January 2008 Executions

Four killers were given a stay in January 2008. They have murdered at least 10 people.
One killer received a commutation of his death sentence in January 2008. He has murdered at least 1 person.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 3, 2008 Tennessee Steve Hampton, 25
Sarah Jackson, 16
Angela Holmes, 21
Michelle Mace, 16
Ronald Santiago, 27
Robert A. Sewell Jr., 23
Andrea Brown, 17
Paul Reid stayed

Robert Sewell, Jr.On Sunday morning, February 16, 1997, sixteen-year-old Sarah Jackson and twenty-five-year-old Steve Hampton were shot and killed as they prepared to open the Captain D’s restaurant on Lebanon Road in Donelson, Tennessee. Steve was the manager of the restaurant; Sarah was a high school student working part-time at the restaurant. An area director for Captain D’s spoke with Steve on the telephone around 8:15 to 8:30 a.m. that morning. Over an hour later, around 9:45 to 10 a.m., an employee arrived for work but was unable to enter the restaurant because the doors were locked. He telephoned the Captain D’s from a neighboring restaurant and got a busy signal. When he called a second time a few minutes later, no one answered. Believing something was wrong, he contacted another Captain D’s employee whose father was a Metro police officer. The employee’s father arrived at the scene and, after the assistant manager of Captain D’s unlocked the door, entered the restaurant between 11 a.m. and noon to find Steve Hampton and Sarah Jackson dead, lying face down on the floor inside the restaurant’s walk-in cooler. The victims had been shot execution-style while lying on the floor. Steve had been shot twice in the back of the head and once in the back. Sarah had been shot four times in the head and once in the back. According to the medical examiner, two of Sarah’s head wounds were fatal, but the two other head wounds were superficial, and the shot to her back was not immediately incapacitating. If these less serious wounds were inflicted first, the medical examiner testified Sarah may have been able to move; and, in fact, a blood pattern of Sarah’s gloved hand on shelving near, but above, her body indicated that Sarah had attempted to pull herself up from the floor after she was shot. The victims were shot with a.32 caliber weapon, probably a revolver. $7140, including $250 in coins, was taken in the robbery. Steve’s wallet, which contained $600 that he intended to use to pay rent, also was missing. The police first considered Paul Reid a suspect in this crime on June 12, 1997, after his arrest in Cheatham County for allegedly attempting to kidnap the manager of a Shoney’s restaurant. From this arrest, the police obtained Reid’s fingerprints and photograph. Although none of Reid’s fingerprints were found at Captain D’s, several items belonging to Steven Hampton were discovered one day after the murders lying alongside Ellington Parkway, a four-lane highway in East Nashville. Among the items found was a movie rental card belonging to Steve. Reid’s right thumbprint was found on this card. The area where Steve’s belongings were found was 11.5 miles from the crime scene and 1.2 miles from Reid’s home. Police also found several shoe prints inside Captain D’s near the safe. Although the tread design of these shoe prints did not match, the length of these shoe prints was consistent with shoes seized from Reid’s residence. In addition, the State introduced into evidence a photograph, dated July 16, 1996, which showed Reid wearing a pair of dingy white tennis shoes that police had not found in his residence. Two witnesses identified Reid as the man who came by Captain D’s the night before the murders inquiring about a job. They testified that a man came into the restaurant through the exit door around 10 p.m., shortly before closing the night before the murders. This man said he was interested in applying for a part-time job and that he worked at Shoney’s just down the road. The proof showed Reid worked as a cook at a Shoney’s 2.1 miles from these murders. The employees gave the man an employment application and told him that the manager, Steve Hampton, would be working the next day. When the man asked if anyone would be at the restaurant on Sunday morning, Carter told him that Steve would be there but would be busy and unable to talk until approximately 2:45 p.m., after the Sunday lunch rush. The man left in a dark-colored car. About a week after the murders, employees helped police prepare a composite sketch of the man they had seen. In June of 1997 the police showed them a photographic lineup of six individuals, including Reid. One of the employees positively identified Reid as the man who had inquired about a job the night before the murders. A short time later, the other employee saw Reid during a television news report