July 2004 Executions
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Five killers were executed in July 2004.  They had murdered at least 8 people.

Three
killers were given a stay in July 2004.  They have murdered at least 4 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 2, 2004 Georgia Toni Strickland Rivers, 28  Robert Hicks  executed

A death row inmate apologized "for everything I did" before he was put to death Thursday for slitting a woman's throat in 1985. The slaying occurred nine months after Robert K. Hicks was released from prison on a rape conviction. "I would like to apologize for everything I did. I'm sorry. God forgive me," the 47-year-old Hicks said moments before the lethal injection was administered. His last words were, "Come get me," after a clergyman said a short prayer. The Georgia Supreme Court had put the execution on hold for a day, then decided 5-2 Thursday to allow it to proceed. Also Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court without comment denied a final appeal. Hicks allegedly stabbed Toni Strickland Rivers, 28, eight times with a pocket knife, slit her throat and left her body -- nude from the waist down -- in a field near Griffin, about 35 miles south of Atlanta. Hicks did not know the woman and had followed her from a rural grocery store where she was using a pay phone. The victim's mother, father and sister witnessed the execution, but declined comment afterward. Her brother-in-law, Cary Grubbs, was on the prison grounds as the execution took place. "For him to apologize to us meant a huge amount. We had never had any sense of remorse, any sense of responsibility until the last day," Grubbs said. During the trial, Hicks unsuccessfully pleaded insanity. More recently, he has said he was innocent and that a drug dealer and another man committed the murder. Hicks' prosecutor, David Fowler, dismissed those claims as "desperate."

 

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 7, 2004 Texas Steven Wayne Horton, 31  Troy Kunkle  stayed

On the night of August 11, 1984, Kunkle and his girlfriend Lora Lee Zaiontz, Russell Stanley, Aaron Adkins, and Tom Sauls, left San Antonio and drove to Corpus Christi. All five were under the influence of alcohol and L.S.D. While en route, Stanley removed a .22 caliber pistol from the glove compartment of the vehicle, fired it into the air, and asked Adkins if he wanted to make some money. Sauls told Stanley that “guns and acid don’t mix,” and Stanley returned the gun to the glove compartment. During the course of the trip, Stanley took out the gun several more times. Stanley and Adkins discussed committing a robbery and slowed the vehicle several times to assess potential victims. When the group arrived in Corpus Christi, they drove to the beach. Kunkle and Zaiontz kept to themselves. Stanley, Adkins and Sauls went for a walk, and Stanley and Adkins again discussed robbing someone. The group left the beach and went to a convenience store to buy beer. There, Stanley and Adkins robbed a man in a phone booth at gunpoint, while Kunkle, Zaiontz, and Sauls remained in the car. Stanley and Adkins obtained only seven dollars from this victim, so they left the store to search for another victim. They spotted Stephen Horton walking along the road. They pulled up next to Horton, and Zaiontz asked him if he needed a ride. Though he resisted at first, Horton was eventually persuaded to get into the car. Horton sat in the front seat, next to Zaiontz. Once inside the car, Stanley put the gun to the back of Horton’s head and told him to give them his wallet. Horton turned to look at Stanley, but Zaiontz scratched his face and told him to look forward. Kunkle told Stanley to kill him, but Stanley refused. Kunkle then took the gun from Stanley, put it to Horton’s head, and said, “We’re going to take you back here and blow your brains out.” Adkins drove the car behind a skating rink, and Kunkle shot Horton in the back of the head. They pushed his body out of the car, and Zaiontz took his wallet. After the shooting, Kunkle quoted the following line from a song: “another day, another death, another sorrow, another breath,” and told the group that the murder was “beautiful.” On February 22, 1985, a jury convicted Kunkle for the capital murder of Horton. He was sentenced to death on February 26, 1985. Lora Lee Zaiontz received a life sentence for capital murder.  Russell Stanley and Aaron Adkins were both sentenced to 30 years for murder.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 9, 2004 Indiana John Rease,74
Henrietta Rease, 59
Darnell Williams commuted

