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1,350 days and 17 steps: Why it took so long for Ronald Phillips to die
Author: Stephanie Metzger
Published: 7:51 PM EDT July 26, 2017
OHIO 8 Articles

1,350 days and 17 steps: Why it took so long for Ronald Phillips to die

Chapter 1

Ronald Phillips died today.

He’s known he would die this way for some time.

In 1993, Phillips was sentenced to die for raping and killing a 3-year-old girl. His execution has been delayed eight times due to attempts to donate his organs and controversy surrounding Ohio execution practices. For the first time in Ohio, there will be three drugs used in a lethal injection. One of those drugs has been blamed for the disturbing death of Dennis McGuire.

McGuire was executed in Ohio in 2014. He choked. His stomach swelled. His fists clenched. But no one knew if he felt any pain as it took him 26 minutes to die.

Now, a federal appeals court has ruled a three-drug cocktail as constitutional, reopening the door for Ohio executions.

Ronald Phillips was Ohio's first execution in 3 1/2 years. He committed his crime 24 years ago and on Wednesday, he finally paid for it.

Chapter 2

Chapter 1: 'She had more than 125 bruises'

A Facebook page in memory of Sheila Marie Evans describes her as a "loving child who deserved much better from those around her."

Sheila was 3 years old when she was raped and killed by Ronald Phillips in Akron on Jan. 18, 1993.

Summit County Court documents state that Phillips confessed to the killing, admitting that he "lost it" when he repeatedly hit Sheila, dragged her by her hair and threw her into walls inside her Akron home. He also confessed that he became sexually aroused when he noticed Sheila was not wearing underwear, resulting in her rape, documents state.

Sheila Evans

When Sheila's mother, Fae Evans, returned home later that morning, Phillips found Sheila facedown on her bed, motionless, pale and cold.

Sheila was rushed to a hospital, where emergency surgery revealed her abdominal cavity had filled with air and blood. She died later that day.

The Summit County Medical Examiner testified that Sheila had more than 125 bruises on her body. He also concluded that she had been sodomized. Court documents state that Phillips confessed to raping Sheila prior to the day of her death, but did not rape her during the deadly beating. The medical examiner testified Sheila had been sodomized at least 48 hours before her death.

Fae Evans

Phillips pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder, rape and other charges on Feb. 2, 1993. On Aug. 18, 1993, he was found guilty of all counts.

Fae Evans was also charged in her daughter's death. A court found her guilty of child endangering and involuntary manslaughter as state prosecutors argued she failed to get medical attention for Sheila.

Fae Evans died at the age of 41 at the state prison hospital in Columbus in July 2008. She had cancer and spent the final 15 years of her life behind bars.

Phillips was sentenced to death, though no one could foresee that it would take him 24 more years to die.

Chapter 3

Chapter 2: 'Oh my God'

It took 26 minutes for Dennis McGuire to die.

The needle pierced his flesh at 10:27 a.m. on Jan. 16, 2014. Three minutes later, witnesses say he lifted his head to look at his family watching through a window and said, "I love you. I love you."

As the drugs crept through his veins, he choked and heaved with clenched fists. But nobody will ever know what he felt.

Associated Press reporter and execution witness Alan Johnson said McGuire "struggled, made guttural noises, gasped for air and choked for about 10 minutes."

McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.


Joy Stewart's son was to be named Carl.

Stewart was a newlywed on her second pregnancy after her first resulted in a stillborn. But Dennis McGuire cut her second baby's life short, too.

Joy Stewart

McGuire raped and killed the 22-year-old Stewart as she was seven months pregnant with baby Carl. A pair of hikers found her body in a wooded area of Eaton, Ohio, about 25 miles west of Dayton. Her throat was slashed and she had been raped and stabbed.

Later that year, McGuire was imprisoned on a separate case. The Dayton Daily News reported McGuire tried to blame Stewart's murder on his brother-in-law, but knew too many details of the killing that had never been made public, which eventually led to his indictment. He was convicted for Stewart's death in 1994 and sentenced to die. He later admitted to the killing.

Before he could find out who was responsible for his wife's death, Stewart's husband committed suicide.


Dennis McGuire's defense team made several attempts to halt his execution.

In one plea for clemency, McGuire claimed he was abused as a child. Another appeal claimed the drug combination to be used in his execution had never been tried, meaning he could encounter an agonizing death. He may have been right.

McGuire received a combination of hydromorphone and midazolam to die. Two states -- Ohio and Arizona -- used the duo of drugs in just as many executions. Both led to similar results, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

McGuire requested a last meal of roast beef, fried chicken, a bagel with cream cheese, potato salad, fried potatoes, onions, butter pecan ice cream and a Coke. He refused breakfast the morning of his death.

Dennis McGuire.

He was strapped to the gurney and prepped for the injection. When the microphone was held to his lips, he said, "I’m going to heaven. I’ll see you there when you come.” Those were not actually his last words.

Three minutes passed. Witnesses said McGuire lifted his head, said, "I love you, I love you," and became still for a minute. That's when the convulsions started. He appeared to gasp for breath and his snorts became so loud, his daughter covered her ears.

"Oh my God," she said, according to The Associated Press, as his son and wife also watched in horror.

McGuire's final movement was a cough at 10:43 a.m. His time of death was called 10 minutes later.

Twenty-six minutes passed from the time the drugs met McGuire's veins to his official time of death. But its impact was just beginning.

Chapter 4

Chapter 3: No entitlement to a painless execution

Dennis McGuire's execution was a topic of debate long before it happened.

His attorneys argued the new drug combination would cause terror and agony, but a federal judge refused to halt his death a week before it occurred.

Assistant Ohio Attorney General Thomas Madden argued that, though the Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, "You're not entitled to a pain-free execution," according to an executive summary released by the Ohio Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (ODRC).

McGuire's execution proceeded and with it, much more debate.

The Dayton Daily News reported a member of the state's execution team testified he "was wondering what was going on" as McGuire died.

San Diego anesthesiologist Kent Dively said in a sworn statement that McGuire's execution was inhumane and that he experienced "true pain and suffering." Dively was hired by McGuire's legal team to provide a report on the execution.

