2017-09-12 13:18:04 UTC
Suspect in 1975 slayings of sisters expected to plead guilty
A man charged with killing 2 young sisters from Maryland is expected to plead
guilty Tuesday, more than 4 decades after the girls vanished during a trip to a
local shopping mall.
Lloyd Lee Welch Jr., 60, is scheduled to appear in a Virginia court Tuesday.
Welch is accused of snatching 12-year-old Sheila Lyon and 10-year-old Katherine
Lyon in March 1975. Authorities believe he burned the girls' bodies on a remote
mountain in Bedford County, Virginia, where his family owned land. They were
The 1st-degree felony murder charges carry the possibility of a death sentence,
but it wasn't known before the hearing if prosecutors had agreed not to pursue
the death penalty in exchange for Welch's guilty pleas.
He was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday, but his trial request was withdrawn
last week. The Washington Post reported that Welch plans to plead guilty in an
agreement that will also resolve 2 unrelated sexual assault cases against him.
Welch is already serving a long prison term in Delaware for sexually molesting
a 10-year-old girl.
The Lyon sisters' disappearance shattered the sense of security in Kensington,
Maryland, rattling parents to the point where they no longer let their children
play outside or walk to Wheaton Plaza.
"It deeply affected everybody in a very large radius within the D.C. suburbs.
People always wanted to know who did this, who was this person, what happened?"
said Teresa Brookland, a former schoolmate who remembers Katherine as sweet and
Harry Geehreng, a retired Montgomery County police sergeant who searched the
mall and surrounding woods for the sisters after they disappeared, said it took
a couple of days for it to sink in that the girls may have been abducted
because it was a sleepy area with little crime back then.
"It was just an innocent time and people never thought the worst," Geehreng
said. "Just the idea that a total stranger absconded with these 2 little girls,
it was really beyond belief. People were genuinely shocked."
Cold case detectives began focusing on Welch in 2013 after they noticed a
composite sketch that resembled a 1977 mug shot of Welch in a burglary near
When the girls disappeared, Welch was an 18-year-old former worker at a
A friend of the girls told police she saw a young man leering at them and
following them in the mall. Based on her description, a detective drew a
composite sketch of a young man with long hair and facial scars from acne.
Police didn't release the drawing to the public because they were focused on
another sketch based on descriptions from witnesses who said they saw the
sisters talking to an older man who had a microphone and cassette recorder.
After the sketch of the older man was made public, Welch told a security guard
at the mall that he seen the sisters leave with that man. Police interviewed
Welch but released him because they believed he was trying to get the $9,000
reward being offered.
In interviews with police beginning in 2013, Welch acknowledged he was at the
mall that day and said he believed they'd been "abducted, raped and burned up,"
according to court documents.
He was charged in their deaths 2 years ago.
Georgia set to execute man even though juror admitted he always backed death
penalty for 'n*ggers'
The state of Georgia is set to execute a black man convicted of murder this
month, despite the fact that one of the jurors in his trial admitted to voting
for the death penalty if defendants were "n*ggers."
Via anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, Georgia has scheduled
59-year-old Keith Leroy Tharpe's execution for September 26, almost 27 years to
the day after he murdered his sister-in-law and attempted to kidnap his wife
after she had left him 1 month earlier.
As recounted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tharpe's attorneys have
argued that his death sentence should be thrown out because one juror in the
trial showed extreme racial prejudice toward him.
Specifically, the juror told lawyers after the trial had ended that he believed
there were 2 type of African Americans: "Good black folks" and "n*ggers." The
juror claimed that he saw Tharpe as an example of the latter, although he said
the family of Tharpe's victim was an example of "good" black people.
In fact, the juror said that if Tharpe's victim's family "had been the type
Tharpe is, then picking between life or death for Tharpe wouldn't have mattered
Tharpe's attorneys have tried to use this juror's account to reopen his case,
but so far courts have refused. While there doesn't seem to be any question
about Tharpe's guilt, there is question over whether racial prejudice was
responsible for the jury handing down a sentence that would not have been given
to a white man convicted of the same crime.