John and Henrietta Rease, an elderly couple who lived in Gary, Indiana, cared for, fed, and housed foster children at their home in exchange for $160 per month per child. One such foster child was Gregory Rouster, who lived with the Reases from November 1985 until his eighteenth birthday on February 7, 1986. Four months later, the Reases were robbed and shot to death in their home. Police immediately arrested Rouster and his three friends, Darnell Williams, Theresa Newsome, and Edwin Taylor (another foster child living with the Reases), and charged them each with two counts of felony murder. At Williams’ joint trial with Rouster and Newsome, testimony showed that on the night of August 12, 1986, Williams, Rouster, Newsome, and Kim Toney went to the Reases’ house to collect money that Rouster believed the Reases owed to him. Derrick Bryant, a seventeen-year old foster child who lived with the Reases at the time that the crimes were committed, testified that when Williams and Rouster got to the house, they went into a back room with Henrietta Rease and got into an argument with her about whether the Reases owed Rouster money. After Henrietta Rease asked Rouster to leave the house, Bryant heard Williams say, “I won’t let her, she’s doing nothing but gypping [Rouster] out of the money.” Bryant then heard a series of gunshots and went upstairs into the attic to hide. While in the attic, Bryant heard a conversation take place between Williams, Rouster, and Taylor, whereby Williams and Rouster agreed to rob the Reases at gunpoint. Bryant then ran downstairs to hide behind a stairway and heard Williams and Rouster bring the Reases into the bedroom, at which point Henrietta Rease told Williams not to hit John Rease. Next, Bryant heard Williams state, “it’s your time” and heard Rouster reply, “waste them.” Bryant then heard a second series of gunshots coming from the bedroom, at which point he ran out of the house and flagged down a police car. Several neighborhood teenagers testified about the events that they witnessed that night and corroborated Bryant’s testimony regarding two series of gunshots coming from the Reases’ house shortly after Williams and Rouster entered the house. Moreover, the teenagers testified about a third series of gunshots that came from the Reases’ house when Rouster and Newsome were in the Reases’ front yard, but while Williams presumably was still inside of the house. No one testified that Williams was still in the house when this third series of gunshots was fired. However, the only time that Williams was seen leaving the house was after the first series of gunshots, when Williams searched for something in the front yard and exclaimed, “my shells.” Powell and Pope then saw Williams re-enter the house, and they then heard the second series of gunshots. No one saw Williams leave the house before the third series of gunshots. The teenagers’ testimony was corroborated by Lelia Gray, Jimmy Gray’s mother, who explained that she saw Williams and Rouster enter the Reases’ house, heard two series of gunshots, and also heard a third series of gunshots coming from the Reases’ house while Rouster and Newsome were outside. Lake County crime technician Ronald Lach searched the Reases’ house for evidence later that night and discovered the Reases’ bodies lying on the bedroom floor. Lach also found several live .30 caliber cartridges in the Reases’ bedroom as well as several fired .22 caliber and .32 caliber shells. Finally, he found a .22 caliber pistol in the bedroom and a .32 caliber pistol in the Reases’ backyard that were later determined to have fired the gunshots that killed the Reases. Lake County Police Officer Timothy Lukasik arrested Williams that same night. At that time, Williams had a black leather pouch with him that contained, among other things, $232.00 in cash, a wallet with no money in it, and a .30 caliber live round of ammunition. Williams was then taken to the Gary Police Department, where crime technician Lach testified that he “observed” Williams’ clothing but did not find any blood on it. Williams was detained at the Gary City Jail for two days, after which he was transferred to the Lake County Jail. On August 15, 1986, Williams’ clothing was confiscated at the Lake County Jail and stored in an evidence lab, and he was issued a jail uniform. Lake County Police Officer Bill Wegman testified that approximately one week later, he gathered Williams’ clothing from the evidence lab, placed it in a plastic bag, and brought it to the Prosecutor’s Office. Rouster was arrested on the night of the murders by Indiana State Trooper Rodney Means, who testified that when he arrested Rouster, he noticed several red spots that looked like blood stains on the back of Rouster’s white shirt. Lach also testified that he observed blood stains on Rouster’s clothing at the Gary Police Department and therefore collected Rouster’s clothing as evidence at that time and submitted it to the Indiana State Police Post laboratory for testing. Eventually, Williams’ clothing was given to Kimberly Epperson, a forensic serologist employed by the Indiana State Police. Epperson testified that she examined the shorts that Williams wore on the night of the murders and that they had three small spots of dried human blood on them. She explained that the blood she found on Williams’ shorts was consistent with the blood type of John and Henrietta Reese and of Rouster, but not consistent with Williams’ blood type nor that of Newsome or Taylor. She further explained that the blood found on Williams’ shorts was consistent with the blood type of 45% of the population. On cross-examination by Williams’ counsel, Epperson admitted that she did not find any blood on Williams’ shoes. During closing arguments, the State argued to the jury that in addition to the witnesses’ testimony, the blood found on Williams’ shorts also established that Williams participated in the Reases’ murders. During his closing argument, Williams’ counsel attacked the weight of the blood evidence, stating that the State did not present a “splatter” expert to testify about how the blood got on Williams’ shorts. Williams’ counsel also argued that the State’s evidence concerning the blood found on Williams’ shorts showed that the blood could have come from “millions of people” other than the Reases. Thus, Williams’ counsel attempted to show that the blood found on Williams’ shorts may have come from somewhere other than the crime scene and thus did not establish Williams’ participation in the crimes. Epperson also testified that the blood found on Rouster’s clothes was consistent with the blood type of John and Henrietta Rease, but not with that of Newsome, Taylor, Rouster, nor Williams. The jury found Williams and Rouster guilty of two counts of felony murder and acquitted Newsome on both counts. During the sentencing hearing, Taylor testified about the following events that took place at the Reases’ house on August 12, 1986: Henrietta Rease asked Williams and Rouster to leave after they accused her of keeping money purportedly owed to Rouster. Williams then pointed a gun at Taylor and asked him where the Reases kept their money. Taylor answered that the Reases kept their money on the bedroom dresser, to which Williams replied, “you better not be lying.” Taylor then ran to his friend’s house to call the police and heard several gunshots coming from the Reases’ house. Taylor also testified that Williams was the last person he saw with a gun. The State also introduced evidence that Williams had previously participated in a robbery similar to the one committed against the Reases. Williams presented testimony that he was employed, had graduated high school, and had lived with his mother for most of his life. Further, friends and family members testified about Williams’ character, claiming that he was a kind and responsible young man. The jury ultimately recommended the death penalty for both Williams and Rouster. Thereafter, the trial judge indicated that the State had proved three aggravating factors under Indiana state law: 1) Williams intentionally killed John Rease while committing the crime of robbery; 2) Williams intentionally killed Henrietta Rease while committing the crime of robbery; and 3) Williams had been convicted of multiple murders—that of both John and Henrietta Rease. He also addressed the potential mitigating circumstances and held that none applied. The judge then sentenced both Williams and Rouster to death. Rouster's death sentence was revoked after a court ruled that he is mentally retarded. UPDATE: The Indiana Parole Board recommended Tuesday that Gov. Joe Kernan stop the execution of Darnell Williams, who is scheduled to die by injection on July 9 for the 1986 murders of a Gary couple. The board voted 5-0 to recommend that Kernan grant Williams' request for a sentence of life in prison without parole. The board has not recommended clemency in a capital case since Indiana reinstated the death penalty in 1977. Governors are not bound by the board's recommendation. Parole board member Thor Miller said no questions should exist about someone's guilt before an execution. Kernan plans to review the case and the board's recommendation but no time frame has been set for reaching a decision on clemency, spokesman Jonathan Swain said. Williams and Gregory Rouster were both condemned for the 1986 murders of Rouster's former foster parents, John and Henrietta Rease. A court later ruled that Rouster was mentally retarded and revoked his death sentence. Williams was days away from execution last summer when the late Gov. Frank O'Bannon granted a stay for DNA testing of blood spots found on a pair of Williams' shorts. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last month that the tests did not eliminate Williams as a possible killer of John Rease. It also said other evidence of his guilt was overwhelming. Lawyers for the state attorney general's office did not offer any immediate comment on the board's vote.  UPDATE: On July 2, 2004 Governor Joe Kernan issued an Executive Order commuting the death sentence of Darnell Williams to Life Imprisonment Without Parole. Noting that Gregory Rouster was more culpable in the murders, but had been spared the death penalty after he was declared mentally retarded, Governor Kernan said “Because Rouster cannot be executed for the crime, it is unjust for Williams to be executed.” The commutation followed a recommendation for commutation from the State Parole Board. This was the first time since the reinstatement of the Death Penalty in Indiana in 1977 that the Parole Board recommended commutation of a death sentence, or that the Governor commuted a death sentence.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 14, 2004 Ohio Susan Clemente, 29
Lisa Clemente, 3
Stephen Vrabel executed

