November 2006 Executions

Three killers were executed in November 2006. They had murdered at least 3 people.
killers were given a stay in November 2006. They have murdered at least 4 people.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 1, 2006 Texas Mario Stubblefield Donnell Jackson executed

Donnell O’Keith Jackson was charged with capital murder for the killing of Mario Stubblefield in the course of retaliation. Stubblefield had previously testified before a grand jury in its investigation of a prior aggravated assault offense involving Jackson’s friend David Smith (AKA Darryl Scott). Eddie, a witness at the scene of Stubblefield’s shooting, testified that he had seen Smith sitting in a car in front of Stubblefield’s house moments before the shooting. Eddie said Smith was talking with Stubblefield and another man, who stood outside the car. Police later discovered the car belonged to Smith’s girlfriend, Sheila. When questioned by police, Sheila implicated Jackson in Stubblefield’s murder. With this information, police assembled a photograph lineup, from which Eddie positively identified Jackson as the man standing next to the car just before Stubblefield was shot. Later, during a police interview in jail, Smith gave a taped statement claiming Jackson committed the murder. Police arrested Jackson and confronted him with Smith’s statement. On the tape, Smith claimed he did not know Jackson was going to shoot Stubblefield. When Jackson heard this statement he replied, “Man, he paid me to do it.” He then gave a taped confession, in which he claimed that Smith paid him two hundred dollars to kill Stubblefield. At trial, Jackson testified on his own behalf. He denied any payment or discussion of payment with Smith, and claimed he had intended only to scare Stubblefield out of testifying against Smith at trial. The jury found Jackson guilty of capital murder. During the punishment phase, the State introduced evidence that Jackson had been found delinquent as a juvenile for the offense of indecency with a child, had been expelled from school for excessive absences after various other disciplinary problems, and following the Stubblefield murder, had shot a former high school classmate in the face. Jackson presented evidence of a favorable home life and church membership, and two experts testified that he suffered from a learning disability. The jury answered the future dangerous issue “yes” and the mitigation special issue “no,” and the trial court sentenced Jackson to death as required by law. Earlier appeals focused on Jackson’s claim he wasn’t paid, with lawyers arguing the lack of payment would lessen the charge from capital murder and remove the possibility of the death penalty. "Whether or not he got paid is not important," said Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, who was an assistant prosecutor helping try the case in 1995. "He was solicited for the money. He testified and he said he was just supposed to scare Stubblefield and no money was mentioned. He said he didn’t mean to kill him." Rosenthal said Mario Stubblefield had been taking care of his invalid father, who died not long after his son was killed. "He just kind of gave up," Rosenthal said. "That was awfully sad."

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 7, 2006 Pennsylvania Kathy Kurmchak Steven Duffey stayed

In the afternoon of February 19, 1984, Kathy Kurmchack, then 19 years of age, was found stabbed to death in a restroom in the restaurant where she and Steven Duffey both worked. Kathy was stabbed 21 times, resulting in 31 wounds. Steven Duffey was charged and convicted of the brutal killing. There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 8, 2006 Texas Benjamin Garza Willie Shannon executed

In November 1993, Shannon was convicted and sentenced to death for the carjacking and murder of Benjamin Garza. Benjamin was a witness enrolled in the federal witness protection program and was visiting Houston with his wife and children at the time of the murder. Garza was killed on July 19 in 1992. He had just dropped his family off at a shoe store. An 11-year-old boy who was the key witness to the murder, testified that Benjamin was sitting alone in his car, waiting for his family to return and Willie Shannon climbed into the passenger seat. The boy heard Shannon say to Benjamin, "Get out of the car." Shannon told jurors that he showed a 9 mm pistol to Benjamin and placed it on the dashboard. The boy testified that Benjamin got out of the car, but then the men scuffled and three shots were fired, one striking Benjamin in the head. Shannon took off but abandoned the station wagon in a nearby county after wrecking. Police began searching for Shannon and he was arrested five hours later at a truck stop. Prosecutor Vic Wisner said Shannon had raped a motel maid in Houston shortly before he killed Benjamin Garza. Testimony at trial showed that Shannon also had a previous jail sentence for breaking a man’s jaw and had also been confined as a juvenile for burglary. The prosecutor told jurors Shannon was a sociopath who would be certain to commit more violent crimes if he ever goes free. The jury agreed and sentenced Shannon to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 9, 2006 Virginia Earl Shelton Dunning John Schmitt executed