about his arrest. He immediately called the police and informed them that Reid was the man who came into Captain D’s the night before the murders. At trial, he explained that he was sure of this identification because the news report, as opposed to the photographic lineup, enabled him to hear Reid’s voice, see the way his lips moved when he talked, and see the way he walked. Three other people who had been driving by the Captain D’s restaurant on the morning of the murders testified, linking Reid to the murders. A man who was passing by the restaurant at approximately 8:45 a.m., saw a blue Ford station wagon with damage to the left front, and possibly to the left rear, “parked at a funny angle toward the rear of the building.” The proof showed that prior to these murders, Reid drove a light blue 1988 Ford Escort station wagon which had been involved in an auto accident in January of 1997. As a result, the car was appraised by an insurance company on February 3, 1997, and was found to have damage to the left front end. The man testified that Reid’s car in the insurance company’s photographs was similar to the car he observed in the Captain D’s parking lot the morning of the murders. Around 8:50 a.m., a woman was driving by Captain D’s on her way to church when she saw a man, whom she later identified as Steve Hampton, standing inside the doorway of the restaurant talking to a man outside who was holding white paper in his hand. She described the unidentified man as dark-haired and approximately five inches taller than Steve. This description was consistent with Reid who was dark-haired and approximately six feet, three inches tall, as compared to Steve whose height was five feet, eight inches. Around 9:30 a.m., another passerby noticed “a car that sort of looked out of place.” According to him, the small to medium-sized car was parked about a car-length away from the front of the building headed in the opposite direction of the drive-thru arrows painted on the lot. He also noticed a man walking hurriedly away from the restaurant toward the car. When the man stopped at the passenger side of the car and looked up, the man “elevated his face and… it seemed like our eyes sort of caught one another, and when he saw that I was watching him, he dropped his head, just completely down in a suspicious way.” The man entered the passenger side of the car. The witness described the man as tall, with a muscular build and large neck, dark eyebrows and dark eyes, a full head of hair which was slicked back. The man was wearing a white shirt, dark pants, and white, “not new,” tennis shoes. He heard about the murders the next day and called the police twice to report what he had seen, but no one contacted him. When he saw Reid on television after his arrest in June of 1997, the witness again called the police and identified Reid as the man he had seen near the Captain D’s on the morning of the murder. On the night of April 23, 1997, Angela Holmes, age twenty-one, and Michelle Mace, age sixteen, were working at a Baskin-Robbins store on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard in Clarksville, Tennessee. The store regularly closed at 10:00 p.m. At around 10:10 p.m., Michelle’s brother arrived at the store to pick up his sister. He noticed that Angela Holmes’ car was in the parking lot and that the lights inside the store were on. He entered the store through an unlocked door and found no one inside. He called 911. Officers were dispatched to the scene and searched the store. They found the cash register drawer empty, except for some coins, and a safe in an office with the top removed. The victims’ purses were found at the store; no money had been taken from the purses. A mop and bucket were found in the customer area, and the freezer was left open. On the morning of April 24, 1997, the bodies of Angela Holmes and Michelle Mace were found at the Dunbar Cave State Natural Area in Montgomery County, Tennessee, which was between 2.1 and 3.6 miles from the Baskin-Robbins store. Both victims had suffered deep stab wounds to their necks, as well as stab wounds, cuts, and abrasions to other parts of their bodies. Both had bled to death. A witness testified that she had visited with the victims at the Baskin-Robbins store from 9:20 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on April 23, 1997. At one point, a man in his late twenties or early thirties entered the store and became “obnoxious” and “very loud” about the prices before leaving. As she left the store at 10:00 p.m., the witness saw a “shiny red” car enter the parking lot. Two other witnesses testified about seeing the same car at or near the store. Others testified to seeing a red car near Dunbar Cave around 10:30 p.m. on the night of April 23, 1997. They said they thought it was “odd” because