Dively's report stated that loss of consciousness cannot be dependent on hydromorphone or midazolam, meaning there's a chance a person may remain conscious for several minutes prior to his or her death. The report also claimed that McGuire's movements as he died "more likely than not represent conscious voluntary actions..."

Prior to McGuire's execution, Boston anesthesiologist David Waisel testified at a hearing, stating there would be up to a five-minute window following the administration of the drugs in which McGuire might feel "an urge to breathe, but would not be able to breathe."

But a state review of McGuire's execution found otherwise.

The review, released April 28, 2014 by the ODRC, stated that the DRC felt the two drugs used in McGuire's execution "had their intended effect and that McGuire did not experience any pain or distress." It also said that McGuire was unconscious prior to the convulsions, which were "consistent with the effects of the drugs, his obesity and other body characteristics..."

ODRP Director Gary Mohr addressed the media the morning of Phillips' execution, he said he does not feel that McGuire's death was botched or inhumane.

Still, the state decided to increase the dosage of hydromorphone and midazolam for future executions. It also decided the effects of the two drugs should be studied more in depth.


Midazolam is a sedative typically used as an anesthetic. Side effects of the drug include drowsiness, dizziness, coughing, nausea, change in heartbeat and blood pressure and short-term memory loss. Long-term use can result in addiction.

When used in executions, midazolam slows brain activity in order to render the inmate unconscious. But experts warned the drug may not be powerful enough to keep someone unconscious, even at high doses.

Dr. David Lubarsky, an anesthesiologist, testified before the Supreme Court (Glossip v. Gross) that midazolam does not have the same effect as drugs previously used in executions. Lubarsky said that midazolam is subject to a "ceiling effect," meaning increasing the drug's dosage fails to produce a greater effect at a certain point.

The use of midazolam in executions stemmed from a shortage of pentobarbital when its manufacturer banned prisons from using the drug. According to NBC News, Ohio ran out of the drug five months prior to McGuire's execution, forcing the ODRC to amend its policies to permit the use of midazolam.

After McGuire's execution, Ohio had initially planned to drop midazolam from its execution protocol. The state reversed its decision and added midazolam to the three-drug cocktail in 2016.

Five states have used midazolam as the first of three drugs in the execution process. In 2009, Ohio was the first to use it in a two-drug protocol. Arizona also tried the two-drug process in the execution of Joseph Wood. He, too, gasped for breath during a prolonged death, according to the DPIC.

Ohio also was the first state to use only pentobarbital in an execution in 2011 and Florida became the first try to midazolam in a three-drug process.

But the trio of drugs has also resulted in controversial executions.

Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia and Arkansas have used the three-drug method, with Florida being the first in 2013. Since then, the state has dropped midazolam from its protocol and replaced it with etomidate, according to the DPIC.

In April 2014, Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett using midazolam as one of three drugs. According to documents obtained when Tulsa World sued for their release, the procedure had to be halted as doctors struggled to find a vein and the right needle. Tulsa World reported that a paramedic on scene admitted she had no experience starting femoral IVs and Lockett, who was not properly sedated, woke up during the procedure. The needle used was too short for a femoral IV, meaning the drugs seeped into Lockett's tissue, not his veins.

Lockett was pronounced dead 43 minutes later.

Ronald Smith was executed in December 2016 for killing a store clerk in 1994. Witnesses of his execution say it took him 34 minutes to die, according to

Smith reportedly coughed and sputtered for 13 minutes until he was pronounced dead.


The fate of Ohio executions rested in the hands of midazolam. After McGuire's execution, the state scrambled for alternatives amid the decision to drop midazolam. But the drug was reintroduced to protocol in October 2016, leading to several appeals and delays.

Last May, Ohio Gov. John Kasich delayed nine executions, including Phillips', due to timing of arguments against a federal judge's former order to block the three-drug protocol, ruling it unconstitutional. Kasich issued a similar delay four months prior.

In June, a federal appeals court ruled the injection process constitutional, giving the green light for Ohio to resume executions, and for Phillips to die.

Chapter 5

Chapter 4: Gallows to needles

Ohio's history of executions

Ohio has executed 393 convicted murderers.

The state carried out death by hanging executions until 1885. After that, death row was housed at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus and the electric chair was introduced in 1897.

The death chamber at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.

Use of the electric chair ended in 1963 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972. As a result, 60 Ohio inmates' sentences were reduced from death to life behind bars. In 1974, Ohio's death penalty law was revised and later rejected by the Supreme Court. Ninety-seven more prisoners' sentences were commuted to life in prison.

New law was drafted and took effect in 1981 to impose stricter criteria on death sentences.

Death row inmates were given the choice between lethal injection and the electric chair in 1993. Prisoners were asked their preference seven days before their scheduled execution. If they did not provide a choice, law stipulated that they'd be electrocuted. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed House Bill 362 to eliminate the electric chair in 2001.

Texas was the first state to use lethal injection in 1982. Ohio was the first to try the single-drug method of sodium thiopental, as well as the first to try pentobarbital, according to the DPIC.

Inside the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility death house:


Notable cases

Ohio's history of the death penalty is peppered with heartbreak, redemption and controversy.

Some have sworn their innocence, even to their final words. Some have walked free and innocent. Some have concocted excuses to avoid death.

Take a look at some of Ohio's most notable cases of capital punishment.

Richard Cooey

Richard Cooey

Cooey described to police how he and another man raped and killed two college students in Akron 1986. He was sentenced to death, his execution scheduled for 2008. CNN reported Cooey made a last-minute plea to avoid the needle, claiming he was too overweight for the execution drugs to properly work. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal and he was executed without any reported issues.

Romell Broom

Broom was convicted for sexually assaulting and stabbing a 14-year-old East Cleveland girl to death in 1985. Though his attorneys argued he didn't receive a fair trial, Broom was scheduled for execution on Sept. 15, 2009. When the execution team began searching for a useable vein, they failed to find one. At one point, Broom even offered to move around to help them find a vein, according to the DPIC. After two hours and 18 attempts to insert a needle, the execution was called off. Broom remains on death row with a current rescheduled execution date on June 17, 2020.