Lawyer says Ohio man set to die for 2 murders will not appeal ruling in case
A lawyer for a convicted Ohio killer scheduled to died Wednesday says his
client won't appeal a judge's ruling rejecting arguments that the state's
three-drug lethal injection process is unconstitutional.
Federal Judge Michael Merz said Friday that inmate Gary Otte still hasn't
proved he would experience pain after being injected with Midazolam, the first
drug in the lethal injection process.
Federal public defender Vicki Werneke said Monday that no appeal would be
filed. She declined to further comment.
The decision means Otte's last appeal involves an argument before a state
appeals court that he shouldn't be put to death because at the time of the
crime he was only 20.
Otte was sentenced to die for the Feb. 12, 1992, killing of Robert Wasikowski
and the Feb. 13, 1992, killing of Sharon Kostura.
Both slayings took place in Parma, in suburban Cleveland.
The state plans to execute the 45-year-old Otte on Wednesday.
Ohio put the killer of a 3-year-old girl to death in July, the 1st execution in
more than 3 years after a delay caused by a drug shortage.
(source: Associated Press)
Gary Otte Writes Essay on Drug Addiction Days Before Scheduled Execution in
Convicted killer Gary Otte is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. The state
of Ohio resumed its death penalty protocol in July with the execution of Ronald
Phillips, following a 3-year hiatus riddled with legal controversy. Beyond
Otte, there are more than 2 dozen state inmates scheduled to die in the next
But as The Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School reported recently,
Otte and many of those other inmates brought a history of abuse and mental
impairment to their time on death row. Otte, who committed his 2 murders at age
20, began using drugs and drinking alcohol at 10. He attempted suicide at 14.
With that backdrop in mind, Otte penned an essay on drug addiction in his final
days. Splinter ran the letter, which we've embedded below as well.
The essay came as a response to Hamilton Nolan's request for his "Letters from
Death Row" series. "You wrote to me a while back," Otte wrote in his letter to
Nolan. "I recently put together a few words about overcoming our growing drug
epidemic. You are welcome to share it. It is a first draft and deserves 200+
pages more, but it is worth the look."
It's a worthwhile perspective on the growing opiate overdose crisis in the U.S.
Otte speaks directly to the social stigma that continues to surround drug
addiction and the demonization of addicts.
"Hiding people in prisons doesn't make our problems go away," he writes.
As 2nd Execution Approaches, Advocates Say They'll Keep Pushing To Stop Capital
Ohio's 2nd execution in 2 months is set to proceed on Wednesday, when Gary Otte
of Indiana is scheduled to be executed for 2 murders in Parma near Cleveland in
1992. But those opposed to capital punishment says they're not done fighting.
Anti-death penalty advocates say they've been expecting executions to go
forward after they failed to stop Ronald Phillips' execution in July. Phillips
was put to death with a never-before-tried mixture of drugs, and had no
complications. Kevin Werner with Ohioans to Stop Executions said he's also
concerned about studies showing many death row inmates are mentally ill or
victims of abuse. "When you take a close look at Ohio is actually executing,
we're back to sort of the most vulnerable people in our society," Werner said.
Gov. John Kasich agreed with the parole board's unanimous recommendation to
deny clemency to Gary Otte. After Otte, 25 men are on Ohio's execution schedule
over the next 5 years - more than in any other state.
(source: WVXU news)
Cuyahoga County Judge Calls on Legislators to Stop Ignoring Death Penalty
Gov. John Kasich recently denied clemency to an Indiana man sentenced to die
for 2 murders in Parma. The advocacy group Ohioans To Stop Executions held a
forum last week in downtown Cleveland to discuss the future of the death
penalty in Ohio.
Joe D'Ambrosio spent more than 20 years on death row for the 1988 murder of
Tony Klann. After a district judge found county prosecutors withheld evidence,
D'Ambrosio became the 6th person to be exonerated since the death penalty was
reinstated in Ohio in 1974.
Cuyahoga County's top judge, John Russo, served on a joint task force that
recommended more than 50 ways to improve accuracy and fairness in death penalty
cases. These included protections for inmates with mental illnesses. Russo says
they've been ignored by legislators.