Stephen Vrabel of Struthers, Ohio appeals his aggravated murder conviction and death sentence for the 1989 murders of his girlfriend, Susan Clemente, and their 3-year-old daughter, Lisa Clemente. After shooting the victims, Vrabel placed the bodies in the refrigerator at their apartment, and continued living there for more than a month before leaving the city. When he learned several weeks later that the bodies had been discovered, Vrabel conferred with a priest, turned himself in to authorities and confessed to the murders. He was subsequently found to be incapable of assisting in his own defense as a result of mental illness, and therefore incompetent to stand trial. In 1994, after five years of confinement in mental hospitals, Vrabel was found sufficiently recovered to go to trial and was re-indicted on the aggravated murder charges. During pretrial proceedings, Vrabel filed written pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity and asserted his right to waive legal counsel and represent himself. The court appointed two attorneys to serve as advisory counsel, but Vrabel refused to provide them with any information or accept their assistance in preparing a defense. In one of several pretrial competency hearings at which he represented himself, Vrabel did not dispute a court-appointed psychiatrist's testimony that he was competent to stand trial. Less than a month before his scheduled trial date, the court granted his motion to represent himself at trial and he withdrew his insanity plea. Five days before the scheduled trial date, Vrabel re-filed a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and requested the assistance of counsel. The trial was postponed for six months to allow attorneys to prepare a defense. Once jurors had been selected, Vrabel again moved that his attorneys be dismissed and he be allowed to represent himself. This time the court denied his motions. After the jury convicted Vrabel on both murder charges, the judge granted his request to limit mitigation testimony on his behalf during the sentencing phase of the trial to a brief personal statement by Vrabel to the jurors. In his statement, Vrabel told the jury there were no mitigating circumstances that should prevent them from imposing the death penalty. After less than a day's deliberation, the jury returned a death penalty recommendation. The 7th District Court of Appeals upheld both the murder convictions and death sentence. In July 2003 he submitted a handwritten letter, asking to waive any further appeals, to Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker. Vrabel has undergone evaluations by two mental health experts, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro. "They both determined that he understands his consequences, and he doesn't have any mental illnesses," Norris said. UPDATE: In March 1989, Stephen Vrabel took a newly purchased handgun and after drinking beer and smoking marijuana shot his girlfriend in the head, then shot her again so she wouldn’t suffer. With their 3-year-old daughter “freaking out” at the sight, according to Vrabel’s account, he shot her in the head, figuring it was best because her mother was dead and he was going to jail. The next day, Vrabel stuffed his girlfriend’s body in the refrigerator and his daughter’s in the freezer, along with her favorite stuffed animals, a bear and bunny. Sentenced to death for the crime, Vrabel dropped his appeals and asked to be put to death. The Ohio Supreme Court set a July 14 execution date. If executed, Vrabel, 47, would be the second Ohio death row inmate in five years to voluntarily abandon court appeals to speed his execution. Wilford Berry, dubbed “The Volunteer,” was the first, in February 1999. “Please do not do to me what you did to Wilford Berry,” Vrabel said in a letter to Ohio Public Defender David Bodiker last year. “I have to believe you should use your resources in helping those who wish to contest their decisions, rather than using your resources to contest my choice.” In March, a Mahoning County judge agreed with experts hired by prosecutors and the state public defender’s office both said Vrabel was competent to drop his appeals. Vrabel “has a rational, logical understanding of the reasons for the death penalty, and the reasons for punishment, and of his legal situation,” John Fabian, a clinical psychologist hired by Bodiker’s office, wrote in a March report. A report by a Case Western Reserve University psychiatrist for prosecutors reached the same conclusion, though said Vrabel’s “delusional disorder” was not in complete remission. Vrabel retains vague ideas that police conspired to change his confession and believes medical problems are a result of prison medical procedures rather than his bowel disease, according to the report by psychiatrist Phillip Resnick. Vrabel has the right to drop his appeals, Attorney General Jim Petro said. “The evidence in this case is one that is substantially overwhelming, so he’s kind of basically willing to throw in the towel,” Petro said Thursday. “That’s not a bad thing.” Vrabel could still pursue federal appeals if he wished. Bodiker called the pending execution “a travesty,” pointing out that Vrabel spent 1990 to 1994 at a psychiatric center because he was ruled incompetent to stand trial. He was eventually ruled competent in February 1995. A divided Ohio Supreme Court upheld Vrabel’s death sentence by a 4-3 vote last year. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer argued that Vrabel didn’t fall into the category of killers the state’s death penalty was reserved for because of his mental health problems. Vrabel lived in his apartment for several weeks after the murders with the bodies in the refrigerator and freezer, according to court documents. A message was left with Vrabel’s Youngstown attorneys. Vrabel has turned down interview requests. Susan Clemente, 29, was a nursing home aide and former high school runner whose hurdle record fell only last year, said Kenneth Kotouch, 49, the husband of Clemente’s sister, Lydia, and a former police detective who helped investigate the murders. Clemente’s father said the family is happy to see the case resolved, although he said his has mixed feelings about the death penalty. “Sometimes I think being in prison all your life is worse than going to the death chamber,” said Anthony Clemente, 73, of suburban Youngstown, a retired construction worker and teacher. “One way I think he deserves it, the other way I think if he stayed in prison the rest of his life it would be 10 times worse.”