Brett Hartmann

Hartmann maintained his innocence through 15 years of failed appeals for the 1997 killing of Wanda Snipes. Hartmann admitted he was with Snipes the night of her death, claiming he'd had a sexual relationship with her for months. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Hartmann said he'd had sex with Snipes and returned to her apartment 14 hours later, where he found her dead. She had been stabbed more than 130 times and her hands were cut off. Police found a bloody shirt stashed behind Hartmann's bed and Snipes' jewelry during a search of his home.

Anthony Sowell

Anthony Sowell

Sowell became known as the Imperial Avenue killer for his role in the deaths of 11 women in 2009. Police discovered a pair of decomposing bodies while serving a warrant at Sowell's Cleveland home. Eventually, they found the remains of 11 total women throughout the house. Sowell's death sentence was put on hold indefinitely as he continues to appeal his case.

Wilford Berry

Berry was Ohio's first execution after it reinstated capital punishment in 1999. The DPIC says Berry became known as "The Volunteer" because he had campaigned for the death sentence rather than spend life behind bars. Berry was convicted for murdering his former boss during a bakery robbery in 1989.

James Mammone

Mammone was the subject of one of Northeast Ohio's most heinous crimes in 2009. Mammone was sentenced to death for stabbing his 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son as they were strapped in their car seats in Canton. He also killed his mother-in-law. According to the Canton Repository, Mammone confessed to the killings, stating he hoped to inflict pain on his ex-wife. He was granted a stay of execution from his scheduled date of March 14, 2017 in 2014.

Ashford Thompson

Thompson was convicted for killing Twinsburg Police Officer Joshua Miktarian during a late-night traffic stop in 2008. Thompson was pulled over for playing loud music when he shot Miktarian four times in the head. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Thompson's request for appeal.


Nine men have been exonerated in Ohio since 1979.

Gary Beeman

Beeman was convicted of aggravated murder in 1976. Beeman swore his innocence and claimed the actual killer was Claire Liuzzo, an escaped prisoner who testified against him as a witness. According to the DPIC, Liuzzo later confessed to the killing during a retrial, leading to Beeman's acquittal.

Dale Johnston

Johnston was sentenced to death for killing his stepdaughter and her fiance in 1984. Six years later, the charges were dismissed because the prosecution withheld evidence from the defense and a witness was deemed unreliable, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Another man pleaded guilty to the killings in 2008.

Timothy Howard and Gary Lamar James

Howard and James were convicted for robbing a Columbus bank and shooting a security guard dead. The two were blamed when a witness picked them from a photo lineup, though both men went to police to provide alibis. Both spent 26 years in jail despite lack of physical evidence they were at the bank that day. Charges were dismissed against the two in 2003, after it was learned one of the police detectives was involved in corruption and falsified evidence, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Derrick Jamison

Jamison was convicted for the murder of a Cincinnati bartender in 1985. He was granted a new trial in 2000 and it was learned that a witness had identified two other suspects, neither of which were Jamison, for the crime. Murder charges against Jamison were dropped, though he remained in jail for unrelated charges.

Joe D'Ambrosio

D'Ambrosio was wrongfully convicted for the death of Anthony Klann, whose body was discovered in a creek in a Cleveland park, in 1989. His conviction was first overturned in 2006 because the state withheld 10 pieces of key evidence from the defense that would have suggested his innocence to a jury, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state's appeal against D'Ambrosio, leading to his freedom in 2012.

Ricky Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu

Jackson, Bridgeman and Ajamu each spent 39 years behind bars all because of a child's lie. When a 19-year-old man was shot and killed in Cleveland in 1975, a 12-year-old boy named Eddie Vernon told police he saw the three men fleeing the scene. In 2014, Vernon recanted, saying he never saw the trio and that police coerced his statement by threatening to imprison his parents, the New York Daily News reported. All three were eventually released.

Chapter 6

Chapter 5: Famous last words

The last words and final special meals of Ohio inmates

In 1999, Wilford Berry was the first inmate executed in Ohio since 1963.

Since then, Ohio has carried out 52 executions. Here are their last words and final special meals eaten the night before their deaths.

Wilford Berry
Executed: Feb. 19, 1999
Special meal: Lasagna, garlic bread, potato salad, Pepsi, cheesecake
Last words: None (he mumbled something inaudible)

Jay D. Scott
Executed: June 14, 2001
Special meal: Fish sandwich with hot sauce, Pepsi
Last words: “Spook, George, Randy – I love you all, tell the family and friends I send my love. Don’t worry. Tell them I’m all right.”

John W. Byrd
Executed: Feb. 19, 2002
Special meal: T-bone steak with A1 sauce, chef salad with blue cheese dressing, grape soda
Last words: What you are witnessing, for whosoever is here for this state-sanctioned murder, a cowardice way of hiding behind a state seal…you don’t know what you’re doing. I’d like to tell my family that I love them and to stay strong, and to tell my immediate family that I love them. My brother, that I love him and my sister, that we fought hard. The corruption of the state will fall. Governor Taft, you will not be reelected. The rest of you, you know where you can go.”

Alton Coleman
Executed: April 26, 2002
Special meal: Filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream, biscuits and gravy, French fries, broccoli with cheese, cherry cola, green lettuce salad with French dressing, collard greens, onion rings, fried chicken breast, corn bread
Last words: Recited 23rd Psalm

Robert Buell
Executed: Sept. 25, 2002
Special meal: A single, black unpitted olive
Last words: "I had invited the governor to be here today and Mrs. Taft, too. He obviously didn’t come. Governor, if you can’t bring your wife to your workplace, you are obviously ashamed of what you do. If you are ashamed of what you do, you shouldn’t be doing it. Jerry and Shirley, I didn’t kill your daughter. The prosecutor knows that and so do (inaudible name) and (inaudible name), and they left the real killer out there on the streets to kill again and again and again. So that some good may come of this, I ask that you continue to pursue this to the end. Do not let the prosecutor continue to spin this out of focus and force them to find out who really killed your daughter. That’s all I have to say.”