"Very few of those 50-plus recommendations have been looked at, and yet we
continue to impose the death penalty sentence and handing down executions,"
Russo said. "Somebody should take it off the shelf and start to look at it ...
if we're going to continue to have the death penalty in the state of Ohio."
A study recently released by Harvard's Fair Punishment Project found most of
Ohio's death row inmates are likely mentally ill. D'Ambrosio said those inmates
are at a disadvantage.
"The sad thing is, most of the guys on death row have mental problems. How are
they supposed to defend themselves?" D'Ambrosio said.
The next execution in Ohio, of 45-year-old Gary Otte, is scheduled for this
(source: WKSU news)
High court agrees to decide future of Indiana's death penalty
The Indiana Supreme Court will decide whether the state's method of carrying
out the death penalty can stand after the justices agreed to hold oral
arguments in an appeal of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling that voided the
current death penalty protocol.
The high court unanimously granted transfer to the case of Roy Ward v. Robert
E. Carter, Jr., et al., 46S03-1709-PL-569, last week. In that case, the Indiana
Court of Appeals ruled in June that the Department of Correction's failure to
enact new lethal-injection protocols under the Administrative Rules and
Procedure Act, subject to public comment, made the death penalty protocol
adopted in May 2014 "void and without effect." That protocol included a 3-drug
cocktail that has not yet been used in any state or federal execution.
"Finding the General Assembly has not exempted the DOC from ARPA and that the
statutory definition of 'rule' clearly includes the DOC's execution protocols,
we reverse," Judge John Baker wrote in the June opinion, referencing a previous
dismissal of the case by the LaPorte Circuit Court.
The appellate court's ruling came after Roy Ward was sentenced to death for the
2001 rape and murder of 15-year-old Stacy Payne in Spencer County. Ward, who
was sentenced in 2007, is 1 of 12 people on death row in Indiana.
At the time of the June 1 decision, a spokesman for Indiana Attorney General
Curtis Hill said Hill's office was disappointed with the decision. In its
petition for review by the Supreme Court, the state argued the Court of Appeals
panel "eschewed ... legislative judgment and substituted its own." Other legal
experts said the decision left the future of the death penalty in Indiana in
limbo. Oral arguments in the case have not yet been scheduled.
The high court also agreed to hear the case of B.A. v. State of Indiana,
49S02-1709-JV-567, in which delinquency findings were upheld against a
13-year-old who threatened to bomb his school. The Indiana Court of Appeals
ruled in March that because an in-school interrogation of 13-year-old B.A. was
led by a school official, it did not trigger a Miranda warning, so the trial
court did not err in admitting the statements the teenager made during that
Finally, the justices unanimously agreed to decide whether 3 counts of
resisting law enforcement should be entered against a man who was convicted
after a single incident.
In Brian L. Paquette v. State of Indiana, 63S04-1709-CR-570, Brian Paquette
crossed a median while fleeing police officers in his car and struck 2 vehicles
carrying a total of 4 passengers, 3 of whom were killed. Paquette was convicted
on 3 counts of resisting law enforcement - 1 for each of his victims - but the
Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in June, finding only 1 incident of resisting
law enforcement had occurred.
The high court denied transfer to the case of Lucy Mundia v. Drendall Law
Office, P.C., 71A05-1610-PL-2388, forcing a South Bend law firm to face a legal
malpractice suit. Lucy Mundia filed a malpractice complaint against the
Drendall Law Office after Stephen Drendall failed to file a tort claim notice
on her behalf against the South Bend Police Department and St. Joseph County
Prosecutor's Office, which mistakenly released Mundia's husband, Edward Mwuara,
Mwuara had been arrested on suspicion of violating a protective order against
Mundia's 6-year-old daughter, Shirley, but authorities misspelled his name upon
his arrest. Thus, when a deputy prosecutor checked the protective order
registry under the misspelled name, she found no active order, so Mwuara was
released. He then attacked Mundia and Shirley, fatally wounding the young girl.