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 19, 2004 Georgia Leslie English, 2  Eddie Crawford executed

A Vietnam veteran who spent 20 years on death row for the rape and murder of his two-year-old niece was executed on Monday in Georgia after courts rejected his bid for DNA testing of new evidence. Eddie Albert Crawford, 57, received a lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson, Georgia, about 50 miles south of Atlanta. He died at 7:49 p.m. EDT, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Peggy Chapman said. The U.S. Supreme Court refused on Monday to block the execution. Crawford, who claimed to have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and blackouts after his return from military service in Vietnam, was sentenced to death in 1984 for killing Leslie English, his niece through marriage. "I don't remember anything. If this gives them peace, it was well worth it," Crawford said in a final statement before a sedative, a lung-paralyzing drug and the poison potassium chloride were injected into his arms. He refused to eat a final meal. Prosecutors said Crawford abducted English from her house in Griffin, Georgia, early on Sept. 25, 1983, after her mother -- Crawford's sister-in-law -- refused to have sex with him. The toddler's partly clothed body was left in some nearby woods. She had been raped and suffocated. Police used hair and carpet fibers found on the victim's body to link Crawford to the crime. He also made inconsistent statements to authorities about his niece's disappearance and his whereabouts at the time. Defense lawyers had urged authorities to postpone the execution to give them more time to determine whether two hairs found on the girl's body and clothing belonged to Crawford. Ed Garland, an Atlanta defense lawyer and board member of the Georgia Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that takes up cases involving DNA, said the case cried out for DNA testing. Crawford's first conviction was thrown out on procedural grounds. He was found guilty of English's murder and sentenced to die at a second trial in 1987.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 19-25, 2004 Nevada Ilona Straumanis, 51  Terry Dennis stayed