Richard Fox
Executed: Feb. 12, 2003
Special meal: Cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup, pickles, tomatoes and onions, French fries, Pepsi
Last words: Declined.

David M. Brewer
Executed: April 29, 2003
Special meal: Deep fried chicken, baked potato with butter, macaroni and cheese, corn, dinner rolls, slice of apple pie, root beer
Last words: “Just that I’d like to say that system in Ohio as far as death row inmates are concerned, there are some that are innocent. I’m not one of them, but there are plenty that are innocent. I hope the state recognizes that. That’s all I have to say.”

Ernest Martin
Executed: June 18, 2003
Special meal: Cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup, pickle, lettuce and tomato, French fries with ketchup, apple pie, Pepsi
Last words: “I know that God is in control and those who are here are not responsible. Just as Jesus Christ was lied on and slandered, so I have been treated the same way. I have no hatred. I know God is in control and I pray that he will forgive us for our sins, forgive the media people watching of their sins and all they have done. As the Bible says, let those without sin cast the first stone. God forgave us all. To my family, I love you all. I know I did not live a good life. Thank God for allowing my sister and nephew to be here and brother Morgan for his support. Hug momma for me. Take care, family. Take care, media. God bless you all.”

Lewis Williams
Executed: Jan. 14, 2004
Special meal: Declined
Last words: "God, please help. God, please hear my cry.”

John Glenn Roe
Executed: Feb. 3, 2004
Special meal: T-bone steak, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, butter pecan ice cream, root beer
Last words: "I wanted to apologize at first to some people – not for what I did, but for the lies that they came from. George Ellis – I went to the newspaper to get their help. Vincent Boyd, Mike and Patty Daniels to come forward. As God as my witness, I am actually innocent. I did not commit this crime. You are killing an innocent man today and that is all I have to say.”

William Wickline
Executed: March 30, 2004
Special meal: Filet mignon, potato salad, six rolls with butter, strawberry shortcake, butter pecan ice cream, six cans of soda (including three Mt. Dew)
Last words: “May tomorrow see the courts shaped by more wisdom and less politics.”

William Zuern
Executed: June 8, 2004
Special meal: Lasagna, garlic bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, macaroni and cheese, chocolate milk, cherry cheesecake, hot sauce and salt on the side
Last words: "Nope."

Stephen Vrabel
Executed: July 14, 2004
Special meal: BLT with extra mayo, ham and cheese omelet with extra cheese, two hot dogs with mustard, pork and beans, potato salad, vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding, six Coca-Colas
Last words: “I want to thank my sister for all the joy and happiness she has brought into my life and Lisa’s, and apologize to those I may have wronged in my life.”

Scott Mink
Executed: July 20, 2004
Special meal: T-bone steak, baked potato with sour cream and butter, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, two cheeseburgers with lettuce, onion, tomato, ketchup and mustard, French fries with extra salt, Pepsi
Last words: “I want to thank you for giving me a chance to make a final statement. I have made peace with my family and God.”

Adremy Dennis
Executed: Oct. 13, 2004
Special meal: Fried catfish with tarter sauce, ketchup and hot sauce, lasagna with meat sauce, garlic bread with butter, chocolate milk, sweet potato pie with whipped cream, butter pecan ice cream with whipped cream, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream
Last words: “God. God. I’m in God’s hands now. Everything is going to be just the way it was intended. I will see everyone when they get there.”

William Smith
Executed: March 8, 2005
Special meal: Requested a bag of Doritos and a Pepsi, which he did not eat
Last words: "I’m off. In life there are circumstances and things that people have happened we can’t control. I’m giving my life to the Lord. I accept this responsibility and I ask you to forgive me and my sins against others. The Lord put this burden on me. Hold nothing toward anyone. I am sorry. To the media, don’t make things worse than they are – go to the record and get the facts. Don’t be mad at me, I have the capacity to have a heart. Just be what you are for someone else and do the right thing. This is what you want and I am letting you take my life. I am going to the Lord. Be a better person than me – don’t wait until it is too late. May the compassion you have in your heart spread to other people. The Lord wants me for other reasons. He has called me home. See you on the other side. We will all have support together. What you see here is more than the sum of what you see.”

Herman Ashworth
Executed: Sept. 27, 2005
Special meal: Two cheeseburgers with lettuce and mayonnaise, French fries with ketchup, a Mountain Dew and a Dr. Pepper
Last words: “A life for a life. May it be done and justice will be served.”

Willie Williams
Executed: Oct. 25, 2005
Special meal: Declined
Last words: “I’m not going to waste no time talking about my lifestyle, my case, my punishment. Mom, you’ve been there from the beginning and I love you. To my nieces, nephews, uncle and aunt, I love you all very much. This ain’t nothing, I’ll be okay. That’s it.”

John Hicks
Executed: Nov. 29, 2005
Special meal: Two rib-eye steaks, baked potato, chef salad, garlic bread, potato chips, apple pie with vanilla ice cream, Pepsi
Last words: "First, I’d like to thank my Heavenly Father for forgiving me of these crimes I committed, and to the victims who have lost their loved ones, I know it has been 20 years of hurt and pain. Y’all endured the pain each day. I hurt too. I cared and loved them too. God has forgiven me. I’m sorry and wish I could bring them back. This may sound shallow or hallow words coming from my heart. I care for Maxine and Brandy, too. To my attorneys, I appreciate what y’all done fought for me. Many may not want you to. I appreciate it. The real me began with a syringe in my arm and now today I have a needle in my arm. I have come full circle. I am at peace with it. To my friends, some of you are like brothers to me. To T-Mack, Teddy, and Shorty, take care, I’m headed home, take care. Much love, take care, heading home. That’s it.”

Glenn Benner
Executed: Feb. 7, 2006
Special meal: Four bacon cheeseburgers with green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard, baked potato with sour cream and butter, French fries, onion rings, macaroni and cheese, chef salad with Italian dressing, blueberry pie with chocolate ice cream, iced tea, Coca-Cola
Last words: “I just need you to give me two seconds. Over the past 20 years, unimaginable pain. Cynthia and Trine were beautiful girls who didn’t deserve what happened to them. They are in a better place. I pray that God will grant you peace. I have been going over and over in my head trying to think of words to say to you that could ease the unimaginable pain you have been going through for 20 years because of my actions. Cynthia and Trina were beautiful girls who did nothing to deserve what I did to them. Words seem so futile. All I can say is that I am sorry. May God give you His peace.”

