November 2005 Executions

Ten killers were executed in November 2005. They had murdered at least 20 people.
killers were given a stay in November 2005. They have murdered at least 4 people.
One killer’s death sentence was commuted in November 2005. He has murdered at least 1 person.
Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 2, 2005 Texas Juan Saenz Guajardo
Marcos Sanchez Vasquez
Jaime Elizalde, Jr. stayed

Jaime Elizalde, Jr. was paroled from prison approximately 8 months before he was involved in the murder of two men outside a Houston nightclub. Elizalde had served almost 4 years of a 10 year sentence for possession of cocaine and car theft. On November 1, 1994, Elizalde was at a nightclub with his father when the two men got into a confrontation with Juan Guajardo and Marcos Vasquez. Four days later, the father and son returned to the bar and sat on opposite sides of the room. Jaime Elizalde, Sr. gestured to the two men to follow him outside of the El Lugar bar, where Elizalde Jr. was waiting for them. He pulled a gun and shot both men to death. A witness testified that from the bar he saw Guajado as he was shot. He further testified that, although he did not see the killer shoot Guajado, when he exited the bar he saw Elizalde flee with a gun. Elizalde was arrested a few months later in a drug bust. While incarcerated, Elizalde was a leader of the Mexican Mafia, a dangerous prison gang. Prosecutor Terrance Windham told the jury that Elizaldle stabbed someone in prison and assaulted guards; he added that the defendant had numerous chances to change his life, but failed to do so, adding that "the system tried to rehabilitate him, but he kept getting worse." Authorities suspect that the defendant’s father is hiding in Mexico. Defense attorneys had asked the jury to show mercy for their client because of his age, but that plea went unheeded. After convicting Elizalde for capital murder, in less than 1 hour the jury decided that Elizalde Jr., 25, would be a threat to society and sent him to death row for the slayings of Juan Saenz Guajardo and Marcos Sanchez Vasquez. After the judge read the sentence, the defendant smiled and patted one of his attorneys on the back. UPDATE: The Harris County District Attorney’s Office will ask a court to postpone Wednesday’s scheduled execution of Jaime Elizalde Jr. so prosecutors can bring him to Houston to question him about a different slaying. "We are still conducting our investigation," Assistant District Attorney Jack Roady said this week, adding that his office wants to question Elizalde in open court. Elizalde is on death row for the Nov. 5, 1994, shooting deaths of 2 men. He claims he did not commit that crime, and his attorney argues in a clemency appeal before the governor and state parole officials that another man, Albert Guajardo, was the real killer. Guajardo was slain in 1995, and another man is serving a life sentence for that murder. Last week, the 2 cases became entangled when Elizalde claimed in a sworn statement that he strangled Guajardo with a nylon rope, hit him on the head several times with a blackjack and slit his throat with a hunting knife. Guajardo’s body was found wrapped in a carpet in northeast Harris County. Elizalde said he killed Guajardo because he stole drugs and "paperwork" from him. Hermilio Herrero Jr. was convicted of killing Guajardo 3 1/2 years ago. The state’s case was based largely on the testimony – several years after the slaying – of 2 prison inmates who claimed Herrero bragged to them about killing Guajardo while serving time in a Beaumont federal prison. Wednesday, Herrero’s attorney, Norman Silverman, said he was "very appreciative that the state is taking this seriously and is doing the right thing. I want for them to have the opportunity to talk to Elizalde… and if we all work together we can get to the bottom of this." Silverman filed, along with Elizalde’s sworn statement, a request in state district court and a state appeals court last week asking Elizalde be brought to Harris County to be interviewed about Guajardo’s death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 3, 2005 Texas Jennifer Lee Gravell, 9 Melvin White executed

JenniferGravellOn August 4, 1997, the subject kidnapped 9-year-old Jennifer Lee Gravell in Ozona, Texas, during the nighttime hours. He then took her to a roadside park out of the city limits and attempted to have sexual intercourse with her. The victim resisted, but he taped her hands behind her back with black electrical tape and continued to sexually assault her. During this time, a vehicle pulled up behind him and he left the location. He then he took the victim to another location, hit her several times on the head with a tire tool, and left the scene. Authorities were given the location of the body by the subject. The victim was found with her hands tied behind her back, deceased. On August 4, 1997, then forty-seven-year-old White kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered a nine-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood in Ozona, Texas. On the night of a neighborhood barbeque, White went home between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. after consuming several alcoholic drinks. Around this time, Jennifer came over to his house. White took her in his truck to a roadside rest area where he bound the girl’s hands behind her back with electrical tape, stuffed a sock in her mouth and sexually assaulted her with an object – possibly a screwdriver. He also admitted that he molested her with his finger. White then killed Jennifer by repeatedly striking her head with a tire tool and dumped her body behind a water tank in a field outside of town. In a trash can in White’s house, investigators discovered the victim’s underpants, sandals, and a ball of electrical tape with her hair in it. At the punishment phase of trial, the prosecution presented evidence that White had forced his daughter to perform oral sex and penetrated her with his finger when she was twelve years old. White’s daughter testified that two years later her father had offered her fifty dollars per week if she would provide him with sexual favors upon demand. Further evidence demonstrated that when White was between ten and twelve years old he molested a four-year-old relative. Additionally, a witness testified that White allowed teenagers to have parties at his house where alcohol was served, and during a party he touched a teenage girl’s breast. Another witness testified that White had watched her engage in sex with his son and later described the events in detail. Dr. Windell Dickerson, the chief psychologist employed by the Texas prison system, opined for the prosecution that, if one believed that White had raped his daughter, then White posed a very serious risk for further violent conduct. On June 10, 1999, the jury found White guilty of capital murder. Following a separate punishment hearing, White was sentenced to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 4, 2005 Delaware Frances Kiefer, 44
Sandra Lee Long, 29
Brian Steckel executed