On February 17, 1999, Earl Shelton Dunning was shot and killed while working as a security guard at a bank in Chesterfield County. About a month before Dunning was killed, John Yancey Schmitt had robbed this same bank and, after that robbery, the bank had hired Dunning to work as a security guard. Shortly after 1:00 p.m. on February 17, 1999, a man entered the bank wearing dark sunglasses and a bulky jacket. He kept his head lowered and appeared to scan the interior of the bank. The bank manager testified that she was "nervous" about this man because he was wearing sunglasses inside the bank on a "really cloudy day." Dunning was outside the bank and, after the man went inside, Dunning entered the bank and walked across the lobby to stand at the end of the "teller line" in which customers were waiting. The man stood in the teller line behind several customers. The manager watched him leave his place in line and walk toward Dunning. When the man was within "a foot or so" of Dunning, she heard two gunshots and then heard someone scream, "Get down, get down!" The man next approached the manager’s teller window and banged on the counter yelling, "Money, give me money," and "If I don’t get money, I’m going to kill everybody." She opened her cash drawer and threw money into a black plastic bag that the robber was holding. The robber continued to bang on the counter demanding "more money." He announced that he would give the tellers "ten seconds" to give him more money, and began counting backward from the number "ten." By the time he reached "nine," another teller was "throwing money in the bag." The manager also gave him money from a third teller’s drawer. When she told the robber that she had no more money to give him, the robber left the bank. The bank’s security camera system recorded photographs of Schmitt approaching the end of the teller counter and standing at a teller window holding a bag and pointing a gun. None of the witnesses who testified at trial saw the actual shooting of Earl Dunning, and the shooting was not recorded by the bank’s security camera system. However, the manager and two tellers all identified a photograph of Schmitt recorded by the bank’s security camera system as depicting the man who robbed the bank that day. After Schmitt left the bank, witnesses telephoned the "911" emergency response number and attended to Dunning, who was lying on the floor. By the time emergency medical personnel arrived, Dunning was dead. The witnesses in the bank testified that they did not touch or see anyone else touch Dunning’s gun or its holster. Dunning’s gun was found in its holster, which was closed and snapped. An autopsy revealed that Dunning was killed as a result of a gunshot wound to his chest. The bullet entered the right side of Dunning’s chest, causing significant injuries to the aorta, and exited from the right side of his back. After the murder and robbery, Schmitt registered at a Williamsburg hotel the same day under the name "R. Napier." The hotel desk clerk testified that Schmitt asked for directions to the local shopping areas, and that when Schmitt later returned to the hotel, his hair was a different color. Schmitt paid cash for a three-day stay at the hotel. Chesterfield County Police Department officers identified Schmitt after reviewing the photographs taken by the bank’s security camera system. Two days after the murder and robbery, on February 19, 1999, police learned where Schmitt was staying in Williamsburg. The James City County Tactical Team surrounded Schmitt’s hotel room, and a crisis negotiator from the James City County Police Department attempted to persuade Schmitt to surrender. About 10:30 a.m. the following morning, Schmitt surrendered and was taken into police custody. Police obtained a search warrant for Schmitt’s hotel room, where a satchel, a handgun, a box of shotgun shells, a black leather jacket, and a variety of newly purchased clothing items were seized. Inside the satchel was $27,091 in cash, most of which still bore "bank bands" identifying the money as coming from the bank that had been robbed. A firearms and tool mark examiner employed by the Virginia Division of Forensic Science who qualified as an expert witness on the subject of firearms testified that he examined the handgun found in Schmitt’s hotel room and the cartridge casings and bullets found in the bank. He stated that based on his examination, the cartridge casings and bullets had been fired from this handgun. The firearms expert also tested the handgun and items of Dunning’s clothing to establish the distance of the firearm from Dunning at the time of the shooting. Based on these tests, he concluded that the pattern of gunpowder residue found on Dunning’s clothing indicated that when Dunning was shot, the distance between him and the firearm muzzle was between 12 and 36 inches. During the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth presented evidence of Schmitt’s criminal record. Between 1992 and 1996, Schmitt was convicted twice of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, and also had convictions of receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of marijuana. Schmitt was on probation for some of these offenses at the time of the capital murder and robbery. He had failed to keep the conditions of his probation requiring him to have regular drug tests and to meet with his probation officer and, as a result, a warrant had been issued for his arrest prior to both bank robberies. In the earlier robbery of the bank on January 19, 1999, Schmitt and another man had stolen over $65,000. Schmitt was armed with a sawed-off shotgun in that robbery. The Commonwealth presented evidence that before the first robbery, police were called to investigate an argument between Schmitt and a girlfriend involving a shotgun, and that Schmitt had "sawed off" the barrel of the gun the night before the first bank robbery. The Commonwealth also presented evidence of a tape recording of a telephone conversation between Schmitt and a friend in which Schmitt described the present offenses. In addition, the Commonwealth introduced evidence of the "drug dealer lifestyle" that Schmitt had been leading in the months before he committed the present offenses. The Commonwealth presented testimony from Dunning’s family and friends concerning the impact of Dunning’s murder on them. Dunning’s mother and brother testified that in January 1999, a month before his murder, Dunning had retired from the United States Army after over 20 years of service, and that he had received many commendations honoring his bravery and leadership while in military service. The Commonwealth also presented testimony that Dunning had three children and that he had planned to marry in March 1999. Several bank employees testified that during the few weeks that Dunning worked at the bank, he had developed close relationships with his fellow employees that demonstrated extraordinary thoughtfulness and generosity. Schmitt presented testimony from the crisis negotiator that Schmitt had expressed remorse over the killing during the negotiations culminating in his surrender. In addition, Schmitt presented testimony from a medical specialist dealing with adolescent addiction who testified generally concerning the effects of drug addiction and withdrawal. However, this specialist had never treated or evaluated Schmitt. Schmitt also presented testimony from his juvenile probation officer, friends, and family members who described Schmitt as courteous and respectful when he was not under the influence of drugs.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 17, 2006 Texas Jiten Bhakta Charles Nealy stayed