the car was not in a parking space. A serologist and DNA specialist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that a DNA sample taken from blood found on Reid’s left tennis shoe was consistent with the DNA profile of Angela Holmes. In addition, a DNA sample taken from small blood stains found on the right tennis shoe was consistent with a mixture of two or more donors from which neither Angela Holmes nor Michelle Mace could be excluded. A fiber comparison specialist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that fibers found on both victims’ clothing were compared to fibers in Reid’s car. The medical examiner testified that Angela died as a result of a stab wound to her neck that went “all the way to her backbone.” The wound, which was consistent with a knife blade of eight or nine inches, transected the carotid artery and jugular vein. He testified that Michelle had suffered fourteen stab wounds, including a fatal stab wound in her neck. He said that a compound incision penetrated Michelle’s backbone, consisted of three changes in direction, and was consistent with a sawing motion. Both victims would have taken five to fifteen minutes to bleed to death and would have been conscious eighty percent of that time. After the delay for Reid granted in June of 2006, the victims’ families were frustrated but not surprised. "With all of the appeals he keeps going through and all of the drama he keeps starting, we’re just trying to stay positive for each other," said Brenda Sewell, whose brother, Robert Sewell, 23, was shot to death by Reid in a robbery at the Hermitage McDonald’s. "We’ve just got to do what it takes to get by," she said.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 9, 2008 Tennessee Edith Russell Edward Harbison stayed

On January 15, 1983, Frank Russell returned home from work to discover that his wife, Edith, had been murdered. The Russells rented an apartment at the back of their Chattanooga, Tennessee, house to a tenant who, at that time, was away on vacation, and Mrs. Russell’s body was found inside this apartment. Medical examiners determined that the cause of her death was “massive multiple skull fractures with marked lacerations of the scalp and head, expelling brain tissue and literally crushing the victim’s face and disfiguring her beyond recognition.” Mrs. Russell was last seen that afternoon at a neighborhood market, where witnesses spoke with her between approximately 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. Bags of groceries and ignition keys were found in Mrs. Russell’s car, which was parked in the driveway, when her body was discovered near midnight. Nothing in the record indicates a precise time of death. The logical inference is that Mrs. Russell was killed a short time after purchasing the groceries in the middle of the afternoon, or else she would have taken them and her keys out of her car. Moreover, the porch lights were off. Her husband said she always left the outside lights on for protection. The Russells’ house and the rented apartment were burglarized. Missing items included “a television, two cable television converters, a quartz heater, a Polaroid camera, a silver Cross pen and pencil set, a jeweler’s loop, a jewelry box, antique jewelry, a marble vase, and Mrs. Russell’s purse.” The police later found the quartz heater, the Polaroid camera, the pen and pencil set, and the jeweler’s loop in the residence of Edward Jerome Harbison’s girlfriend who was also co-defendant David Schreane’s sister. The jeweler’s loop was found in Harbison’s shaving kit. In an adjacent unoccupied apartment, the police found Mrs. Russell’s purse, a jewelry box, and two large paper bags containing antique glassware and brassware. The stolen television was found in the residence of Schreane’s girlfriend. Schreane was taken into custody and questioned on February 21, 1983, when he led police to the missing marble vase. Chemical testing later revealed the presence of blood on the vase. Furthermore, debris that was vacuumed from the carpet in Harbison’s car revealed crystalline calcite fragments that were consistent with the marble vase. Harbison also was arrested on February 21, 1983. In a taped statement, he confessed to killing Edith Russell. Harbison stated that after he drove his girlfriend home from work, he and Schreane went to the Russell home, determined that it was empty, and used a screwdriver to break into the residence. While he and Schreane were carrying the stolen items from the house and the apartment to their car, Mrs. Russell returned home. Harbison contended that he thought Mrs. Russell was reaching for a gun, so he grabbed her. He stated that he hit her with the marble vase, “at the most” two times. At his trial, Harbison testified that he had not killed Mrs. Russell and that he was not at the Russell house on the day of the murder. He said that he was at his girlfriend’s home that afternoon and evening. He asserted that his confession was coerced, and that the police had threatened to arrest his girlfriend and take away her children if he did not confess. He further testified that the police had told him what to say and that his taped confession, which was played to the jury, had been altered. Finally, he testified that he had purchased the jeweler’s loop at a pawn shop. Harbison was convicted and sentenced to death