sandra long smallBrian D. Steckel was convicted of raping and strangling a 29-year-old woman. Steckel met Sandra Lee Long approximately one week before the murder. He stayed occasionally with Sandra’s neighbors. After Steckel witnessed a verbal dispute between Sandra Long and the wife of his friend, he commented, “I should rape the bitch.” On September 2, 1994, the day of Sandra Lee Long’s murder, Steckel gained access to her Driftwood Club Apartment by asking her if he could use her telephone. Once inside, the 6′ 3", 195-pound Steckel pretended to use the phone, but unplugged it from the wall. Steckel then demanded sexual favors from Sandra, and she refused. Steckel beat Sandra and threw her onto a couch pinning her beneath him. During the struggle, Sandra bit Steckel’s finger causing it to bleed. Steckel then attempted to strangle Sandra with a pair of nylons which he brought with him. When his attempts to strangle her with the nylons failed, Steckel grabbed a sock and continued to strangle her with the sock. Sandra eventually fell unconscious, and while unconscious Steckel sexually assaulted her, first using a screw-driver he brought with him, and then by raping her anally. Sandra remained unconscious while Steckel dragged her to the bedroom and set the bed on fire using a black lighter which he had brought with him. Steckel also set fire to the curtain in Sandra’s bathroom. After setting the fires, Steckel departed to have a few beers with a former coworker. Steckel drove to the man’s residence during lunch time. Although the man came home for lunch, he then returned to work, leaving Steckel alone with his wife. Steckel then asked the woman to drive him to a liquor store to purchase beer. The route she took to the liquor store went past the now burning apartment of Sandra Long. Upon passing the apartment, Steckel became visibly angry and slouched down in his seat. Steckel asked the woman why she went this way, and she said, “What’s the matter with you, you’re acting like you killed someone.” Steckel then denied killing anyone and instructed her to proceed to the liquor store. While driving, she noticed that Steckel’s finger was bleeding, but she dismissed the wound. After drinking several beers back at the woman’s home, Steckel requested another ride from her, and she dropped him off at a convenience store on Lancaster Avenue. In the meantime, police, firefighters and passers-by responded to Sandra Long’s burning apartment building. Two men who worked as tree trimmers were driving past the apartments, saw the flames and stopped to render assistance. When they approached the building, they heard Sandra, who had regained consciousness, screaming for help. Lane Randolph testified at Steckel’s trial that he heard Sandra cry out weakly, "Help me, please." He kicked out the window of the basement apartment, and was able to grasp her arm briefly, but he was driven back by the flames. His co-worker, John Hall, was able to kick in the door of the apartment, but could not reach Sandra through the flames. Sandra died in her apartment and over 60% of her body was badly burned. Later the same day, the News Journal received an anonymous phone call from a male who identified himself as the “Driftwood Killer.” The man named his next victim by name. The News 4 Journal contacted the police, and the police brought the woman the caller had identified into protective custody. The woman had previously reported to the police that she had been receiving harassing phone calls with a “very lurid, very sexual” content. The authorities had traced these calls to Steckel. Based on the phone calls to the News Journal and the connection to the woman under protection, the authorities began to suspect Steckel of Sandra’s murder. Steckel was arrested in connection with an outstanding harassment warrant for the phone calls to the woman. Steckel was visibly intoxicated upon his arrest and agitated, so the police did not question him immediately. When Steckel awoke the next morning, he asked police, “So I killed her?” The police advised Steckel of his Miranda rights and offered him breakfast. Steckel waived his rights and was then interviewed by the police. During the interview, Steckel confessed in detail to his crimes against Sandra Long. Steckel recounted his attempts to strangle Sandra, his rape of Sandra and the fires he set. Steckel told police he had taken the nylons, screw driver and lighter with him for use in the attack. Steckel also told police that he discarded the screwdriver in a nearby dumpster. Steckel further confessed to harassing the woman that police were protecting and calling the News Journal and threatening her. With Steckel’s permission, he was taken to a forensic dentist who examined the wounds on Steckel’s finger. The dentist opined that the wound had been caused within 24 hours by Sandra’s teeth. Although some portions of Steckel’s confession lacked credibility, many of the details were confirmed by subsequent investigation by the police, including the autopsy of Sandra, the fire department’s discovery of the points of origin of the fire, DNA testing of blood found on Sandra’s apartment door, which matched Steckel, and the discovery of the nylons, lighter and screwdriver used in the attack. During his trial, Steckel sent a copy of Sandra Long’s autopsy to her mother, writing "Read it and weep. She’s gone forever. Don’t cry over burnt flesh." The jury convicted Steckel of three counts of Murder First Degree, two counts of Burglary Second Degree, one count of Unlawful Sexual Penetration First Degree, one count of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse First Degree, one count of Arson First Degree and one count of Aggravated Harassment. Following a penalty hearing, Steckel was sentenced to death. The victim’s sister, Karen Thomas, said she does not know if she will attend the execution, but another family member may attend. "I don’t care if he lives or dies, I just want people to remember Sandra. She was beautiful. An angel," she said. Sandra’s family described her as a loving person who was close to her family and friends. She was the youngest of foru children and also had worked as a waitress and a saleswoman. Sandra’s mother Virginia Thomas said her daughter was a giving person who would offer help to whomever needed it. After witnessing the execution, Virginia thanked prosecutors, police and the courts for their assistance during "this terrible nightmare. Now hopefully, we will have some peace and closure." Steckel’s latest appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court, arguing that Delaware’s death-penalty law was unconstitutional, was turned down in September. He had argued, unsuccessfully, that he had ineffective attorneys at trial. He admitted his crimes and told jurors during the penalty phase of his trial that he deserved to die. "I ask you to hold me accountable for what I did… I know what I did was wrong: it was selfish [and] despicable," he said. Prosecutors also presented letters Steckel had written to the victim’s mother, Virginia Thomas, that read: "I’m not sorry for what I did to your daughter. She deserved everything she got." Ten years ago, Steckel mailed a confession to Fountain Hill police claiming responsibility for the abduction and murder of 44-year-old Frances Kiefer. Steckel’s mother’s former neighbor disappeared from her S. Hoffert Street home on March 22, 1994. Frances has never been found.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 4, 2005 South Carolina Charles Griffeth, 56
David Moore, 30
Leonard Earnest Filyaw, 30
Sheryl Wood, 27
Arthur Wise executed