When Mundia brought her malpractice suit against the firm, Drendall claimed the
police department and prosecutor's office were immune under the Indiana Tort
Claims Act, so she could not have succeeded on her claims against them even if
he had filed the tort claim. The trial court agreed and granted summary
judgment to Drendall, but the Indiana Court of Appeals found otherwise and
ordered the case to continue to a malpractice trial. A divided Indiana Supreme
Court agreed by denying transfer, though justices Mark Massa and Geoffrey
Slaughter voted to grant transfer.
The high court denied transfer to 21 other cases last week.
(source: The Indiana Lawyer)
Prosecutor: Accused told friend he kidnapped, raped Holly Bobo
The trial of one of the men charged with the 2011 murder, rape and kidnapping
of Holly Bobo, a 20-year-old nursing student in Tennessee, began Monday with
the testimony of the young woman's father.
Dana Bobo was at work when he got a call that his daughter had been kidnapped.
"Holly's been taken," Bobo said, remembering a call he received.
Bobo was the 1st witness called in the trial of Zachary Rye Adams, 33, 1 of 3
men charged in Bobo's death and disappearance.
Holly Bobo was reported missing April 13, 2011.
In opening statements Monday, assistant Shelby County (Tenn.) District Attorney
Paul Hagerman said evidence and testimony will show that Zachary Adams told
Jason Autry that he, Shayne Austin, and John Dylan Adams had kidnapped and
raped Bobo. Austin was found dead in 2015
"Jason sees a blanket in the bed of Zach's truck. There???s a body in the
blanket," Hagerman said in opening statements.
Hagerman said Autry, who has been offered immunity to testify, will tell the
jury that he asked Adams, "how did this (expletive) get in your truck?" and
that Adams told him the 3 had abducted her.
Hagerman said Autry became "the leader" that morning, and when they went to
throw Bobo's body in the Tennessee River, Bobo moved and made a noise. Hagerman
said in opening statements that Adams then got a gun, and shot Bobo in the
Adams' defense attorney Jennifer Thompson said the investigation spanned years,
and that police interviewed dozens of people in the case.
"It's kind of like drinking from a fire hose," she said. "You'll hear testimony
that basically the police were called within minutes."
Through the years, police "basically interviewed every person in Decatur
County," Thompson said.
She told jurors that police talked to Victor Dinsmore, another man who has been
offered immunity to testify in the trial.
"He said, if you want to get anywhere with this case, you need to talk to Zach
Adams' brother," Thompson said.
Thompson told the jury that Adams is not guilty of all the charges against him,
and that he did not abduct, rape, or kill Bobo.
Bobo's boyfriend, Drew Scott, also testified before recess Monday morning.
Adams is facing charges of felony 1st-degree murder, especially aggravated
kidnapping, and aggravated rape in Bobo's death and abduction. If convicted,
Adams could receive the death penalty.
The 20-year-old nursing student was last seen on April 13, 2011, at her home in
Darden, Tenn., about 103 miles southwest of Nashville.
Her skull was found 3 years later, in September 2014, in northern Decatur
(source: USA Today)
Prosecutor: Defendant almost got away with it
Chilling details were revealed in the first day of the trial for the man
accused of killing Decatur County nursing student Holly Bobo.
Opening statements began Monday morning in the death penalty case against Zach
Karen Bobo, Holly Bobo's mother, collapsed on the stand, saying she felt sick
and couldn't breathe. The judge stopped court while she was led back into his
Karen Bobo had been testifying about what started as a routine morning in 2011.
Holly Bobo was preparing for a day of nursing school when she disappeared from
her family's backyard.
Prosecutors played the 911 call Karen Bobo made when she heard that her
daughter had apparently been abducted.
"Somebody has my daughter," she said on the phone call.
Karen Bobo collapsed while looking at Holly Bobo's tattered purse. Court
stopped for about half an hour.
In opening statements, prosecutors laid out what they say happened when the
young woman was abducted, raped and murdered in 2011.
The state claims Adams abducted Holly Bobo from her parents' home. They say he
raped her and thought he had killed her.
His co-defendant, Jason Autry, is expected to testify against him.