Joseph Clark
Executed: May 2, 2006
Special meal: Six jumbo shrimp, T-bone steak, fried chicken wings, French fries with ketchup, dinner rolls with butter, cherry pie, Pepsi
Last words: "I would like to say that last week was the best day of my life. I got to have hugs kisses and say goodbye to them, my family. To the Manning and Harris, family I would like to say to them what I said 23 years ago. Also, I’d like to say to them, my friends and family who I was not able to say hello to, them and they were wondering how I felt. I would like for them to know that I asked God for forgiveness and the Lord to forgive me for my sins. Also I asked God to forgive those who are taking part in this here today. Also, I’d like to say to the Manning and Harris family that I apologize for taking away someone that they loved. I was sorry then, 22 years ago, and I’m sorry today.

Um, I would like to thank the warden and staff in Youngstown for an opportunity to hug my family, kiss them and say goodbye. Thanks to the warden and staff here in Lucasville for being nice to me for the time I’ve been back here. Thanks to all my friends who have supported me all over the world with their letter writing, prayers from the U.K., Florida and Germany.

Also, thank my attorney, Dorian Hall, and also send a message to my grandkids, nieces and nephews. I would like to tell them young brothers and sisters also all over the world do not let drugs ruin your life – ruin your body or destroy your mind. Today, my life is being taken because of drugs. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

I feel like a celebrity today thanks to the state of Ohio, they gave me my ticket to heaven, with my friends, wife and father. Also, I’d like to thank Rev. Sims for spending time with me for everything he did. Thanks to Deacon Morgan, his wife and Rev. Orr in Youngstown.

Last but not least, to my mom, son, daughter, grandkids and those that I did not see again. I dedicate today to the Manning and Harris family. I am sorry for killing your loved one.

My last word to the world comes from a man who the whole world admires and loved people loved him – his name was Martin Luther King. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last.”

Rocky Barton
Executed: July 12, 2006
Special meal: Pork chops, biscuits with pork chop gravy, fried eggs over-easy, hash browns with ketchup, cherry pie, caffeine-free Pepsi
Last words: “Julie, Tiffany and Jamie, I love ya’ll and I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I’m not asking you to forgive me. Not a day goes by that I’m not trying to forgive myself. Don’t let your anger and hate for me destroy your lives I’m sorry. Mom, Dad, Larry, I’m sorry for the embarrassment and shame I brought on the family. I love you all. As Gary Gilmore said, 'Let’s do it.'”

Darrell Ferguson
Executed: Aug. 8, 2006
Special meal: Three T-Bone steaks, two breaded chicken breasts, side of ranch, chocolate ice cream, Mt. Dew
Last words: “Mom, Dad, I love you both. I love you a lot. I wish you all the best.”

Jeffrey Lundgren
Executed: Oct. 24, 2006
Special meal: White meat turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, bread dressing, yeast rolls, salad with tomatoes and radish with French dressing, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, Pepsi
Last words: “For my last words I’d like to profess my love for God, my family, my children and my beloved wife Kathryn. I am because you are.”

James Filiaggi
Executed: April 24, 2007
Special meal: Potato and cheese pierogies with chopped onions, T-bone steak, baked potato with sour cream and butter, fresh vegetables with ranch dressing, strawberry cheesecake, strawberry milk
Last words: “I want to say thank you to my friends and family for all your love and support. Take care of my girls. Tell them I love them and I had something to do. I know I turned some worlds upside down. We all gotta go sometimes, just some sooner than others. I’m going to be busy getting the Browns to the Super Bowl. Working magic. I love you guys. The state needs to find out this is not the answer – this is no deterrent for crime Some are falsely convicted, railroaded – the state needs to wake up. Maybe they will follow the Europeans. God is the only one who knows. I love you guys."

Christopher Newton
Executed: May 24, 2007
Special meal: Two T-bone steaks, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, feta cheese, German chocolate cake, rye bread with butter, watermelon, cream soda
Last words: “Yes, boy, I could sure go for some beef stew and a chicken bone. That’s it.”

Richard Cooey
Executed: Oct. 14, 2008
Special meal: T-bone steak with A1 sauce, French fries, onion rings, four eggs over easy, toast with butter, hash browns, a pint of rocky road ice cream, bear claw pastries, Mt. Dew
Last words: “For what? You mother [expletive] haven’t paid attention to what I’ve said over the past 22 ½ years, why are you going to pay attention to what I have to say now?”

Gregory Bryant-Bey
Executed: Nov. 19, 2009
Special meal: Three pieces of fried chicken, spaghetti with meat sauce, potato salad, cherry pie, strawberry ice cream, Pepsi
Last words: Inmate wrote a hand-written letter.

Daniel Wilson
Executed: June 3, 2009
Special meal: Porterhouse steak sauce, alad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, sliced green peppers, baby carrots and French dressing, baked potato with butter, sour cream and bacon bits, corn on the cob with butter, two liters of Dr. Pepper with ice, large strawberry cheesecake with real strawberries, bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, hot salsa, strawberry ice cream, macaroni and cheese, hot tea
Last words: “First, I would like to apologize to Mr. and Mrs. and Doug Lutz for taking their daughter and sister away from them. I hope my death bring them some peace and closure. I would also like to say to my family and friends. I love all of you very much. I’m sorry I didn’t do better. Jesus, the God of love is my one and only Savior. May He have mercy on me. I love you, Mom.”

John Fautenberry
Executed: July 14, 2009
Special meal: Two eggs sunny side up, fried potatoes, two pieces of fried bologna, four pieces of wheat bread, two pieces of wheat toast, four slices of tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise, two Three Musketeers candy bars, two packages of Reese Cups
Last words: Declined

Marvallous Keene
Executed: July 21, 2009
Special meal: Porterhouse steak with A1 sauce, one pound jumbo fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, French fries, onion rings, German chocolate cake, two plums, one mango, one pound white seedless grapes, Pepsi, A&W cream soda
Last words: "I have no words."