David MooreSheryl WoodThe state Supreme Court has set an execution date for a man convicted of killing four former co-workers at an Aiken County plant in 1997. The justices have set a November 4th execution date for 51-year-old Arthur Hastings Wise. Wise had asked to have his appeals dropped almost immediately after his 2001 conviction. The attorney general’s office says Wise had offered no defense during his trial. Wise was within weeks of dying by lethal injection in June 2004 when the state Supreme Court stopped his execution because his lawyer said he wanted to appeal and Wise wrote a letter to the court saying he wanted to die. Charles Griffeth, David Moore, Earnest Filyaw and Sheryl Wood died and three other people were hurt in the attack at the R.E. Phelon lawnmower ignition plant. UPDATE: Charles Griffeth was hired by R.E. Phelon to fill the management opening in human resources. Pam Morey, his assistant, said. "(Mr. Phelon) got the best man for the job when he hired Charles. Charles would walk through the plant and talk and joke with the workers. He treated people with tenderness. He made it worthwhile going to work." But the good times ended violently Sept. 15 that year, when Hastings Arthur Wise, a former Phelon machine operator who had been fired two months earlier, returned with a gun, nearly 200 rounds of ammunition and a plan to make those he felt had wronged him pay in blood. At the end of the rampage, four were dead and three wounded. The violence started at about 3 p.m. on that Monday eight years ago when security officer Stanley Vance took the first bullet from Wise’s gun – in the chest at close range – and fell in the guard shack where he had been on duty. From there, Wise headed for the human resources department inside the main building. Pam Morey, whose last name at the time was Holley, was on the telephone at her desk in the outer office when Wise rushed in, searching for Charles Griffeth. "I saw the shadow just dart past me. I froze when I heard the noise (of gunfire)," she said. Charles Griffeth had also been on the phone when Wise entered. He tried to take cover when he spotted the gun, said his sister-in-law Janet Cooper. But there was no time to find safety. The well-loved manager died at his desk when he was shot twice in the back. Returning to the outer office, Wise accosted Pam Morey. "He put the gun between my eyes," she said. He then ordered her off the phone and yanked it out of the wall. "I just started pleading and praying. I said, ‘I have kids. I’m a single mother. Please don’t kill me,’" Mrs. Morey said. The gunman was distracted by someone who entered the building, and he left the room. Terrified, Mrs. Morey said she hid under her desk "because I didn’t want to see somebody get shot." When she eventually heard shots farther off, she jumped up and ran from the building. Wise continued his rampage, firing and reloading. He moved to the tool and dye area where he had wanted to work but had been denied. There, David Moore, Earnest Filyaw, Lucius Corley and John Mitchell were shot. David Moore and Earnest Filyaw both died. After a frantic search, worker John Goad discovered his brother behind a work station and figured he was hiding from the gunman. Then he rolled his brother over. "I could see the blood on his chest. His eyes were still open. He was starting to turn purple," Mr. Goad told the jury in Wise’s trial as tears streamed down his face. “When I realized he was gone, I just started calling his name. I said, ‘No, David, no!’" David Moore, his brother and co-worker, was gone. But the war-like atmosphere around Mr. Goad continued. "I could hear the shots, and I could hear people screaming,” he said. "I knew I had to go. I knew I couldn’t carry him out. So I ran out the way I came." An Aiken resident, Moore had a fiancee when he was killed. He was a member of Holiness Church. He was survived by his parents, a brother and sister and his maternal grandparents. After the gunman walked out of the tool and die area toward the quality assurance division, employee David Langille said, Mr. Langille checked on co-worker Leonard Filyaw, who had been hit once with gunfire. "His eyes, there was a blank stare. I knew he was dead,” Mr. Langille said. David Moore had the same lifeless stare, he said. But John Mucha was alive, begging and pleading for help for his gunshot wound. His co-workers came to his aid and carried him outside. Earnest Filyaw was from Warrenville and had been engaged for two weeks when he was killed. He was a 1985 graduate of Silver Bluff High School and liked to collect guns. He was survived by his parents, two sisters and his maternal grandparents. After hearing gunfire from the shootings of Moore and Filyaw, other employees ran. Sheryl Wood almost made it out, but that wasn’t Wise’s plan. He shot the young woman who got the job he wanted. She fell, with bullets in her back and leg. The gunman walked up to where she lay on the floor and shot her in the head. In the quality assurance office, she lay there, pleading with others not to leave her. Minutes later, die cast worker Bruce Mundy appeared. He had been outside but decided to return and help the wounded. He soon discovered Ms. Wood. "I yelled into the radio that I had found somebody and they were hurt,” Mr. Mundy told the jury, fighting back tears. "I couldn’t move her. She squeezed my hand, but as far as talking – no, she couldn’t talk…. She was gurgling, her eyes rolled back into her head, and she died.” Still, Mr. Mundy and others lifted Ms. Wood onto a stretcher and carried her outside, just in time to meet arriving police and rescue personnel. Sheryl Wood was the last of seven victims. The 27-year-old from Bath was a 1988 graduate of Midland Valley High School, where she played basketball, volleyball and softball. She was survived by her mother and father, a brother, five sisters and her grandmother. Only Mr. Vance, Mr. Corley and Mr. Mitchell survived. Aiken Public Safety Officer Bob Besley testified that he arrived at the plant and eventually found the body of human resources manager Charles Griffeth in the front office, a telephone still in his hand. The manager’s eyes were fixed and dilated, and he had no pulse, Officer Besley said. Beth Griffeth, Charles Griffeth’s widow, was too traumatized to attend any of the trial and will be out of the state, said her sister Mrs. Cooper. "She didn’t want to face it," Mrs. Cooper said. "We’re just so hoping that once this is over, it will give her some closure. She won’t have to deal with it every time something else comes up." Pam Morey understands her pain. "She lost one of the best men God ever made. I felt like I lost my dad when I lost him," she said. UPDATE: Hastings Wise was put to death by lethal injection Friday night for killing four workers at an Aiken County plant in September 1997 out of revenge for being fired. Wise, 51, tried to die the day of the killings, drinking insecticide after the plant emptied. But it only made him violently ill. Wise refused to let witnesses testify for him as jurors chose between the death penalty and life in prison, then refused to appeal his conviction. Prosecutors said Wise waited for afternoon shift change at the R.E. Phelon lawnmower ignition plant so he could make sure all of his targets were there. He only shot people who he thought led to his firing several weeks before or took jobs he wanted, authorities said. Wise made no final statement and never looked at the victims’ families or other witnesses. Instead, he stared at the ceiling and took several deep breaths as the lethal mix of three chemicals went into his veins. His rapid blinking ended with his eyes wide open at about the same time his chest stopped rising. It was about two minutes after the curtain to the death chamber opened. The official time of death was 6:18 p.m. "He didn’t die a violent death. He died easy, went to sleep," said Tommy Thompson. Thompson’s son David Moore was one of the four killed eight years ago. He wanted to be there to watch justice be served. "He’s dead. He won’t be able to commit crimes again, but you never get over the loss," said Thompson. According to witnesses, Wise didn’t look at anyone nor did he offer any words to the victims’ families. "I was hoping he might have said, I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t in him," said John Wood, whose daughter Sheryl was killed in the attack. Zach Bush was working at R.E. Phelon that fateful day, but Wise spared his life. He came to honor those who weren’t as fortunate. "All of our family there at the R.E. Phelon company hope this will be a passing page in the chapter of the book of our lives," said Bush. "When it happens to you and your family, that’s when it comes home and no one should ever have to go through that," said Thompson. And though the execution brings closure, victims say they’ll never forget the loss.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 9, 2005 Texas Karen Gail Crawford , 25 Charles Thacker executed