Terry Dennis pleaded guilty in 1999 to strangling 51-year-old Ilona Strumanis at the Horseshoe Motel in downtown Reno. Dennis said he killed the Reno woman to prove that he could do it. On the afternoon of March 9, 1999, Dennis, who was fifty-two years old, unemployed and homeless, telephoned the Reno Police Department ("RPD") Dispatch, and told a dispatcher that he had killed a woman and her body was in his room at a local motel. Dennis stated that he was in the same room watching television and would wait for police to arrive. Dennis also stated that dispatchers should send a coroner, as "the bitch has been dead for three or four days." An RPD detective responded to Dennis’s motel room, contacted Dennis, and asked whether he had any weapons. Dennis stated that he had used his hands to kill the victim and did not have any weapons. He agreed to be interviewed and was transported to the police department. At the police department, detectives advised Dennis of his Miranda rights. Dennis waived his rights and agreed to be interviewed. When questioned about the murder, Dennis stated that his memory was unclear on certain details because he had consumed about a fifth of vodka a day for the past week. During the interview, Dennis said that he had been staying at the motel where the murder occurred since March 3, 1999. Two or three nights into his stay, he left his room to go to a local saloon. On his way to the saloon, he met the victim, who was later identified as Ilona Straumanis. Straumanis had bruises about her eyes and told Dennis that she had been beaten by another man. Straumanis accompanied Dennis to the saloon, and later, to Dennis’s motel room. Thereafter and until the murder, both Dennis and Straumanis remained in an intoxicated state, staying in Dennis’s room, except for a shared meal out and Dennis’s outings to get more alcohol. On the day he killed Straumanis, he left the room briefly because Straumanis was asking too many personal questions. Upon his return to the room, he and Straumanis engaged in a conversation about whether Dennis had ever killed anyone. Straumanis accused Dennis of being too kind to be capable of killing. Dennis then killed Straumanis, as he and she were "sort of" "making love." He began strangling Straumanis with a belt. He felt somewhat aroused by Straumanis’s struggling, and as she was "fading," he engaged in anal intercourse with her. During the course of the killing, he took the belt off and used his hands to choke her, and then suffocated her by covering her nose and mouth, making sure that she was not breathing and that "it was all done." He was not certain whether he finished the sexual act once she was dead. It took five or ten minutes to kill Straumanis, and Dennis checked her pulse afterward. He felt that he "had to make sure," and said he "took my time." After the murder, Dennis covered Straumanis’s body and slept in the other bed. Prior to contacting police, Dennis also left the room at times to go to a local casino or the store for more liquor. Dennis admitted that, although he had been drinking heavily prior to the murder and had stopped taking the medications prescribed for his mental health problems, he knew "exactly what [he] was doing" at the time of the murder. He killed Straumanis primarily because she challenged whether he was capable of killing, but also in response to a challenge from Straumanis regarding his sexual performance, which was affected by his drinking, and because he knew that he could kill her – she was "nobody" to him. He explained that he was probably thinking that Straumanis needed to be "put out of her misery" from the time he first met her and realized that she was "pathetic." He stated, "When I first met her, I had that . . . idea that if you know I can talk her into . . . coming back to my crib then done deal. Done deal." He saw himself as a "predator" and Straumanis as a "victim," and he felt that killing her was "the thing to do." Dennis had recently "picked up" another woman, intending to do the same thing to her, but she got frightened and left him before he could finish. From that experience he had learned to "take it a little slower," and he did so with Straumanis, trying to charm her into staying with him. Dennis was determined to kill Straumanis regardless of whether she survived his initial attack. He had been wanting to kill someone for a long time, and he felt at peace with killing Straumanis. Dennis stated that he did not care about anybody, including himself. He knew murder was wrong and did not care. Dennis also told detectives, "If I didn’t get stopped this would not be the last time that I would do something like this, because I found it exciting. I actually enjoyed it." At the conclusion of the interview, detectives formally placed Dennis under arrest. Meanwhile, another RPD detective searched Dennis’s motel room pursuant to a search warrant. There, the detective discovered Straumanis’s nude dead body underneath a blanket on one of the two beds in the room. Straumanis’s body was found in a prone position with spread legs. A pillow underneath Straumanis’s pelvis caused her buttocks to protrude upward. The detective also discovered a leather belt on the floor of the motel room and numerous empty beer and Vodka containers, along with other debris. An autopsy performed on Straumanis’s body on March 10, 1999, showed that she had died between three and seven days earlier as a result of asphyxia due to neck compression, most likely by strangulation. Straumanis’s neck bore a rectangular-shaped injury. Other injuries were determined to have occurred sometime within the few days prior to her death, including a small abrasion on the forehead, a bruise on the back of one thigh, and a fractured sternum. Changes caused by decomposition of Straumanis’s body made determination of the existence of any sexual assault difficult. Although Straumanis’s anus was dilated, there was no evidence of injury to the perianal skin or distal rectum. Testing revealed that Straumanis had a blood alcohol content of 0.37. The State charged Dennis with one count