Jason Getsy
Executed: Aug. 18, 2009
Special meal: Rib-eye steak, hot BBQ buffalo wings, onion rings with ketchup, fried mushrooms with cocktail sauce, chef salad with ranch dressing, pecan pie, Dr. Pepper, root beer
Last words: “To Chuck and Nancy Serafino and your loved ones, for all the pain I have caused you, it is my earnest prayer that God grants you peace. I am sorry. It is a little work, I know, but it is true. For everyone else, God is so great that He gave His only Son that I may be forgiven of all my sins. Even today, I can say how blessed I am. The Holy Spirit dwells in me.”

Kenneth Biros
Executed: Dec. 8, 2009
Special meal: Cheese pizza with extra cheese, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers, onion rings, deep fried mushrooms, ketchup, Doritos, French onion dip, blueberry ice cream, Dr. Pepper, cherry pie
Last words: “Sorry from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank all of my family and friends for their prayers and who supported and believed in me. My Father, now I'm being paroled to Heaven. I will now spend all of my holidays with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peace be with you all. Amen.”

Vernon Smith
Executed: Jan. 7, 2010
Special meal: Dates (whole and chopped), hot tea with lemon and honey, olive oil, one Miswak (wooden stick used to clean teeth)
Last words: “These is no God by God and Mohammad is his prophet.”

Mark Brown
Executed: Feb. 4, 2010
Special meal: T-bone steak, double bacon cheeseburger with lettuce and onion, French fries, onion rings, 7-Up cake with lemon and vanilla frosting, rocky road ice cream, Pringles potato chips (sour cream and onion and regular), orange soda
Last words: Declined

Lawrence Reynolds
Executed: March 16, 2010
Special meal: Porterhouse steak with A1 sauce, pork chops with BBQ sauce, jumbo fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, fried mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce, French fries with ketchup, onion rings with ketchup, fried mushrooms with ketchup, chocolate fudge, black cherries, black walnuts, Dr. Pepper
Last words: “I came in like a lion and go out like a lamb. Erin and Emma will forever and always hold the heart of the lion. To my brothers, I hope they will never have to walk these 15 steps I walked today. I have tried to bring attention to the futility and flagrantly flawed system we have today. Stop the madness.”

Darryl Durr
Executed: April 20, 2010
Special meal: Meal served to inmate general population: Beef stroganoff or vegetable tangine, noodles, cauliflower, greens, applesauce, bread
Last words: “To the Vincent family who I believe are here and who believes I have caused so much pain and believe I have murdered their daughter, I am truly sorry you believe that way, having been through that pain myself. I had hoped DNA testing would allow me to prove my innocence, but, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. To my momma minister, we are born in to this life in struggle and I planned to go out in a struggle, but I want to make you proud. I’ll go out in peace. To my cousin, please take care of my children. Tell my children and my wife I love them. To my wife, I love her. It’s been 20 years in this life and I will see her in the next life.”

Michael Beuke
Executed: May 13, 2010
Special meal: Meal served to inmate general population: Chicken a la king, mashed potatoes, lima beans, peaches, bread, Kool-aid
Last words: “Mrs. Wahoff, I’m sorry. Mrs. Craig, I am sorry. Mr. Graham, I am sorry," followed by a 17-minute recitation of biblical scripture and prayer of the rosary

William Garner
Executed: July 13, 2010
Special meal: Porterhouse steak with A1 sauce, onion rings, fried shrimp, BBQ ribs, potato wedges with cheese, sweet potato pie, chocolate ice cream, BBQ wings, salad with croutons, bacon bits, turkey, ham and ranch dressing, Funyons, Hawaiian Punch
Last words: “Ms. Mack, I’m heartily sorry as I am to the Gaines family. My carelessness caused a great loss to many and if having my flesh gives you all some kind of peace, I want that for you. But to fully forgive me, you all have to turn to God as I have. The Lord has validated to me that I now have his stamp of approval. This flesh that is desired, I with respect to all give it to you because my soul and spirit remains intact. To my DR family, we have a merciful and forgiving God, get to know him. To the officers, you know who you are, who saw past the crime and saw a human being, thank you so very much. I will let God know, and to those who treated all of us inhumane, I forgive you and when God calls you up, may he have mercy on your soul. To my beloved Stacey and son Dexin for everything. To my attorneys with love, thank you and I will let God know of you, and Kelly, I got Lola, promise. To my nephew, Lonnie, who departed Sunday, we will be together soon. Selena, Pinky we have each other, I promise. I got him. To Vey Butts and Ms. Jackson, thank you for all spiritual guidance and support. God will know of you all's soldering and all my other spiritual advisors, God bless.

To the McGee family, sorry and all blessings to her parents and twin daughters and host of many others that love and care for her. She was an angel To the team and doctors and everyone involved, God bless. To the state of Ohio, thank you, I’m free. Thank God almighty, I’m free now and in closing, my precious for everything and Orchid.

Now this is see you later. I have an appointment with God. Can’t be late, and to all my falling brothers and sisters, I’m with you all everyday.”

Roderick Davie
Executed: Aug. 10, 2010
Special meal: Declined
Last words: “I’d like to thank my parents for their unconditional love and support throughout all of this, my daughter, Paris, for helping me become a man of change, and my niece, Brittany, for holding my heart. To Ms. Jefferys, I’m sorry. I don’t know if it means anything, Ms. Jefferys, but from the bottom of my heart, I mean that. I’m sorry. To the Coleman’s – Cathy, I don’t see her here, but you all tell Cathy I’m sorry. I mean that. John, I hope you can let it go, man, and forgive me. You hear me, John? I’m done.”

Michael Benge
Executed: Oct. 6, 2010
Special meal: Chef salad with chopped ham, turkey, bacon bits, bleu cheese and ranch dressing, one slab of BBQ baby back ribs, two cans of Planters' cashews, two bottles of sweetened iced tea
Last words: “First and foremost, all praise and glory to God, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I have caused you all more pain than anyone should have to endure. Both families have lost in the end. I can never apologize enough. I hope someday you will find peace in your heart. I hope you have room in your heart left for Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are nothing. Like my brothers who have gone before me, I can’t apologize enough. Even now I am blessed. I hope my death gives you closure. That’s all I can ask. Praise God and thanks.”