At trial, Satishbhi Bhakta testified that his brother, Jiten, owned the Expressway Mart in Dallas. On August 20, 1997, at about 8:20 p.m., Bhakta was helping at the store with another employee, Vijay Patel, while Jiten was in the office taking a nap. Two men, one armed with a shotgun and the other with a pistol, entered the store. The men ordered Patel and Bhakta to lie down on the floor. The man with the shotgun went into the office. Bhakta heard Jiten call out and then heard the shotgun discharge. Jiten died from a shotgun wound to the chest. The man with the pistol then shot Patel in the head; he died a few days later. The man with the shotgun came out of the office with a briefcase (containing $4,000) and said, “I got the man in the office.” The man with the pistol said, “I got one over here, too.” The man with the pistol ordered Bhakta to open the cash register, and the man with the shotgun took money from the register and put it in his pocket. Both of the robbers took wine and beer before leaving the store. At trial, Bhakta identified Nealy as the man with the shotgun. Four video cameras in the store recorded the robbery. The videotape was played for the jury. Although the tape was of poor quality, it showed a man with a light-colored hat, and a man wearing a dark hat carrying a shotgun. The tape did not record either of the murders, but it recorded the two men stealing money from the cash register. Nealy’s nephew, Memphis, testified that between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. on the evening of the robbery, he was riding with Nealy on Central Expressway. When they passed the convenience store, Memphis said that Nealy stated, “I’m going to come back and get ‘em.” Nealy did not want Memphis to participate in their return to the Expressway Mart because Memphis did not have a criminal record. At trial, Memphis testified that he recognized Nealy, Claude Nealy — Nealy’s nephew and Memphis’s brother, and Reginald Mitchell on the videotape of the robbery. Memphis identified Nealy as the man wearing the dark hat and carrying the shotgun and briefcase. On cross-examination, Memphis admitted that he was unable to identify anyone from the videotape until the police told him that his uncle and brother were on the tape. Reginald Mitchell, a co-defendant, testified at trial that on the night of the robbery, he joined Claude and Nealy in Nealy’s car and went to the Expressway Mart. Mitchell stated that Claude and Nealy entered the store, and that Nealy had a shotgun, although he did not see it. He testified that Claude had a.38 or.32 pistol. Mitchell testified that he first heard a shotgun blast and then small arms fire. Nealy and Claude came out of the store and got into the car. Mitchell testified that Nealy said, “This is the way the Nealys do it.” When they got back to Nealy’s house, Nealy said that they committed the crime because “the bitches” wouldn’t sell him “no Blackie mounds” (referring to a type of cigar). Mitchell testified that Nealy threatened to kill him if he told anyone about the robbery. Nealy was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 28, 2006* Pennsylvania Anthony Milano, 26 Frank Chester stayed