of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon. The State subsequently filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty, alleging four aggravating circumstances: that Dennis subjected Straumanis to nonconsensual sexual penetration immediately before, during or immediately after the commission of the murder, and that Dennis had been previously convicted of three separate felonies involving the use or threat of violence to the person of another–-a 1979 conviction for second-degree assault, a 1984 conviction for second-degree assault, and a 1984 conviction for second-degree arson. Counsel were appointed to represent Dennis and arranged to have a psychiatrist conduct a competency evaluation. The psychiatrist who conducted the evaluation concluded that, although Dennis was clinically depressed, he was competent to stand trial and assist in his defense. On April 16, 1999, Dennis entered a guilty plea to first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon pursuant to a written plea agreement. The district court thoroughly canvassed Dennis, who stated his desire to plead guilty though he faced a possible death penalty. Dennis explained that he had been in prison twice before and did not consider living in prison to be "living at all." He did not want to "waste away" in prison for the remainder of his life, and would rather "get it over faster than that." Ultimately, the court accepted Dennis’s plea, finding that Dennis was competent to enter a plea and that his plea was knowing and voluntary. On July 19 and 20, 1999, a penalty hearing was conducted before a three-judge panel of the district court. The State presented evidence relating to the facts and circumstances of Straumanis’s death, including Dennis’s own statements regarding the crime and evidence in support of the alleged aggravating circumstances. The panel was also informed that Dennis had a total of nine prior convictions: the three prior felony convictions alleged as aggravators, for which he served approximately two and one-half years in prison, and another older felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance, for which he served two years in prison. Dennis also had five prior misdemeanor convictions. Dennis agreed to permit counsel to argue for a sentence less than death and submit a sentencing memorandum along with medical, psychiatric and jail records. However, he expressed to the panel that he did not want to live in prison for the rest of his life, and he declined to present any additional evidence in mitigation. Dennis’s records together with the panel’s questioning of Dennis show that Dennis has a lengthy history of alcohol and substance abuse as well as suicide attempts. He first attempted suicide in 1965 and was hospitalized. However, it does not appear that Dennis was diagnosed with or treated for any mental health disorders until thirty years later. In 1995, he began a series of contacts with mental health professionals and was diagnosed with various disorders –- primarily, a chronic depressive disorder. The same records show that Dennis was treated for his problems at various facilities by means of prescription drugs and therapy. Although he enjoyed periods of improved well being, he repeatedly discontinued his medications, declined further treatment and continued to consume alcohol against his doctors’ advice. Included among the medical records submitted were Veteran’s Administration ("VA") records, which indicate that two months prior to killing Straumanis, Dennis was admitted to the VA Hospital in Reno when he reported to medical staff that he had stopped taking his medications and was trying to drink himself to death. He also reported picking up a girl the previous night, taking her to a motel, and having thoughts of killing her. However, he was discharged from the hospital after eight days. Reports from follow-up visits with VA medical personnel in February and on March 2, 1999, show no indication of any alarming behavior by Dennis and further show that he denied wanting to harm himself or others. Counsel argued against a death sentence and alleged as mitigating factors that the murder was committed while Dennis was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, as well as numerous other circumstances. After hearing argument, the panel found that three of the four alleged aggravators were established: the three prior felony convictions. The panel also found two mitigating circumstances: Dennis was under the influence of alcohol when he killed Straumanis, and he suffers from mental illness. The panel concluded that the mitigating circumstances did not outweigh the aggravating circumstances and returned a verdict of death. UPDATE: A man who said he wanted to feel what it's like to kill somebody, then shunned all efforts to save his life, faces execution during the week of July 19. Terry Jess Dennis admitted he strangled Ilona Strumanis, an immigrant, in a Reno motel. Dennis pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on the condition that the death penalty be sought, saying that life in prison was not living at all. "I don't want to just waste away for the next 25 years in prison, just doddering around," Terry Jess Dennis told Washoe District Judge Janet Berry. "I'd just as soon get it over with." The most compelling evidence presented against Dennis during the two-day sentencing hearing was a tape-recorded confession he made to Reno police shortly after he called 911 on March 9 to report he had killed a woman. He said he had for some time been contemplating killing someone and the woman he befriended before taking her to his motel room as a "perfect victim." He told police, "It was just something I'd had in mind for a while and I found a victim and I acted on impulse. I'd wanted to do it for a long time. It was perfect." Dennis, was convicted of using a belt to strangle the woman he'd met several days before. Dennis told police she made fun of him when he was unable to perform sexually.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 20, 2004 Ohio William Mink, 79
Sheila Mink, 72
 