Frank Spisak
Executed: Feb. 17, 2011
Special meal: Spaghetti with tomato sauce, salad with Italian dressing, chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, coffee, root beer
Last words: Recited Book of Revelations, Chapter 27, Vs. 1-7 in German

Johnnie Baston
Executed: March 10, 2011
Special meal: Declined
Last words: "I would like to say to my family, I am very sorry. I know this is not what they wanted to have happen. I hope they won't be too bothered by what is taking place today. It is not their doing. Just the way things go. I hope my execution, that it will be the last, that people will open up. The victims in my case didn't want me to be executed. They wanted life without parole. That should have been respected, that should have been respected by our Governor. I hope they can move forward with their lives, which they wanted to. I'm sorry for my decision which caused... I made a bad decision and I hope my family can move on and find some comfort and peace. I would like to say I'm sorry to my family. I made a bad decision. I want you to reach out to my children. I love them so much. I want you to tell them stories about me. I want them to know the good things about me, even through my time in prison, I wanted to better myself, encourage others. Remind them of that. My daughter, she's quiet, a lot like me. Just like me. I want you to watch her. If she talks, listen. I want to thank all the members of my church. My friends who petitioned, letters, faxed, Twittered, hopefully, to the governor, to show mercy. For a long time I didn't see a lot of value in myself. It wasn't until this moment, 'til I had to through this ordeal, that I have seen so much love from so many people. Letters from people all over the world, and even Ohio. I appreciate every last letter, I appreciate every last card, every last prayer, every last encouragement. I was hoping I didn't cry. Richard, it's OK. It's OK. You can cry. Dear heavenly Father, I have sinned, and I repent of my sins. I pray for forgiveness, as I closed my eyes on the light of this world, I hope to open my eyes to the light in heaven.”

Clarence Carter
Executed: April 12, 2011
Special meal: Declined
Last words: “If someone is here from Johnny Allen’s family, let them know I’m sorry for what I did. Especially to his mother. I ask for God’s forgiveness. To my brother, thank you for being here. Bring God into your life. Let everybody know God can change you and God can do positive things in your life. Love God like I do. And I love God.”

Daniel Lee Bedford
Executed: May 17, 2011
Special meal: Two liters of Coca-Cola.
Last words: Declined

Reginald Brooks
Executed: Nov. 15, 2011
Special meal: Lasagna, garlic bread, beef jerky, chocolate cake, Moose Tracks ice cream, cashews, almonds, caramel candy, and root beer
Last words: Declined, but gave an obscene gesture

Mark Wiles
Executed: April 18, 2012
Special meal: Pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, bag of Cheetos, cheesecake, strawberries, vanilla wafers, salad, Sprite
Last words: “The love and support of my family has sustained and strengthened me through all my years. Thank you for your love and faith in me. I love you all very much. Since this needs to be happening, truly I pray that my dying brings some solace and closure to the Klima family and their loved ones. Finally, the state of Ohio should not be in the business of killing its citizens. May God bless us all that fall short.”'

Donald Palmer
Executed: Sept. 20, 2012
Special meal: Chipped ham, Velveeta cheese, sliced tomatoes, wheat bread, mayonnaise, hazelnut ice cream, peanut M&Ms, plain cheesecake, Coca-Cola
Last words: "To the Vargo and Sponholtz families, I wanted you to know I’ve carried you in my heart for years and years. The Lord has taken from me what I’ve taken from you. I know what it is like to lose a parent, sibling and child. I wish I could bring it back for you but I can’t. I hope the pain and hurt die with me here today. I pray you have good lives, I’m sorry. May God bless you and give you good lives. I’m sorry."

Brett Hartman
Executed: Nov. 13, 2012
Special meal: Steak with sautéed mushrooms, baked potato with butter and sour cream, fried shrimp, macaroni and cheese, vanilla ice cream with walnuts, Honeycomb cereal with milk, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper
Last words: "I'm good, let's roll."

Frederick Treesh
Executed: March 6, 2013
Special meal: Steak with mushrooms and eggs, cottage cheese, hash browns, onion rings, deep fried mushrooms, hot fudge sundae, Coca-Cola, root beer
Last words: "Yes, I would like to thank Karen Hensel for following up on a job after 20 years. I wanted her to take a picture of the execution. You can’t, but I am sure you can go to the morgue to take a picture. I am not here to say I’m sorry for any of these victims that are here. I’ve never been tried, never been charged with that crime. I’m here for Henry Dupree and I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize to their family for what I’ve done. You want closure? Closure only comes with a book. You close it and put it on a shelf. There is no closure. Every holiday, every birthday, everything, you will think about the victim. So, if you want me murdered, just say it. I’d also like to thank the Major at SOCF for being such a wonderful person and the execution team. They treated me very well. I also want to thank Mike Benza and my best friend, James Goff. That’s it.”

Steven Smith
Executed: May 1, 2013
Special meal: Pizza with pepperoni, ham and sausage, fish, French fries, chocolate ice cream, Mt. Dew
Last words: Declined

Harry Mitts, Jr.
Executed: Sept. 25, 2013
Special meal: Steak with sautéed mushrooms, Caesar salad with ranch dressing, garlic bread, French fries, peach pie, butter pecan ice cream, Dr. Pepper
Last words: To John Bryant and Dennis Glivar’s families, I’m so sorry for taking your loved ones’ lives. I had no business doing what I did and I’ve been carrying that burden with me for 19 years. Please don’t carry that hatred for me with you in your hearts with you. (Makes plea that they welcome Jesus Christ into their hearts.) I’m sorry for having taken your loved one's lives, and please forgive me.”

Dennis McGuire
Executed: Jan. 16, 2014
Special meal: Roast beef, extra crispy fried chicken, fried potatoes with onions, potato salad, toasted bagel with cream cheese, butter pecan ice cream, Coca-Cola
Last words: “I’d like to say to Joy’s family, thanks for the letter and the kind words. They meant a lot. To my children, I love you. I’m going to heaven, I will see you when you get there.”