In July 1989, Chester and his codefendant, Richard Laird, were sentenced to death for the first-degree murder of 26-year-old Anthony Milano. During the evening of December 14, 1987, Anthony Milano went to his father’s home to advise his father that he intended to go out for the evening. Anthony left his father’s residence at approximately 11:15 p.m. in a 1976 Chevrolet Nova registered his mother’s name. Anthony proceeded to the Edgely Inn, where Frank Chester and Richard Laird also happened to be on that occasion. Chester and Laird had been in the tavern for quite some time prior to the arrival of Anthony. Both had exhibited quarrelsome and aggressive behavior before Anthony arrived at the Inn. Chester, who possessed skills in the art of Karate, had threatened to assault one of the male guests at the establishment and Laird was loud and argumentative that evening in the premises. Anthony arrived at the Inn sometime after 11:15 p.m. and left shortly after closing time, accompanied by Chester and Laird. The three men were last observed in the Nova with Milano driving and Laird supplying directions as to their destination. There was also testimony that during the time that the three men were in the tavern Chester and Laird at one point were taunting Milano as to his masculinity. On the evening of December 15, police responded to a report of a car fire. The vehicle involved was a Chevrolet Nova. A search of the wooded area adjacent to where the automobile was parked resulted in the discovery of the body of Anthony Milano. The body was lying face up with the left eye partially open, contusions in the facial area, and multiple “slashings” on the neck and throat. A postmortem examination revealed that the victim had been assaulted about the face and had sustained lacerations about the face, throat, neck and shoulder. The pathologist concluded that Anthony had been kicked and/or punched in both the right and left temple areas and the chin. A hairline fracture at the base of the skull was attributed to a blunt instrument striking the head. The lacerations were made by a sharp instrument, consistent with a utility knife. The pathologist opined that the “slashings” were hard enough and deep enough to sever the fifth and sixth vertebrae and were too numerous to count. It was also concluded that the victim aspirated on his own blood for five to ten minutes before expiring. A police officer testified that when he arrived at the scene he first observed the vehicle ablaze and assisted in extinguishing the fire. The vehicle was identified as being the 1976 Chevrolet Nova registered in the name of the mother of the deceased. Police records further established that Anthony’s mother had reported the deceased as a “missing person” when he failed to return to the family home in the early morning hours of December 15, 1987. This officer further testified that prior to the response to the car fire, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on December 15, he had responded, with two fellow officers, to a reported stolen car which was found in a parking lot of the Edgely Inn. To pursue their investigation they began interrogating the customers in the Edgely Inn. During that investigation he observed Chester, Laird, and Anthony Milano at the bar. The time was fixed at approximately 1:30 a.m., December 15. He requested identification from each of these individuals and was satisfied that they were not involved in the car theft. At approximately 2:10 a.m., while he was still in the parking lot, he observed Anthony, Chester, and Laird leave the Inn together. This testimony was confirmed by the other two officers that responded to the stolen car complaint. The fire marshal for the township testified that in his opinion the fire which involved the Milano vehicle was deliberately and intentionally ignited. In addition, the Commonwealth presented evidence to establish that at approximately 4:00 a.m., December 15, Chester and Laird approached on foot, the apartment of a friend of Chester’s. The apartment was located less than a mile from the murder scene. The friend testified that both were visibly agitated and were covered with blood. Chester attempted to explain their condition by stating that they had been engaged in a fight and “the dude is dead.” The friend took both men to Laird’s apartment where they attempted to remove and conceal their bloody clothing. Prosecutors also produced additional witnesses to whom Chester and Laird made incriminatory statements and actions that reflected their complicity in the murder. The Commonwealth also produced a transcription of a consensually intercepted telephone call between Chester and Laird, during which Laird suggested that Chester leave town, recommended ways Chester could pass a polygraph examination, and commented on the Commonwealth’s inability to prove a case without evidence. Both defendants testified at trial and admitted being at the scene.*There are still appeals pending in this case and the execution is not expected to take place on this date.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
November 29, 2006 Ohio Betty Jane Mottinger, 48 John Spirko stayed

Betty Mottinger smallJohn Spirko was sentenced to die in 1984 for the murder of Elgin postmaster Betty Jane Mottinger. Spirko 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 Betty 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 Betty’s body; 2) a description of Betty Mottinger’s clothing; 3) knowledge that a stone had been pried from a ring worn by Betty Mottinger; 4) a description of the ring; 5) the type of shroud and specific method used to enwrap Betty Mottinger’s body after her death; 6) a description of Betty 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 Spirko’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 2005, 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. In November 2005, Taft granted John Spirko a 60-day reprieve at the request of Attorney General Jim Petro, who said he needed that long to test several items that Spirko’s attorneys wanted reviewed. Spirko received another execution date in January 2006, and again received a stay.

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