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 17, 2008 Texas Sarah Patterson, 11 Bobby Woods stayed

In the early morning hours of April 30, 1997, Bobby Wayne Woods went to the house of his former girlfriend, Schwana Patterson, in Granbury, Texas. Though they had previously lived together, the two had split up. Woods later admitted to having used drugs before going to the house, including "crank" and PCP. Schwana was not at home when Woods arrived, but he found an open window into the bedroom where Schwana’s two children, Sarah, 11, and Cody, nine, were sleeping. He grabbed Sarah by the foot; Cody awoke to Sarah’s screams as Woods beat her chest. He forced the two children to leave through the window in their pajamas. Later investigation found Woods’s semen on Sarah’s bedcover, indicating that he had had prior sexual contact with her. This was borne out in other evidence, including statements by Woods himself, Sarah’s friends, notes she had left in her diary indicating that she hated Woods and wanted him gone, and that she had contracted the sexually-transmitted disease Human Papilloma Virus ("HPV"). Woods was also infected with HPV. Woods took the children in his car to a cemetery. Enroute, Cody, in the back seat, noticed a black-handled knife in the back of the car. At the cemetery, Woods took Cody out of the car and asked him if his mother was seeing anyone else. He hit Cody and commenced strangling him in front of the car. Cody later testified that he thought he was going to die. He awoke later, crawled over a fence, and attracted the attention of a horseback rider who called the police. The police later found Woods and told him that they had the "whole story" from Cody. They asked him to tell them where to find Sarah, hoping that she was still alive. Woods told them, "You will not find her alive. I cut her throat." He then led the police to Sarah’s body and gave them two written statements. In the statements, he admitted to having had sexual contact with Sarah before leaving the house, that he had taken drugs, and that after Cody fell unconscious in the cemetery, Sarah had started screaming. He left with her in the car toward a bridge on Highway 144. She continued to yell that she would tell the police that he had hit Cody. He attempted to quiet her by holding a knife to her throat. According to his statement, Sarah jerked and the knife cut her throat. Her body was clothed in an inside-out shirt, a sports bra, and a pair of shorts, without panties. Her throat had been deeply cut, severing her larynx and several major arteries and veins, causing massive external bleeding that was the cause of her death. In addition to finding Woods’s semen on Sarah’s blanket, investigators found a large butcher knife, stained with Sarah’s blood, inside a trash bag that Woods had borrowed from a neighbor the morning after he abducted Sarah and Cody. The bag also contained a pawn ticket bearing Woods’s signature and address for items he admitted stealing from the Patterson home. Sarah’s blood was on Woods’s jersey, which was in the back of his car; her panties were on the car’s floorboard. There was evidence that Woods had scratches on his face and arms on the day after the murder that were not there the day before. Forensic evidence including larvae development in her traumatized genitals also indicated that she had been sexually molested. Woods was arrested and charged with capital murder and was indicted on June 4, 1997, in Hood County, Texas. The indictment charged him with the murder of Sarah Patterson in the course of committing or attempting to commit the kidnapping of Sarah and Cody Patterson, or in the alternative, the murder of Sarah in the course of committing or attempting to commit the aggravated sexual assault of Sarah. He was also indicted for the attempted capital murder of Cody, arising out of the same criminal transaction. On Woods’s motion, venue was changed to Llano County, where he pleaded not guilty. At trial, Woods testified on his own behalf and admitted to the general contours of that morning’s events, including the abductions, but not to the murder. Instead, he offered a version which tended to implicate his cousin. He was found guilty by the jury on May 21, 1998. Following a punishment hearing, the jury returned affirmative answers on May 28 on the issues relating to Woods’s future dangerousness and intent to commit murder, and a negative answer on the existence of mitigating circumstances to justify a life sentence. The Llano County trial court sentenced Woods to death.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 24, 2008 Ohio Betty Jane Mottinger, 48 John Spirko commuted