Scott Mink executed

Scott Mink was sentenced to death at age 37 for killing his parents. His parents, William and Sheila Mink, were found dead Sept. 21 at their home in Union, 10 miles from Dayton, Ohio. Mink was convicted of the beating deaths of his parents, 79-year old William Mink and 72-year old Sheila Mink, on September 19th, 2000, as they slept in their home in the Village of Union. Mink was angry at his parents because they would hide their car keys to prevent him from leaving the house to purchase drugs and alcohol. When his parents were sleeping, Mink beat them with a claw hammer, until the hammer broke, next he beat them with cutting boards, until they broke, and then he repeatedly stabbed his parents with kitchen knives and strangled his mother with an electrical cord. Mink then stole his parents' credit cards and sold their belongings to purchase crack cocaine. Mink later confessed to police. UPDATE: When his parents hid the keys to his blue Isuzu Trooper to keep him from going out to buy drugs, Scott Mink snapped. The 36-year-old man got a claw hammer out of his father's toolbox on the porch and then walked into the bedroom of his sleeping parents. William and Sheila Mink, 79 and 72, were bludgeoned with the hammer, stabbed with kitchen knives and beaten with cutting boards. Sheila Mink also was strangled, her neck broken with an electric cord. Scott Mink then bought drugs by selling his parents' possessions, including pictures off the walls of the upstairs duplex where the three lived in the community of Union, just northwest of Dayton. Four days later, Mink turned himself into police and confessed to killing the couple. Mink pleaded guilty to their murders and currently sits on death row, scheduled to be executed Tuesday for the September 2000 slayings. Last week, the Ohio Parole Board by a 7-0 vote recommended that Gov. Bob Taft deny clemency. Mink told a court-appointed psychologist: "I deserve it. ... I really don't want to die, but the severity of the crime and the circumstances fit the death penalty for me." Mink, now 40, declined requests for an interview. Calls seeking comment from his brother and three sisters were not returned. Mink's execution _ three years from when he was convicted _ would be the fastest an Ohio inmate's death sentence was carried out since the state re-enacted the death penalty in 1981. The previous fastest occurred with Wilford Berry, who was executed in 1999 after being convicted in 1990. Mink also would be the first inmate executed since that time to plead guilty. Dan Brandt, assistant Montgomery County prosecutor, said Mink deserves the death penalty. "The crimes themselves were especially heinous in nature due to the fact that they were the defendants' own parents and were brutally attacked while they lay in bed sleeping," Brandt said. "And there was the ferocious nature of the killings themselves." The youngest of five children, Mink graduated from Colonel White High School in Dayton and took a few courses at Sinclair Community College. He never married and lived with his parents most of his life. Tired of their son's growing crack habit, the Minks had set a 10 p.m. curfew and sometimes hid the keys to his truck. Mink complained that his parents treated him like a child and that his father would only give him $10 or $20 at a time for spending money. Just before they died, the Minks told their son he would have to find a place of his own because they would be moving to a smaller apartment. They never got the chance. After the attack on his parents, Mink found his keys. He took $7 and his father's ATM card. Mink withdrew $10 with the ATM card because there was only $12 in the account and bought a fake substance he thought was crack. The next day Mink sold his father's Ford Escort for $50 to $100 worth of crack. The day after that, he traded his parents' television for $30 in drugs. He later sold a lounge chair, a clock and even pictures off the wall for money to buy drugs. William and Sheila Minks' bodies were found four days after they were slain when their daughters drove to the apartment to check on them and then called police. Mink turned himself in to Tipp City police, telling them he had done something awful. He later confessed to killing his parents. On Oct. 4, 2000, Mink was indicted on charges of aggravated murder with death penalty specifications. The following April, he announced his intention to waive a jury trial, plead guilty and waive his right to present any evidence on his behalf. Mink said he didn't want to put family members through a trial. Thomas Martin, a court-appointed psychologist who evaluated Mink, said Mink told him he did not fear death. "I have a firm belief that I still have a chance of getting into heaven; God can forgive," Mink told Martin. Mink pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, and on June 29, 2001, a three-judge panel sentenced Mink to death. "I do ask for the death penalty, to be handed a sentence of death," Mink told the panel just before the sentence. In their appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, Mink's attorneys argued that Mink did not receive a valid competency evaluation because he was taking prescription drugs at the time and the psychologists were not qualified to judge the effects of the drugs on his competency. Prosecutors said the psychologists were informed about Mink's medical history and were competent to evaluate all factors. By a 7-0 vote, the high court on April 14 rejected the arguments of Mink's attorneys and upheld Mink's conviction and death sentence. Last week, defense attorney Gary Crim told the parole board that Mink wishes there to be no further actions to stop his execution. "I think that his life since he woke up after he sobered up and was arrested is full of remorse," Crim said. "That's his way of remorse, seeking execution. "UPDATE: A man who stabbed and beat his elderly parents to death after they hid the keys to his truck so he couldn't buy drugs was executed by the state of Ohio on Tuesday. Scott Mink, 40, was pronounced dead at 10:27 a.m. EDT after an injection of lethal chemicals, officials at the state prison in Lucasville said. Mink admitted killing his parents William, 79, and Sheila, 72, at the home they shared with him in Union, Ohio, in September 2000. He told police he was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine and flew into a rage when he discovered his parents had hidden the keys to his truck, which he planned to use that night to buy more drugs. Mink volunteered for his execution after waiving all appeals. Less than four years had elapsed between the crime and the execution in Mink's case, the shortest time span for any execution since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Mink had pleaded guilty and waived all appeals, saying he wanted to be put to death.