karen crawford smallKaren Gail Crawford was a 1991 Sam Houston State University graduate who majored in education. She taught second grade in the Klein Independent School District for less than two years before her tragic death in April 1993. On the evening of April 7, 1993, during a telephone conversation with a friend, Karen Crawford said that she was going to go to the store for dog food. That same evening, a resident of her apartment complex informed the maintenance supervisor that Karen Crawford’s keys were hanging from her mailbox, which was located in a common area near the apartment offices. The maintenance supervisor went to Karen’s apartment, but she did not answer the door. He then noticed her car, with her dog inside, parked near the mail room. While checking the area of the mail room and pool, he found the women’s restroom locked. He beat on the door, and a man’s voice answered from the inside. The man became quiet when asked why he was using the women’s restroom. The maintenance supervisor attempted unsuccessfully to force open the door of the restroom. He then telephoned the apartment manager. She and her husband arrived at the scene, and the three discussed what to do. Suddenly, the restroom door opened and Thacker emerged. A fight ensued when the maintenance supervisor attempted to stop him. He attempted to cut Thacker with his pocket knife, but Thacker sprayed him with mace and got away. Thacker sprayed the manager’s husband as well, and then pushed his way through one of the two exit gates. The maintenance man and others nearby chased Thacker down the block and tried to cut off his escape. In the meantime, the manager found Karen lying face down on the restroom floor. She was unconscious. One shoe and one leg of her jogging pants were pulled off; the other pants leg was pulled down to her ankle. The maintenance man and another bystander administered CPR. They detected a heart beat, but she was not breathing. Some faint brain activity was detected when she arrived at the hospital, but it ceased within twenty-four hours. Medical examiners concluded that Karen’s death was the result of strangulation. Karen’s neck was bruised on the front and left side and her face and eyes exhibited a condition known as pinpoint hemorrhaging. It was determined that a choke hold or “hammerlock” was the probable method of strangulation. No evidence of a completed sexual assault was found. In the early morning hours of April 8, 1993, a police canine unit found Thacker hiding in a yard near Karen Crawford’s apartment complex. A truck containing papers bearing Thacker’s name was found parked outside the offices of Karen’s apartment complex. Thacker was identified by several witnesses who saw him loitering about the mail room just before the offense. He was also identified by witnesses who saw him running where Karen was found. A pubic hair matching a sample from Karen was found in Thacker’s underwear. UPDATE: A convicted serial rapist was executed tonight for the strangling and attempted rape of a suburban Houston elementary school teacher 12 years ago. His voice choked with emotion, Charles Daniel Thacker expressed love to his family and friends and apologized. "I am sorry for the things I have done," he said. "I know God will forgive me." Thacker asked the two spiritual advisers who were his witnesses to keep track of his daughter for him. "I will miss you guys. I love you," he said. As the drugs began flowing, he said that he would "get to see Mom." One of the needles was in his left hand and another on his right arm. He asked his witnesses to tell his attorney that "they couldn’t find a vein on my arm." The issue of injection procedures was in his appeals that were rejected by the Supreme Court about 30 minutes before his execution. He gasped several times as the drugs took effect and was pronounced dead at 6:32 p.m., nine minutes later. Thacker argued he was innocent of the death of Karen Gail Crawford, 26, who was attacked outside her apartment in Tomball in northwest Harris County. At the time of the April 1993 offense, Thacker had been out of prison about eight months after serving less than four years of two 12-year sentences for robbery and sexual assault. After a Harris County jury convicted him of capital murder, the same jurors condemned him after hearing from at least a half dozen victims who testified how he raped or attempted to sexually assault them. Thacker’s relatives testified he had been molested as a child by his mother’s boyfriend and underwent counseling. Appeals attorneys tried unsuccessfully to delay his punishment, contending new DNA testing should be performed on evidence and challenging the execution procedures and the questions asked of jurors who decided Thacker should die. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles this week refused to commute his sentence to life in prison and refused a request to delay the punishment for 120 days. Thacker, 37, a native of Lorain County, Ohio, declined to be interviewed in the weeks leading up to his execution, but on a Web site where death row inmates seek pen pals acknowledged he was in the area when Crawford was attacked "up to no good with two other guys looking for stuff to steal and sell." There was no evidence of others involved. Thacker’s truck was found in the apartment complex parking lot, and witnesses reported seeing him loitering in the area. On his Web site, Thacker suggested Crawford accidentally died because of CPR efforts. The second-grade teacher was surprised from behind while at a community mailbox at her apartment complex and was dragged into a restroom. A search began when a passer-by spotted a key dangling from Crawford’s open mailbox and her car was nearby with her dog inside. A maintenance worker found the women’s restroom nearby locked but was surprised to hear a male voice from inside. When the door opened, the worker was blasted with pepper spray from the fleeing man, whom he later identified as Thacker. Other residents who chased the man as he ran into a wooded area also said it was Thacker. Crawford was found unconscious inside the restroom. Police using tracking dogs found Thacker hiding in a yard. Authorities found a hair belonging to the victim in Thacker’s underwear, Thacker wanted the DNA testing to support his claim he was not involved in Crawford’s death. An autopsy showed Crawford had been choked or was held in a hammerlock, leading to her death two days later. The women who testified he raped or tried to rape them ranged in age from 13 to 64. "I remember he was a particularly dangerous guy," recalled Joe Owmby, a Harris County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Thacker. "You get the feeling that sometimes when you have violent robbers something went wrong in a capital murder. "But with him, you didn’t get the feeling something went wrong, that he just hadn’t gotten up the nerve to kill anyone yet. He was stalking these women and he was going to kill."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 11, 2005 North Carolina Mildred Johnson Adams
Wesley Dalton Adams, Sr.
Steven McHone executed