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. Over the years, Spirko received seven stays of execution. On January 9, 2008, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland commuted Spirko’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Date of scheduled execution State Victim name Inmate name Status
January 31, 2008 Alabama Rebecca Suzanne Howell, 26 James Callahan stayed

On February 3, 1982, around 11:00 p.m., Becky Howell met her fiancÚ, Murray Knight, at the club where he was performing with his band in Jacksonville, Alabama. Becky, 26, was a student at Jacksonville State University. After visiting Knight for 10 to 15 minutes, Becky went across the street to the Norge Washerteria to do laundry. Becky was supposed to return to the club, but when Knight’s band finished playing at 1:30 a.m., she had still not returned. Knight became worried and went to the washerteria to look for Becky. He found her car, her school books, her laundry, and her jacket, but he did not find her. Knight called the police, and Officer Joe Carter and Sergeant Kathy Thienes responded. The officers searched the area and discovered a roll of gray duct tape and a pair of men’s blue jeans in the vicinity of Becky’s car but found no other evidence of Becky’s whereabouts. On February 17, 1982, two weeks after her disappearance, Becky was found dead of asphyxiation in the Tallasseehatchee Creek in Calhoun County, Alabama—her hands were taped together; her belt was on upside down; and she was not wearing pantyhose, socks, or shoes. A vaginal swab revealed the presence of seminal fluid. On the night of Becky’s disappearance, Jimmy Dunagan was in his car
outside of a washerteria six or seven blocks from the Norge Washerteria. Around 11:00 p.m., Dunagan observed a late model green Ford pickup truck being driven by a man, pull into a parking lot across the street from a young woman in a phone booth. After watching the woman for about ten minutes, the man in the truck pulled out of the parking lot and parked within ten feet of the woman in the phone booth. A few minutes later, the woman left the phone booth, and as she passed by the green truck, she began running to her car. When the woman drove away, the green truck followed her for several blocks, stopping when she turned onto Jacksonville State University campus. Dunagan followed the truck and wrote down its tag number. On February 20, Dunagan told Detective Max Kirby what he saw on February 3 and that the tag number of the truck was either “NRF467” or “RNF467.” Kirby searched the database for tag number “NRF467” and nothing came up, but the tag number “RNF467” belonged to an orange Ford truck registered to James Callahan. Further investigation revealed the “RNF467” tag was now on a green 1982 Ford pickup truck. On February 21, police located the green Ford outside of the residence of Harvey Callahan, the defendant’s father. Dunagan identified the truck at Harvey Callahan’s as the same one he saw on February 3 at the washerteria. Starting at 9:30 p.m. on February 21, police staked out the green Ford. Around 5:00 a.m. the next morning, Deputy Johnny Alexander and Sergeant Thienes observed James Callahan get into the truck and drive away. The officers pulled Callahan over for driving with a switched tag. Callahan opened the driver’s side door, placed something behind the seat of his truck, and exited, leaving the driver’s side door open. The officers explained to Callahan that he was going to be ticketed for having the wrong tag on his vehicle. At this point Callahan became very nervous and attempted to get back to his truck. Callahan walked around Alexander and, without getting back into the truck, shut the previously open driver’s side door and locked it. The officers then transported Callahan to the jail so they could write him a ticket for driving with a switched tag. After receiving his ticket, Callahan was told investigators would like to talk to him and he could
wait for them in the lobby. He agreed. At approximately 9:00 a.m., Callahan was placed under arrest for violating his probation by driving a vehicle with an incorrect tag. A subsequent search of Callahan’s truck revealed a pistol, a pillow, and two pairs of men’s blue jeans. Callahan was convicted twice in 1979 for assault with intent to murder and was still on probation for those crimes on February 21, 1982.

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