Autry told prosecutors that Adams admitted to kidnapping and raping Holly Bobo,
then loaded her body in the back of his pickup truck in a blanket, thinking she
Autry wanted to gut her and throw her in the river so she didn't float.
Then, Holly Bobo made a sound, which is when Adams allegedly got his gun and
"He took her. He raped her. He killed her. He discarded her. He covered it up.
He bragged about it. And he almost got away with it," prosecutor Paul Hagerman
said during his opening statement.
Years later, Holly Bobo's skull and ribs were found in the woods near a
Autry told investigators where to find the buried gun that was used as the
Tulsa could hand down its 1st death sentence in 8 years as state moves to make
woman's slaying a capital case
The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office on Monday filed its intent to seek
the death penalty against a man accused in a young woman's strangulation death,
marking the 1st time prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence since
2012's Good Friday shootings.
Gregory Jerome Epperson, 41, is expected to appear in court Oct. 9 for
arraignment before District Judge Doug Drummond on charges of 1st-degree murder
in the March 20 homicide of 19-year-old Kelsey Tennant and assault against her
boyfriend, Riley Allen, inside her east Tulsa apartment.
Epperson's case is the 1st death penalty case in Tulsa County under District
Attorney Steve Kunzweiler's purview since his election in 2014.
If the case goes to trial and a jury unanimously recommends a death sentence,
Epperson would be the first person in Tulsa County to face lethal injection
since Raymond Johnson, who was sentenced to death in 2009 for the 2007 slayings
of a woman and her baby.
In asking for a death sentence as an option against Epperson, Kunzweiler and
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray argue the beating and strangling of
Tennant is especially atrocious, heinous or cruel.
Gray also pointed to a previous murder case against Epperson, which was dropped
partly over evidence concerns, as a sign Epperson will likely continue to
commit acts of violence and be a threat to society.
Allen told Gray during the preliminary hearing that Epperson attacked him from
behind when he entered the apartment after Tennant had already been attacked
there. Allen said he was able to break free from Epperson's attempts to choke
him and managed to get outside the residence to ask his neighbor, a friend of
Epperson's, for help.
Special Judge Deborrah Ludi-Leitch ordered Epperson to stand trial after a June
13 preliminary hearing. Since then his arraignment has been postponed twice
while Epperson's legal team, provided to him as an indigent defendant, gathered
evidence in hopes of dissuading the state from requesting capital punishment.
Defense attorney Brian Boeheim represented Epperson during his preliminary
hearing, but on July 25 Drummond appointed attorneys Shena Burgess and Beverly
Atteberry, who have experience in capital cases, after receiving word the state
might file a bill of particulars.
Capital cases in Oklahoma
When prosecutors seek the death penalty against a defendant, they are required
to submit a bill of particulars to the trial judge before trial court
arraignment. As part of its process, the state will evaluate such areas as the
strength of the case, the wishes of the victim's family and any mitigating
evidence gathered by the defendant's attorneys, such as life history or
Typically, both sides will have at least 2 attorneys in the courtroom. It's not
yet clear which assistant district attorney, if anyone, will work with Gray on
Epperson's case; he has never taken a death penalty case to trial.M
State law also mandates that those ordered to die are automatically entitled to
appellate reviews of their convictions and sentences.
Kunzweiler's office considered the death penalty against 20-year-old Robert
Bever, who was 18 when he and his brother Michael Bever were charged in the
2015 stabbing deaths of their parents and 3 siblings.
However, Robert Bever pleaded guilty and received consecutive
life-without-parole sentences. Michael Bever, who was 16 when he was arrested,
is statutorily ineligible for the death penalty.
A bill of particulars has not been filed since then-District Attorney Tim
Harris did so in January 2013 against Jacob England and Alvin Watts. The 2 were
charged with 1st-degree murder in 4 north Tulsa shootings on Good Friday in
2012, which prosecutors said targeted black people in a hate crime.
England and Watts took plea deals in exchange for prosecutors withdrawing the
bill of particulars. They are serving life without parole. Burgess, who is one
of a handful of death penalty-qualified attorneys in the area, handled Watts'
Tulsa County prosecutors have filed bills of particulars in 9 cases since 2007,
5 of which were resolved before trial with plea deals of life without parole. 2
of those resolutions were for England and Watts.