DaltonMildredAdamsSteven McHone was the son of Mildred Adams, who had divorced Wesley Adams Sr. and remarried after having his children. She later left Bobby McHone and remarried Mr. Adams, about seven years before they were killed, their son Randall Adams said. In the summer of 1990, his brother Wesley Adams Jr., a Captain in the United States Air Force, and his family were visiting in his parents’ home in Surry County, NC. Wendy Adams, Wesley Jr.’s wife and the mother of two-year-old Alex, testified at trial that on the evening of June 2, 1990, she, Wesley Jr., Alex, and Mr. and Mrs. Adams went on a fishing trip. Wendy and Wesley Jr. cleaned Mr. Adams’ camper prior to leaving for the trip. While cleaning the camper they discovered a handgun. Mrs. Adams explained that the gun was for protection from animals when camping. The family returned from the fishing trip at approximately 12:30 a.m. on 3 June 1990. Steven McHone, who resided with his parents, was at home when they arrived. Wendy began getting Alex prepared for bed, and while doing so, she overheard McHone arguing with Mr. and Mrs. Adams about money. McHone told them "he wanted his money and he couldn’t go on living like that." McHone was upset because his mother would not give him money she had set aside to pay his court-ordered restitution from a previous conviction. McHone, who had a string of larceny and theft convictions on his record, chased his mother around the yard of her Surry County home before shooting her in the back of the head. Testimony at trial showed that Wendy, Wesley Jr., and Alex had gone to bed. Approximately ten or fifteen minutes after they were in bed, Mildred Adams opened the door to their room. She asked Wesley Jr. if he had taken the handgun from the camper. Wesley Jr. said that he had not moved the gun. Mrs. Adams responded, "then its missing" and she closed the bedroom door. Wesley Jr. got up and began to get dressed so that he could find out why McHone was arguing with his parents. However, before he left the bedroom, he and Wendy heard three gun shots. Wesley Jr. told Wendy "to stay down and keep Alex covered." He then went out into the hallway to find out what had happened. Wendy heard someone coming up the basement stairs, then heard Mr. Adams tell Wesley Jr. to call 911. Wesley Jr. testified that while he was talking on the telephone with the 911 operator, he turned and saw McHone and Mr. Adams enter the back door. They were wrestling and McHone had a pistol. Wesley Jr. immediately dropped the telephone and disarmed McHone. Wesley Jr. went back to the telephone and McHone and Mr. Adams began wrestling again. Mr. Adams and McHone struggled out of the living room and headed down the hallway, out of Wesley Jr.’s sight. Approximately a minute later, Mr. Adams reappeared in the kitchen doorway and said, "Your mother is facedown out back. You have got to get help for her. Your mother’s facedown. I don’t know how badly she’s hurt." As Mr. Adams approached Wesley Jr., McHone came to the doorway carrying a shotgun. When Mr. Adams realized that McHone was bringing the gun up into a firing position, aimed at Wesley Jr., he immediately moved toward McHone, reaching for the gun. McHone fired the shotgun into Mr. Adams’ chest, and the force of the discharge threw Mr. Adams into Wesley Jr.’s arms, knocking them both to the floor and injuring Wesley Jr.’s leg. After shooting Mr. Adams, McHone raised the gun in the direction of Wesley Jr. who managed to get up from the floor and take the weapon from McHone. When the struggle ended, Wesley Jr. told McHone to stay down and not to move. McHone began crying and saying, "Oh, my God. What have I done." Wesley Jr. turned away from McHone to see if his wife was safe. McHone then stopped crying and reached for the shotgun. Wesley Jr. struggled with McHone again, and was able to keep the weapon from him. McHone suddenly began to curse Wesley Jr. and told him, "I killed him. Now I want you to kill me, because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in jail. Just shoot me. Just get it over with." McHone continued to curse Wesley Jr. in a very loud voice and stated that Wesley Jr. was gutless and "if Wesley Jr. didn’t kill him and he got out of jail he’d hunt him down and hunt his family down and finish them off." A member of the first response team organized by the volunteer fire service testified that when he arrived at the Adams residence Mr. Adams was lying on the kitchen floor. He determined that Mr. Adams had a large chest wound and he did not have a pulse. Another member of the first response team found Mrs. Adams on the ground in the backyard. She appeared to have been shot in the back of the head, but she was still alive. Mrs. Adams later died from the gunshot wound. A Deputy Sheriff with the Surry County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the crime scene shortly after 2:00 a.m. When the officer entered the house, McHone yelled, "Why did I do it? What have I done?" McHone was taken outside and placed in the patrol car. The officer smelled alcohol on defendant’s breath. At trial, the officer testified that a person is drunk when that "person’s mental and physical capabilities are impaired to the point that he cannot walk, talk, or act in a proper fashion." In his opinion, McHone was not drunk on the night the murders occurred. A detective with the Surry County Sheriff’s Department testified that when he entered the couple’s residence, McHone stated, "I know what I’ve done, and I’ll have to pay for it. Why don’t you just shoot me and get it over with." The detective also testified that although McHone had been drinking, he did not believe that he was drunk. A pathologist at North Carolina Baptist Hospital who performed autopsies on Mr. Adams and Mrs. Adams determined that Mr. Adams died of a shotgun wound to the chest, and Mrs. Adams died of a gunshot wound to the head. The State presented other witnesses who testified to a stormy relationship between McHone and his mother, including several threats by McHone to harm or kill her. McHone did not testify. However, McHone presented witnesses who testified that McHone had been drinking prior to the murders. The State told the jury that McHone may have been intoxicated but he was not drunk to the point of not being responsible for his actions. The jury heard evidence that on prior occasions McHone had chased his mother around the house with a knife, threatening to kill her, that Mildred reported to her friends that she was afraid to be alone with him because "he had told her that he was going to kill her," and that she was "afraid to lay down and go to sleep at night" because she believed that "sooner or later he was going to kill her." The jury convicted McHone of two counts of first degree murder, one each for killing his mother, Mildred, and his step-father, Wesley, Sr. The jury also convicted McHone of one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, for his attack on his step-brother, Wesley, Jr. UPDATE: Steven Van McHone was executed early Friday for the shooting deaths of his mother and stepfather. McHone, 35, was pronounced dead by injection at 2:10 a.m., said Pam Walker, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections. He issued no last statement, but appeared to say "I’m so sorry" to a half-brother who supported the execution. He lost his last chance to halt the execution when Gov. Mike Easley denied clemency late Thursday. That decision was announced after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down McHone’s appeal without comment. The court rejected the appeal from McHone’s lawyers to stop the execution so that his mother’s dying statement that he didn’t intend to shoot her could be considered. Earlier in the day, the state Supreme Court had overturned a stay issued by a lower court judge for the Surry County man. McHone was sentenced to death for the 1990 slayings of his mother and stepfather. He’s the third person executed this year in North Carolina. "Given the facts and circumstances of this case, I find no compelling reasons to invalidate the sentences recommended by the jury and affirmed by the courts," Easley said in a statement. Last week, the governor and his legal adviser met with prosecutors, defense lawyers and members of McHone’s family. Two half sisters and a half brother had asked that McHone not be executed, saying they forgave him and wanted to forge a relationship with him. But another half brother, who caught his father after he was hit by a shotgun blast, told Easley that justice demanded the execution. Surry County Superior Court Judge Anderson Cromer on Wednesday ordered the execution stopped to allow a paramedic who treated Mildred Adams, McHone’s mother, to testify about her patient’s dying statement. Paramedic Teresa Durham said in an affidavit that Adams told her that McHone didn’t mean to fatally shoot her. McHone also killed Adams’ husband, Wesley Adams Sr. The state’s high court rejected the defense argument, but didn’t say why in its one-page order vacating the stay. The U.S. Supreme Court then followed with its decision. McHone’s half brother, Wesley Adams Jr. and wife Wendy, drove from their home in Dayton, Ohio, to witness the execution. Wesley Jr. caught his father’s body after McHone shot him. Adams cites threats that McHone made in a letter written to a girlfriend in September 1990 as part of his reason for not feeling safe. The state attorney general’s office released the letter last week. In the letter, McHone wrote that every time he thought of the way his half-brother was treating him, it "tears me up! I know one thing, if I ever get out of prison, I’m going off on his ass… he won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell when and if I get out!" Adams said that he and his wife, Wendy Adams, and their child still feel threatened. "Wendy and I and my son Alex were there," Adams said in an interview last week. "Unless you’ve experienced this type of terror – and that’s exactly what it was – you’re really an outside party. That crosses a threshold where I’m having difficulty saying ‘OK, everything’s forgiven here.’ I don’t know that I’m ready to say I’m fully comfortable that the state of North Carolina will incarcerate him for life." Wendy Adams said she was inside a bedroom with her young son when the shootings occurred. She specifically rebuts the comments that Mildred Adams is said to have made to Durham. "She could not have imagined what he did afterward. None of us can say how she would have felt if he had killed her only grandson," Wendy Adams said. "Our family has lived in this shadow for 15 years now." Wendy Adams said in a telephone interview that the paramedic’s testimony was suspicious. "There was another paramedic with her and do we have any word from whoever it was that they heard it, too?" she said. "It was iffy because from all accounts she didn’t tell anybody about it until years afterward." McHone, who was housed alone in a cell block near the death chamber, visited with family members who supported his try for clemency – his half sisters, Tina Walker and Cheryl McMillian, and a half brother, Randall Adams. Randall Adams said he always looked forward to holidays with his parents, especially after Mildred and Wesley Adams Sr. remarried after years apart. “It was a good thing,” said Mr. Adams, 44, of Siloam. “We had good food and everybody was laughing and joking and carrying on. That was the first time in a long time that we had been able to do anything like that. They’d been separated a lot of years.” Evidence showed McHone and his 52-year-old mother argued over money and that he chased her around the yard before shooting her in the back of the head. Wesley Adams Sr., 52, disarmed McHone and went to help his wife while McHone found another weapon and shot his stepfather before being disarmed by his half-brother Wesley Jr.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 15, 2005 Texas Irving Wright
Raymond David Mata
Robert Rowell executed

On 05/10/1993 in Houston, Texas, Rowell entered a crack house in an attempt to rob Irving Wright of drugs and money. Rowell started shooting with a 25 caliber pistol striking all three victims, killing Wright and Raymond David Mata. Another man was shot in the left arm and leg and paralyzed. Rowell then robbed the victims of unknown money and fled the scene by car. Rowell came to the home of people with whom he was supposedly friends in search of drugs and money. While he probably could have gotten what he wanted with very little resistance from Wright due to his size, Rowell chose instead to beat him in the head with a claw hammer. Then, still receiving no resistance from any of the victims, Rowell marched all three into the bathroom and shot them. One of the victims also had signs of continued beatings after he was shot. Rowell then proceeded to take a shower and clean himself up. UPDATE: Tuesday night Robert Rowell, 50, was executed for fatally shooting three people at a Houston crack house. A third person was wounded and left paralyzed. In a brief final statement as relatives of one of his victims watched through a window, Rowell apologized "for all the grief I have caused them." He was pronounced dead approximately nine minutes after the lethal injection began.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 15, 2005 Ohio unnamed victim
Betty Jane Mottinger
John Spirko stayed