 
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
July 22, 2004 Virginia Katherine Bailey, 22
Nathan Bailey, 2 
Mark Bailey  executed

In 1999, it took just over an hour for a jury to find Mark Wesley Bailey guilty of capital murder and 1st-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife and 2-1/2-year-old son. Bailey, who showed no emotion during the reading of the verdicts, was found guilty of 2 counts of capital murder, both in connection with the Sept. 10, 1998, death of his son, Nathan Bailey. The jury found that Nathan's death was a "willful, deliberate and premeditated killing" that took place as part of the same act as the killing moments before of Bailey's wife, Katherine. The 2nd count was brought under a statute that states capital murder can be charged when the victim is under 14 and the killer is 21 or older. Bailey was charged with first-degree murder in Katherine's death and faces 20 years to life on that count. He was also found guilty of the use of a firearm while committing each of the killings, adding 8 more years. The defense didn't dispute that Bailey committed the murders or that he'd intended to kill Katherine. "The plan of Mark Bailey to kill his wife, Katie, is clearly shown," Attorney George M. Rogers III said in his closing remarks. But Nathan's death was not planned, he said. "You haven't heard anybody in this courtroom say that," Rogers said. "The evidence has not said at all that he planned to kill Nathan." Rogers said the lack of planning was clearly shown in Bailey's videotaped confession to police. Armed with a .22-caliber pistol that morning, Bailey said he walked into his bedroom at the family's Grimes Road home three times before finally firing 3 shots into his wife's head. Even though he'd balked twice before killing her, he'd planned the act for days, he admitted to police. But then he heard Nathan stirring in his room across the hall. Bailey walked into his room. "He was waking up, stepping out of bed," Bailey  said on the tape. "Next thing you know, I put two shots into him, too." At this point, Bailey broke down. "I said, 'I'm sorry,' " he sobbed. "Now my son's gone." During a separate confession the day of the killings, Hampton police asked why he had shot his son. Bailey wrote, "I was scared that he would walk in and see his mom. I didn't know what else to do." During his taped confession, Bailey also expressed his frustration and anger over his deteriorating marriage and what he said was his late wife's unfaithfulness and iron grip on his life. "I wanted my family back," he said. "The only thing I wanted in my life was my boy." He told police, "I guess this morning I just lost it." But Bailey did plan it, Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Curtis argued. She said he'd been "thinking" about killing his wife for several days and tried to cover the crime by repeatedly telling a Navy co-worker that his wife had received threatening notes." And while a finding of premeditation means a plan had been hatched to commit the crime, such a plan "need not exist for any length of time." It doesn't matter, she said, "that his plan for killing Katherine was longer than his plan to kill Nathan. "Remember the image of that child," Curtis said, "trying to get out of that bed. That's all the premeditation you need. "We know he planned it."

 

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