A man who raped and killed a woman brought to him as a "birthday present" was put to death early Friday in Missouri's first execution in 24 years.

George "Tiny" Mercer, clasping a Bible, was injected with a toxic dose of drugs at 12:03 a.m. as his wife, Christy, watched through a death chamber window. He was declared dead at 12:09 a.m.Mercer, 44, had been on death row at the Missouri State Penitentiary longer than any other inmate and his efforts to stop the execution failed Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. John Ashcroft refused to grant a stay.

Warden Bill Armontrout said he read Mercer his death warrant, and then, "He shook my hand and thanked me and he asked that we look out for one of his shipmates down here," referring to a fellow inmate.