Betty Mottinger smallJohn Spirko was sentenced to die in 1984 for the murder of Elgin postmaster Betty Jane Mottinger. Spirko, 58, claims that the state’s case against him was weakened when charges against his co-defendant were dropped last year. He also says prosecutors withheld key evidence and presented a false case. An important element of the Van Wert County prosecutor’s case was a witness who said she recognized co-defendant Delaney Gibson, a friend of Spirko, near the Elgin post office the day that Mottinger disappeared. No physical evidence tied Spirko to the murder. He was convicted of the killing based largely on his statements to police and the testimony of the eyewitness who said she had seen Gibson near the post office. Prosecutors had alleged that Spirko participated in the kidnapping and killing of Mottinger with Gibson. Prosecutors never told the jury or defense that they had evidence before the trial that Gibson was with family in North Carolina, hundreds of miles from Elgin, the night before the crime. Recently, Spirko’s lawyers said evidence had surfaced that a key investigator told the prosecutor before the 1984 trial that Gibson wasn’t involved in the murder, but that the prosecutor used the Gibson allegations against Spirko anyway. The prosecutor has denied this. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge James Carr of Toledo authorized Spirko’s lawyers to investigate that evidence further. Gibson was never tried in the Mottinger case. Capital murder charges against him were dismissed last year. Spirko, born in Toledo, was paroled in Kentucky in 1982 for a separate murder. He returned to Swanton to live with his sister. He was soon jailed there on an unrelated assault charge, a parole violation. Spirko’s attorneys argued he is sitting on death row because he lied to investigators about having information about the unsolved Mottinger murder. Spirko has maintained he wanted to trade false information for leniency for himself on the assault charge as well as for his girlfriend, who had been charged with helping him to attempt a prison escape. Although investigators dismissed much of what he told them, they latched onto Spirko’s connection with Gibson and several details they said could come only from the killer. These details included: 1) the location of the stab wounds in Ms. Mottinger’s body; 2) a description of Ms. Mottinger’s clothing; 3) knowledge that a stone had been pried from a ring worn by Ms. Mottinger; 4) a description of the ring; 5) the type of shroud and specific method used to enwrap Ms. Mottinger’s body after her death; 6) a description of Ms. Mottinger’s purse into which the perpetrators placed the fruits of the Post Office robbery; and 7) a description of what was stolen in that robbery. On October 28, 2004 and November 16, 2004, Spirko filed an application for DNA testing in the trial court. Spirko requested DNA testing on “blood or other evidence received from the person of the deceased, Betty Mottinger, or from physical evidence recovered from the area where the body was discovered including blood evidence on tarp and boots.” On March 10, 2005, the trial court denied Spirko’s request for DNA testing. In doing so, the trial court noted the following: 1) There was no biological material found at the site of the abduction; 2) At trial it was never claimed that any of the blood found on or in the area of the victim’s remains was the defendant’s; and 3) As to the boots, it was conceded by the prosecution at trial that it could have been Spirko’s blood on the boots. Thus, the trial court concluded that DNA testing could not exonerate Spirko. In September, Gov. Bob Taft delayed Spirko’s execution to allow for a second parole board hearing. Taft ordered the execution delayed from Sept. 20 until Nov. 15 to allow for the hearing. UPDATE: Gov. Bob Taft on Monday delayed the execution of a condemned killer who says he’s innocent, the second time in two months Taft ordered a delay in a case nagged by questions over evidence. Taft granted John Spirko a 60-day reprieve at the request of Attorney General Jim Petro, who says he needs that long to test several items that Spirko’s attorneys want reviewed. Petro informed Taft and Spirko’s attorneys in letters Monday about his willingness to conduct the testing and his request for the 60-day reprieve. "I am a proponent of DNA technology," Petro said in the two-page letter to Thomas Hill, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney representing Spirko. "It is important to accommodate the use of DNA testing where practical and feasible." Petro, a Republican running for governor next year, said he does not believe the testing will be able to prove either Spirko’s innocence or his guilt. "Notwithstanding, I believe that to the extent possible, all information should be made available for the parties, courts, and the Governor to use for what purpose they feel necessary," Petro said. Spirko was scheduled to die by injection Nov. 15 for the 1982 killing of Betty Jane Mottinger, 48, the postmistress in Elgin in northwest Ohio. She was abducted and repeatedly stabbed, then wrapped in a tarp and dumped in a field. Her body was found three weeks later. Spirko, 59, was convicted on the basis of witness’ statements and his own comments to investigators. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. Authorities say he described details only someone at the scene of the crime could know. Spirko says he got the details from media reports and used the information to make a deal with authorities to gain the release of a girlfriend, who was held on an unrelated crime. Spirko sued in federal court last Wednesday to require the testing of the tarp, a cement block found near Mottinger’s body and duct tape wrapped around her, among other items. On Sept. 8, Taft delayed Spirko’s scheduled Sept. 20 execution to look into whether prosecutors presented inaccurate information at a clemency hearing in August. In response, the Ohio Parole Board granted an unprecedented second clemency hearing for Spirko, and on Oct. 19 voted 6-3 to recommend that Taft allow the execution to proceed. The majority said the claims of new evidence weren’t enough to merit clemency. The delay is encouraging, said Alvin Dunn, an attorney also representing Spirko. "We’re looking forward to having this completed and believe it will demonstrate that our client had nothing to do with this crime," Dunn said Monday. The tarp is important to Spirko’s case because of a house painter who maintains his former boss on a painting crew is the real killer. The house painter, John Willier, passed a lie detector test last month as he repeated a 1997 statement accusing his boss, who is now in a Louisiana prison. Spirko’s attorneys say Willier told investigators in 1984 that the paint-splattered tarp Mottinger’s body was wrapped in was the one his crew was using. Chemical tests matched the paint to houses the crew worked on. In past court filings, Spirko’s attorneys also questioned prosecutors’ attempt to link Spirko to the crime through a friend. Prosecutors alleged the friend, Delaney Gibson, was seen near the post office the day Mottinger was abducted. But Spirko’s attorneys say photographs and other evidence place Gibson with a full beard in North Carolina the day before. Witnesses say the man they saw at the post office was clean shaven. Last year, prosecutors dropped death penalty charges against Gibson in connection with Mottinger’s death, saying the case against Gibson was too old.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 16, 2005 Texas Roberto Rios
Victor Rios, 13
Maria Rios, 10
Melathethil Tom Varughese
Shannon Thomas executed

Relatives bringing Christmas gifts to the home or Roberto Rios 12 years ago in Baytown, just east of Houston, were greeted with the horror of discovering the three bodies. On Dec. 24, 1993, Shannon Thomas and Keith Clay committed the triple murder of Roberto Rios; Rios’ 13-year-old son, Victor; and Rios’ 10-year-old daughter, Maria, at Rios’ home. Rios, 32, had been shot, beaten and stabbed, a steak knife still in his neck. His 11-year-old son, Victor, and 10-year-old daughter, Maria, were upstairs in the small house, both face down and shot in the head. "When you’re at a murder scene looking at dead kids and there’s Christmas presents around and you look at the TV and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ is playing, it took me five years before I could watch that movie again," Baytown Detective Randy Rhodes said Tuesday. "For the rest of my life, Christmas is going to be associated with those kids. I hope for his own sake and his own soul he’s gotten straight with the Lord, but he’s got a debt to pay and it’s time to pay it." Keith Clay confessed to only "roughing up" Roberto Rios, who was found bound with duct tape, beaten with a pair of bolt cutters, stabbed in the neck, and shot three times. His two children were found shot execution style in the back of the head. Shannon Thomas was also present with Keith Bernard Clay during the murder of a convenience store clerk less than two weeks later. Thomas was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for his role as the primary actor in the Rios family murders. Authorities said Rios, whose ex-wife lived in Monterrey, Mexico, was a small-time marijuana dealer. "They wanted dope and money out of him," said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Marie Munier, who prosecuted the case. Munier said evidence showed Rios was duct-taped to a chair, tortured and "beat with this pair of tin snips or metal snips, a humongous pair of scissors, then stabbed… The family comes over later that evening to bring presents and they find bodies." It was almost two years before any arrests were made in the slayings. Thomas and Clay apparently told friends about the murders. When one of those friends was arrested on a drug charge, he gave police information implicating Thomas and Clay. A friend testified Thomas told him shortly after the slayings he was responsible for the Rios family killings. At the time of these murders, Thomas was on probation for delivery of a controlled substance, and records show a motion to revoke his probation was pending. He also had served time at a Harris County boot camp after an assault conviction. On Jan. 4, 1994, Melathethil Tom Varughese, the clerk at the Texaco station who was working alone, was found lying on the floor behind the cashier’s booth with Christmas tree lights wrapped around his wrists. Two $20 bills were found on the floor under the register, and eight shell casings were found scattered around the store. Varughese had been shot six times in various parts of his body. He suffered multiple lacerations on his face and forehead, and suffered extensive blunt force trauma to the head, including a fractured skull. Items missing from the store included: most of the money in the cash register, a pistol usually kept behind the counter, and a small red cigar box kept behind the counter that occasionally had money in it. Evidence presented at trial indicated that the eight shell casings found at the scene came from the same 9 mm Hi-Point pistol. The bullets found in Varughese’s body were from two different guns, one a 9 mm, and the other, a revolver like the one kept under the cash register. Houston authorities arrested Clay the following December under suspicion for Varughese’s murder and for the 1993 Christmas Eve triple murder of the Roberto Rios family that had occurred two weeks before the Varughese murder. Clay was subsequently convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for his role in the Varughese robbery/murder. Evidence presented during the punishment phase of Clay’s capital murder trial included his admitted presence and participation in the Rios family incident.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 18 2005 North Carolina Teresa Yousef Syriani Elias Syriani executed