The last capital case that went to trial in Tulsa County was against Darren
Price, who was charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in the September 2011
Hicks Park homicides. A jury in 2014 recommended 2 life-without-parole terms,
which prosecutors said at the time was possibly due to Price's young age - 19 -
at the time of the incidents.
Harris' administration also sought the death penalty in 2012 against Zane
Atchison and Joel Pina for the August 2011 deaths of 2 people in a reported
Pina pleaded guilty in 2014 to amended charges of solicitation to commit murder
and accessory after the fact. He received a life sentence with the possibility
Atchison took his case to a jury, which recommended life-without-parole
sentences in 2013. He was sentenced in September of that year.
After Oklahoma's last execution in January 2015, when Charles Warner was put to
death, questions and problems with the state's lethal injection protocol led to
death row inmate Richard Glossip receiving a last-minute stay in September
2015. It effectively put a moratorium in place until 2018 as the Attorney
General's Office said it will wait at least 150 days after receiving an updated
lethal injection protocol from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to put
any inmates on a schedule for execution.
The DOC has given no indication of its readiness to continue lethal injections
as of the Attorney General's Office's Aug. 31 status report filed with the
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.
(source: Tulsa World)
Jurors asked if they could hand out death penalty in Alton Nolen case
The man prosecutors say beheaded his co-workers at a Moore food plant in 2014
appeared in court Monday but refused to participate.
Potential jurors were asked several questions not only about their prior
knowledge of the case against Alton Nolen, but also if they were able to keep
an open mind about punishment.
Nolen didn't say a word when he walked by KOCO 5, and he kept his head down,
eyes closed and hands covering his face and ears while in a Cleveland County
courtroom. District Attorney Greg Mashburn and Nolen's defense team questioned
jurors about whether they can focus on what happens in the courtroom and not
what they hear or read outside its walls.
"We're just looking for jurors, especially at this point, who can be fair and
can consider all of the punishments," Mashburn said. "So that's what our
questions have been."
Both sides asked candidates if they'd be willing to give Nolen the death
penalty if he's convicted.
"And if it's something like they just really don't feel like they can do, or,
as you heard some jurors always go with that option, they're just not
appropriate for this case," Mashburn said.
The jury is expected to be selected by Wednesday, with opening statements
starting as early as noon.
(source: KOCO news)
Death sentences rare in Idaho
As Kootenai County begins its 1st possible death penalty case in more than a
decade, a look at Idaho's death row shows few offenders in the Gem State ever
face the ultimate punishment for their crimes.
Right now, 8 people await the death penalty in Idaho; 7 men wait at the Idaho
Maximum Security Institution near Boise, 1 woman is in the Women's Correctional
Center in Pocatello. None of the condemned committed their crimes in North
Offenders on death row lead a sheltered existence. They're confined to their
12x7 foot cells 23 hours a day, with one hour each day to spend in an outdoor
recreation yard. When escorted anywhere, their hands remained shackled.
Counties in Idaho cite rising cost and lengthy appeals as reasons for not
seeking the death penalty more often. Death penalty cases are more complicated
and include automatic appeals. It often takes decades for the sentence to be
1 man on death row in Idaho has been there since 1983.
Idaho has executed only 3 people since the death penalty was reinstated in the
mid-1970s. A legislative study done in 2014 shows few county prosecutors seek
the death penalty.
According to the study, of the 215 people charged with 1st degree murder over a
16-year period, the death penalty was sought in just 55 of them. Of those, only
7 were sentenced to death. More than 1/2 of the people sentenced to death since
1977 have had their death sentenced overturned and were given lesser sentences.
The last time the death penalty was on the table in Kootenai County was for
child serial killer Joseph Duncan. He faced murder and kidnapping charges for
killing a family in 2005 and abducting their 2 youngest children. Duncan took a
plea deal in Kootenai County and was sentenced to death in federal court
He is still on death row with no execution date set.
(source: KXLY news)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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