Chapter 7

Chapter 6: Cheers and tears

What's it like to witness an execution?

WKYC investigative reporter Phil Trexler has witnessed four executions as a member of the media.

Media witnesses are invited to observe executions in order to hold prisons and their execution teams accountable, to ensure the inmate receives a humane, dignified death. Cameras and mobile devices aren't permitted inside the viewing room. Only pencils and legal pads can be used to take notes.

Reporters stand inside the viewing room, which is partitioned in two halves -- one for the inmate's family and one for the victim's family.

A television monitor shows the IV as it is inserted into the inmate's vein.

"It's so quiet, you can hear the pencil on paper. It is so solemn and so quiet. Occasionally, you'll hear a sniffle or a cry," Trexler told WKYC's Monica Robins, who was a witness to Phillips' execution.

The inmate is prepped for the procedure behind closed curtains before they're reopened, and a microphone is held over his or her mouth for a final statement.

The warden will touch his tie as a signal to the execution team to begin administering the drugs. Five to 10 minutes later, the inmate falls asleep and the coroner is called into the room to confirm the inmate's passing. The warden announces the time of death and the witnesses are escorted from the death house.

Media witnesses return to a room where they'll give a press conference to other media to discuss what they saw. Once their reports are complete, their day is done.

The strangest part of witnessing an execution is the stark contrast between sides. Trexler said the victim's family often cheers in elation and relief. Meanwhile, the inmate's family has just watched their loved one die.

"I've seen it, they cheer -- not too loudly, but there's a great deal of satisfaction from the victim's family," Trexler said. "And on the other side, you're seeing tears, mothers overcome with grief as their child dies."

Listen to Phil and Monica's discussion prior to Phillips' execution in the video below:

Chapter 8

Chapter 7: 'We'll live with it for the rest of our lives'

Ronald Phillips finally walked the 17 steps from the death house cell to the execution table Wednesday.

He was pronounced dead at 10:43 a.m. There were no complications.

His death was delayed eight times, with 1,350 days passing between his first and final execution dates. Less than 24 hours before Phillips' original execution date in 2013, Gov. Kasich delayed his death as Phillips inquired about donating his organs, including a kidney to his sick mother.

Phillips made a final appeal to halt his execution July 20, noting he was 19 when he killed Evans. He argued the age for death penalty sentences should be 21 years or older.

Meanwhile, Sheila Marie Evans would be 27 years old today.

According to the ODRC, Phillips requested a final special meal of a large pizza with cheese, bell pepper and mushrooms, strawberry cheesecake, unleavened bread, grape juice and a Pepsi.

He saved the unleavened bread and juice to take communion the following morning.

Sheila Marie Evans' half sister and aunt were witnesses to Phillips' execution. Phillips' brother, spiritual advisor, Chaplain Lawrence Freeman and a nurse also attended.

There were five media witnesses, three of which were pool reporters, including WKYC's Monica Robins.

Prison officials said Phillips spent the evening before his execution praying and reading his Bible. He fell asleep around 11:46 p.m. and woke up around 5:56 a.m. He refused breakfast and spent the hours before his fate crying and praying.

Phillips cried during visits with his spiritual adviser and friend. He also met with his brother within the hour before his death.

Media witnesses were called to the death house at 10:07 a.m. Alan Johnson of OLCA said Phillips' death was completely unlike McGuire's, which he'd also witnessed.

Johnson described Phillips as being calm during the execution process. Monica Robins said Phillips looked sad and frightened. At one point, tears could be seen leaving his eyes.

The first needle entered Phillips' left arm at 10:23 a.m. He watched the second needle as it was inserted in his right arm and closed his eyes. After talking with the guards, he was strapped in and the curtain opened.

Phillips turned to his brother and gave a thumbs up.

For his final statement, Phillips said, "To the Evans family, I'm sorry you had to live so long with my evil actions. All those years, I prayed you'd forgive me and find it in your heart to forgive and have mercy on me. Sheila Marie did not deserve what I did to her. I know she is with the Lord and she suffers no more. I'm sorry to each and every one of you that you lived with this pain all those years. To my family, thank you for your support and faithfulness. Glory be to the lamb. Amen. I love you all, God bless you. Thank you."

Robins described Phillips' breathing as being heavy, but it appeared to stop within minutes.

"He just appeared to go into a deep sleep," she said. "His breathing became heavy, his mouth was partially open."

When the doctor entered to check Phillips' vitals, both his family and Evans' family became emotional.

Phillips died at 10:43 a.m.


The state execution team practiced for Phillips' execution 18 times.

Phillips' defense attorneys argued that he'd changed since committing the crime as a 19-year-old. They also questioned the process in which the trio of drugs were administered.

Midazolam is the sedative used first in the process. Following that, a paralyzing drug is administered, but other states require a five-minute period between the two. Ohio gave Phillips the paralytic drug immediately after the midazolam.

"Ohio once again experimented with a drug that overwhelming scientific consensus says cannot render an inmate unconscious and insensate to the undisputedly unconstitutional pain and suffering from the second and third drugs," federal public defender Allen Bohnert said following the execution. "Ohio chose to inject the paralytic drug extremely quickly. That hides the real fact of what is going on behind an artificial chemical curtain, masking the problems with midazolam that have been seen in multiple other executions using that drug when the paralytic has not been injected that quickly."

Sheila Marie Evans' aunt, Donna Hudson, and half sister, Renee Mundell, also addressed the media, their eyes filled with tears. The pair read a statement before answering questions.

Hudson said she does not think she'll ever be able to accept Phillips' remorse and apology.

"God forgave him, but I don't think I can," she said.

"This is the first time in 24 years that I've seen any remorse in this man," Mundell added. "...There was nothing until today."

The two said they'll never forget Sheila, but are relieved to finally see closure.

"Theres no reason for our family to have to wait 24 years," Mundell said. "We fought and we lived with it for 24 years, and we'll live with it for the rest of our lives."

Timeline: Ronald Phillips' execution