teresa syrianiElias Hanna Syriani, 67, was scheduled to be executed Nov. 18 for the 1990 murder of Teresa Yousef Syriani in Mecklenburg County. Fifteen years ago, the four Syriani children – Rose, Sarah, John and Janet — lost their mother. Now, they are just weeks away from losing their father: 67-year-old Elias Syriani, who is scheduled to be executed next month for the July 1990 murder of his wife and the mother of his children, Teresa and they are pleading with Gov. Mike Easley to save their father’s life. "We’re just begging that this does not get carried out," daughter Rose Syriani said during a press conference at the Legislature on Tuesday. "This is four lives that will be destroyed." Teresa Syriani was stabbed 28 times with a screwdriver as she sat in her car with her son, John, in Charlotte, police said. Three of the children testified against their father either during the guilt or penalty phase of the trial. After more than a decade of estrangement, the children, who are now adults, met with their father at Central Prison in August 2004. "I’ve always thought of him as a murderer that took my mom. But when I saw him for the first time waving and smiling like a kid in Disneyland, I saw my dad," daughter Sarah Barbari said. Over the past year, the children have developed a new relationship with their father. All four children said their change from anger and bitterness to forgiveness and love is a "miracle" they believe is the work of God and their mother. The U.S. Supreme Court and Easley will look at the law surrounding the case. Defense attorneys, who have lost their appeals in lower courts, claim Elias Syriani did not have a competent attorney at trial. Syriani’s attorneys said they have one more appeal to file with the courts. On Nov. 8, they also plan to meet with Easley during a clemency hearing in which they will ask the governor to stop the execution. Syriani is scheduled to be executed at Central Prison on Nov. 18.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 28, 2005 Arkansas Julie Heath, 18 Eric Nance executed

Julie HeathGovernor Mike Huckabee has set a November 28th execution date for convicted killer Eric Nance. Nance raped and murdered 18-year-old Julie Heath in October of 1993. Heath was driving from Malvern to Hot Springs. Her car was found on Hwy 270. The young woman’s body was found 5 miles away by a hunter about a week after she vanished. Her throat had been cut with a box cutter. Police believe her car broke down and Nance saw her on the side of the road. Julie Heath was last seen alive on October 11, 1993. That evening she left her home in Malvern, Arkansas, to visit her boyfriend in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Julie’s car broke down on the way. Nance was returning to Malvern from Hot Springs in his pickup at about this time. When he left Hot Springs, he was dressed in a shirt, bib-overalls, and shoes. According to Nance, he stopped to help and offered Julie a ride to Malvern. Nance was later seen in a convenience store with no shoes, socks, or shirt. He also had dark, damp stains on his overalls that appeared to be fresh. On October 18, 1993, Julie’s body was found in a wooded area just off an unpaved road about seven miles from where she had left her car. The body was fully clothed. A photograph of the clothed body that was admitted into evidence shows that the belt buckle was partially undone; the pants’ zipper was partially zipped; and the portion of the shirt covering the body’s right shoulder was torn. An officer testified at trial that the shirt was inside out when the body was found. And photographs of the shirt once it was removed from the body reveal that the shirt’s torn shoulder was its left shoulder. The officer also testified that he concluded the shirt was wrong-side out because when he saw the clothed body in the woods, the shirt’s shoulder pad was on the outside surface of the garment. The shirt’s other shoulder pad was found nearby. The medical examiner testified that when the body was presented to him it was dressed in one black shirt which was inside out, one pair of black jeans, one black belt, one pair of black socks, which were inside out, one pair of black shoes, a white bra, which was pulled up around the neck and shoulder area, pink panties, which were inside out. The shirt and pants were intact around the body. The belt was buckled and the zipper was partially zipped and a slightly soiled sanitary napkin was present. The medical examiner also testified that the shirt was torn or cut near the shoulder. A search of Nance’s pickup revealed red pubic hairs in the cab. Julie had red hair and an expert testified that these hairs were microscopically similar to some taken from Julie’s body. Nance’s defense theory was that he accidentally killed Julie. He claimed that when she was riding in his pickup she saw his knife (a box cutter), became hysterical, started kicking him and pulling his hair, and that he put his hand up to make her stop. He claimed that after he put his hand up, he realized the knife had become lodged in her throat. Though Nance did not testify, this version of his story arose at trial through his brother and sister, to whom he had told the same story. In the guilt phase of the trial, the jury found Nance guilty of capital felony murder with attempted rape as the underlying felony. In the sentencing phase, the State presented as evidence six prior felony convictions stemming from Nance’s rape and beating of two Oklahoma girls in 1982. Nance was released from his twenty-year sentence for those convictions five months before he killed Julie. Julie’s mother also testified about how her daughter’s death affected her and her family: "Mr. Nance took my only daughter. I believe that he deserves the death penalty. He has ruined my family’s life. I have been under constant doctor’s care since her death. I’ve had to see a psychologist once a week. I’m on numerous medications. My life will never be the same again. This has affected all of my family. It’s been very hard on my husband and my son. We basically do not know how we can live without her." The State also argued that Nance killed Julie to avoid arrest. To counter this aggravating evidence, Nance produced some mitigating facts. He offered his confession to police (which was not offered by the State in the guilt phase of the trial) to show remorse. That recitation recounted the story that was the basis for his guilt-phase defense. In further support of his mitigation case, Nance introduced testimony from his brother, sister, mother, employer, and minister. The jury found that two statutory aggravating circumstances existed beyond a reasonable doubt, that no mitigating circumstances existed, that the aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt, and that "the aggravating circumstances justify beyond a reasonable doubt the sentence of death." The judge, following the jury’s recommendation, sentenced Nance to death. UPDATE: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a judge’s stay of the November 28th execution of an Arkansas death row inmate, saying "The case is closed." The court said the issue of whether the state is prohibited from executing 45-year-old Eric Nance because he is mentally retarded has been raised previously and denied. Julie Heath’s cousin Belinda Crites said "He is not mentally retarded, that is just a way he thinks he can get out of something.” Belinda recently saw the crime scene photos for the first time. "He left her like an animal — just like a dead animal,” she said. "Everybody wants to have pity for him, but I think about the pity for Julie." UPDATE: Eric Nance was put to death by injection after a 1½-hour delay so the U.S. Supreme Court could consider appeals, one claiming that Nance is mentally retarded and the other that additional DNA testing might clear his name. "This is not easy for any of us and we do feel for his mother, his family," said Johnie Hood, a cousin of the victim. "I just pray that Julie rests in peace now. He couldn’t say he was sorry. What he went through tonight was painless compared to what he put Julie through." Hood and other family members watched the execution via closed-circuit television in a prison office. Heath’s mother Nancy killed herself at Christmas time a year after her daughter’s murder. "I hope that he did say he’s sorry to someone for what he had done," said Belinda Crites, another cousin. "We want to make sure the devil dies. He’s gone now so I hope they can rest in peace."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 29, 2005 Ohio Brandy Green, 5
Maxine Armstrong, 56
John Hicks executed

