Exclusive: Police interview Russell Bucklew days after 1996 crimes

Updated: Oct. 1, 2019 at 3:41 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) -As convicted killer Russell Bucklew faces an October 1 execution date, we’re hearing what Bucklew told Cape Girardeau County authorities about the crimes that put him on Missouri’s death row.

We got an exclusive look at the March 27, 1996 recording.

Bucklew, seated in a wheelchair, spoke calmly about what happened six days earlier, when he shot and killed Michael Sanders then kidnapped and sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend Stephanie Pruitt.

“What charge do you guys have me on,” Bucklew asked the investigator.

“Russell, I’m sure they’ve got you charged with capital murder, first degree murder.”

As officers handed him his medication and some water he continued to ask about the case against him.

“What does that bring, the death penalty?”

“It could. Yeah," the investigator replied.

Bucklew began the interview by taking the investigator through the weeks leading up to the crimes. He talked about his medical condition and a falling out with Pruitt.

He also recalled his first meeting with Michael Sanders when he returned to the trailer he used to share with Pruitt.

“I guess this was this Mike guy. I didn’t know his name. So, I grabbed a knife and I put it to his throat and I said ‘you better get the hell out of my house or I’m going to kill you. If you ever come back, I’m going to kill you.’”

Bucklew also admitted to getting violent with Pruitt, punching her in the face during one fight, tying her up during another.

“What did you tie her up with...what did you tie her up with,” the investigator asked.

“Oh, they were little plastic ties,” Bucklew answered.

“Oh, ok," the investigator said.

Bucklew’s demeanor didn’t change as he talked about the day of the crimes.

According to the police report, Bucklew went to Sanders' house and confronted him as Pruitt took their combined four children to a back bedroom.

Sanders had a shotgun in his hands when Bucklew opened fire.

“And he moved. And I shot. And then his gun, he turned. And his gun went off into the wall. And I shot him again. And again. And again, I guess. And he fell back in that room and I’m like ‘holy ****.’”

While Bucklew tried to claim Pruitt wanted to leave with him, he admitted to handcuffing her. And worse.

“And she wouldn’t get down. And I had adrenaline pumping and I smacked her in the head with the pistol. Not real hard, but I smacked her. She went down on the ground and I cuffed her. Got her up and ran to the car. Got into the car and took off.”

Bucklew then made an impossible claim about Sanders, who police say died inside his home.

“And the guy. The guy said something. And I said **** you, mother ******. I’ll kill you. And he goes, ‘I think you already did.’ I said, ‘well, I hope not.’”

“He was still talking to you then,” the investigator asked.

“Yes," Bucklew replied.

Bucklew continued telling his version of events, somehow twisting Pruitt’s kidnapping and rape into a long drive and an intimate moment. When he talked about his shootout with police in St. Louis County, he again downplayed what he did.

“And that’s when the shooting started. And I just laid down in the seat and shot out, out.... And they shot me once, I think right here. And then I started shooting out the window.”

Bucklew did show emotion during the interview. It’s when he talked about the fact that he’s still alive.

“Why didn’t they just kill me, man? I told them I didn’t want to be put on life support. They did it anyway.”

He also asked repeatedly about what kind of punishment he might face.

“You think I’ll get the max?”

“I don’t know,” the investigator replied.

As the four-hour interview came to an end, Russell Bucklew seemed to realize the gravity of what he’s done.

“I thought Steph was it, man. And she broke my heart. And I killed her boyfriend. Wow. This is just real heavy, man.”

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