Brandy Green small Maxine Armstrong smallOn 8/2/85, John Hicks murdered his 5-year-old stepdaughter, Brandy Green, and his 56-year-old mother-in-law, Maxine Armstrong, in Maxine’s Cincinnati apartment. Earlier that day, Hicks had pawned his VCR for $50 to buy cocaine with. After getting high, Hicks realized he needed to retrieve the VCR before his wife realized it was missing, so he decided to steal the money from his wife’s mother. He woke Brandy from where she was sleeping on the couch and took her to her bed. After putting Brandy to bed, Hicks strangled Maxine with his hands and then a clothesline and stole $300 to retrieve the VCR and buy more cocaine. When Hicks realized that Brandy could identify him as the last person with Maxine Armstrong, he returned to the apartment, tried to smother Brandy with a pillow but she struggled so he choked her with his hands and then taped her mouth and nose with duct tape, while she was still breathing. Hicks surrendered to police in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he confessed to them and later confessed to Cincinnati detectives. Hicks was sentenced to death for the murder of Brandy. UPDATE: After Hicks was strapped into the gurney he said that he wished that he could bring the victims back. He also told his victims’ family members that he’s felt the same pain that they have for the last 20 years. "Y’all endured the pain each day," he said. "I hurt too. I cared and loved them too. I know this may be shallow or hollow words to y’all but it’s coming from my heart." Brandy and Maxine’s relatives who witnessed the execution were not sympathetic to Hicks’s self-imposed loss and said they did see the comment as an expression of remorse but more as self-pity. Maxine’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter witnessed the execution and talked later about Hicks’ final statement. "He didn’t turn and look away in shame," Douglas Hughes said about the look Hicks gave him. "It was more like, ‘so what? It’s over for me now too." During his final statement, Hicks mentioned Armstrong and Green by name. Pam Hughes, Maxine’s daughter, was bothered that Hicks laughed as the lethal injection began to affect him. "It wasn’t just a giggle," she said. "I mean, it sounded kind of evil to us. It just wasn’t something that someone who was getting ready to die and was remorseful, would do." During the bizarre outburst, Hicks shook his head, then yelled, "Whoa. Hallelujah," before laughing loudly and saying, "Yes…. thank you."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 30, 2005 Virginia Clayton Dicks, 44, Robin Lovitt commuted

Clayton Dicks smallRobin Lovitt was convicted in 1999 of fatally stabbing a man with scissors during a 1998 pool hall robbery in Arlington. Prosecutors said he was trying to get money to buy drugs. He previously worked at the pool hall, and its cash register box was found at the home of his cousin, and a pair of bloody scissors was found in woods halfway between the pool hall and the cousin’s home. On November 18, 1998, Clayton Dicks was brutally murdered at the pool hall where he worked in Arlington County. Clayton was stabbed six times in his back and chest. When his body was found, the police discovered that the pool hall’s cash register had been broken and one of the drawers was missing. Also missing that morning was a pair of orange-handled scissors kept next to the register. A police canine unit found scissors of a similar description lying in the woods about fifteen yards behind the pool hall. Those scissors had blood on them which matched the DNA of Clayton Dicks. Amy Hudon, a manager at the pool hall, testified that two months before Dicks was murdered, the cash register drawer was not opening properly. Robin Lovitt, an employee of hers at the time, assisted her by prying a pair of scissors into the drawer’s latch and forcing it open. Clayton Dicks was scheduled to work the late managerial shift at the pool hall on the night he was murdered. He arrived for work between 1:30 and 2:00 in the morning. The other employees left the pool hall by 3:00 a.m., making Dicks the only employee remaining on the premises. At 3:25 a.m., Jose Alverado and Carlos Clavell arrived at the pool hall and witnessed two men fighting behind the bar. Alvarado testified that he saw the shorter man stab the taller man six or seven times with a silver-colored weapon. Once the taller man fell to the floor, Alvarado said he saw the shorter man repeatedly kick him. At the preliminary hearing, Alvarado could not say he was 100% certain that Lovitt was the assailant, but he did testify at trial that he was 80% sure. Lovitt’s cousin lives on the "other side of the woods" from the pool hall, about a quarter mile away. The cousin testified that Lovitt arrived at his house between 1:30 and 3:00 on November 18th. Lovitt’s cousin said Lovitt was carrying a large square metal box. The two cousins opened the box with a screwdriver and split the money that was inside. The government’s theory at trial was that Lovitt used the scissors to pry open the cash register but was caught in the act by Dicks. Thus surprised, Lovitt allegedly stabbed Dicks several times with the scissors before fleeing with the cash-register drawer to his cousin’s house, discarding the scissors along the way. In support of this theory, a forensic scientist testified that the cash register drawer that had been found at his cousin’s house did in fact come from the pool hall register, and that the pry marks on the drawer were made by the same scissors that were found in the woods. Another scientist testified that the chance of someone other than Dicks contributing to the DNA sample on the tip of the scissors found in the woods was 1 in more than 5.5 billion. Another key witness for the prosecution was an inmate at the Arlington County jail who befriended Lovitt during the two months they lived together in the same unit. The inmate testified that Lovitt confided in him about murdering Dicks. According to him, Lovitt said he waited in the bathroom late at night on November 18 until he knew everyone but Dicks had left the pool hall. Apparently, Lovitt then attempted to jimmy open the cash register drawer. When confronted and recognized by Dicks, Lovitt told Lucas he stabbed Dicks several times and took the cash register drawer to his cousin’s house before leaving to buy drugs. After hearing all of this evidence, on September 20, 1999, a jury found Robin Lovitt guilty of the capital murder of Clayton Dicks during the commission of a robbery. UDPATE: Virginia Governor Mark Warner granted clemency to Robin Lovitt, a convicted killer who would have become the 1000th person executed in the United States since executions resumed in 1977. Lovitt’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. Lovitt, 42, was set to be executed by injection Wednesday night for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a pool-hall robbery in 1998. Gov. Mark R. Warner had said he was agonizing over whether to grant Lovitt clemency on the grounds that a court clerk illegally destroyed much of the evidence in the case, preventing DNA testing that Lovitt’s lawyers say could exonerate him. "No case has been more troubling," Warner said Tuesday on WTOP radio in Washington. "There’s no case I’ve spent more time thinking about, praying about." Warner, a Democrat, has never granted clemency in the nearly four years he has been governor. During that time 11 men have been executed.

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