[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----N.C., PENN., S. DAK.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Aug 27 18:59:59 UTC 2006
Feelings about death penalty change when it gets personal
Delores Yokely was at home praying for Sammy Flippen to be spared - even
as his executioners pushed the needles into his arms on Aug. 18.
It was all part of a fight she thought she'd never be involved in. But
then, who ever thinks they're going to get involved in a death-penalty
We might read a little bit about one in the paper or catch a bit about one
on TV, but that's about it. Still, despite knowing neither victims nor
killers, it's easy to take one side or the other, to be either for the
death penalty or against it.
But maybe you're one of the relative few whose buddy or kin got murdered,
and that's hardened your support for capital punishment.
Or maybe, like Yokely, you're one of the relative few who knew someone who
got the death penalty. And your friendship with this person whom
prosecutors and cops vilified leaves you forever changed - including what
had been your unwavering support for the death penalty.
"We form opinions sometimes based on situations where our convictions
haven't been tested," said Yokely, who is 73. "This time, it was. It was
put to a test, knowing him."
Yokely and several others, including some of her fellow members of Gospel
Light Baptist Church in Walkertown, fought in vain for the life of
He grew up in Gospel Light. It's a conservative church, one in which many,
if not most, members support the death penalty.
Some church members didn't join in the fight for Flippen. But those who
did, like Yokely, may be changed by that fight.
Make no mistake about it: Flippen committed a horrible crime in 1994. He
hit his stepdaughter, Britnie Nichol Hutton, so hard that her liver and
pancreas were torn. His lame story was that she was injured falling out of
Yokely, a former principal of Gospel Light Christian School, heard all
that in court, and ached for Britnie and her family. But she didn't see a
killer in Flippen. She saw the playful boy she'd watched grow up in the
Christian school. She saw the man who'd later write her a letter of thanks
for her support.
Others saw a good side to Flippen as well. "There were a lot of people
hurt about him being put to death who I think had supported the death
penalty," Yokely said. "He'd been such a good kid and this was such a
freak thing that happened. And their hearts went out to his parents."
Yokely doesn't say Flippen's not guilty. "I'm just saying that whatever
happened was totally out of character for Sammy," she said. And she
rightly wonders why this case resulted in the death penalty, and those of
people "equally guilty" haven't.
"I've lost a lot of faith in the justice system through this," she said.
"It's just the inconsistency ... I won't say I'm anti-death penalty now,
but I'll say I'm very cautious. I just want them to make sure that it's a
hardened criminal, premeditated."
This may not be her last fight against the death penalty. "If it's
somebody I can help or feel like I can be a friend to or know anything
about, I'd certainly be willing, if they deserve to be helped," she said.
Agree or disagree with Delores Yokely in her questioning of capital
But know this: She's had a head-on collision with an issue that most of us
have the luxury of considering only in the abstract.
And she'll never be the same.
(source : Winston-Salem Journal; John Railey writes local editorials for
PENNSYLVANIA----re: Vienna Convention issues
1 year later: Long legal battle likely in Padilla case
A year ago Monday, in the early morning hours outside an Altoona social
club, 3 men were shot and killed.
A year from now, if accused gunman Miguel Padilla is convicted at the end
of a jury trial scheduled to start next week in Hollidaysburg, the case
likely will move into a lengthy appeal process, especially if the jury
chooses death over life in prison.
"When it's a capital case ... the Mexican government will do what they can
to appeal," said Kent Scheidegger, director of the Criminal Justice Legal
Foundation in Sacramento, Calif. "The Mexican government is very
anti-capital punishment. I can't say the same for the Mexican people."
Scheidegger's organization tracks and offers comments on court cases, many
involving international issues on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In one murder case involving a Mexican national, the legal process began
with a conviction and a death sentence, followed by an appeal process that
stretched over 12 years to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ernesto Medellin was born in Mexico but grew up in Texas. In 1993, he and
2 others were accused of raping and strangling two girls outside Houston.
Padilla, 26, is accused of gunning down United Veterans Association owner
Alfred Mignogna, employee Fredrick Rickabaugh Sr. and club patron Stephen
Like Medellin, Padilla was born in Mexico and came with his family to the
United States. Padilla grew up in Cambria County and graduated from Penn
Cambria High School.
Because Padilla is a Mexican national, his case has drawn interest and
protests from the Mexican government, which sought to halt the trial while
awaiting a review of legal issues before the state Supreme Court.
Mexico's representatives complained that Padilla was not provided legal
representation immediately, was not permitted to attend status conferences
and has not been given enough money to pay expert witnesses.
Blair County Judge Hiram Carpenter says those and other international
legal issues will be debated during appeal of any conviction.
Scheidegger said he believes Mexico loses more appeal issues than it wins,
but it generally files appeals in capital cases, and the process is slow.
"These appeal cases could be done in 5 or 6 years, and they are in
Virginia, particularly in those cases where there is no question of
guilt," he said.
In other states where issues go back and forth between state and federal
courts, the process languishes.
In the Medellin case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his conviction and
death sentence. Medellin still is on death row. Scheidegger said some
legal issues remain with the Texas state court.
The appeal issues in the Medellin case included a claim that Houston
authorities didn't tell him that he had the right to notify the Mexican
government of his arrest.
The Mexican consulate learned of Medellin's status when he wrote to them
from death row.
That appeal was dismissed partly because the courts ruled that the failure
to notify had no effect on Medellin's conviction or sentence.
In Padilla's case, the Mexican consulate in Philadelphia is aware of
But they have no role in the county jury trial, Carpenter has ruled.
Another related post-trial issue likely to surface in the Padilla case, if
the jury sentences him to die, is Pennsylvania's death row roster.
The state has 223 men and women on death row, including some that have
been there for more than 20 years. Because of the appeal process, the
state has not executed an inmate since 1999.
It has executed only 3 people since the death penalty was reinstated in
(source: Altoona Mirror)
SOUTH DAKOTA----impending execution
End nears for inmate who shunned appeals
As executions approach, loved ones of the condemned inmate and the
victim's family wait and wonder whether a judge or governor will intervene
before the appointed hour.
But for Elijah Page, 24, that's not likely.
After a childhood of abuse and bouncing between foster homes, the Athens,
Texas, man is close to where he wants to be: He is days away from dying by
injection for his role in the hourslong 2000 torture slaying of Chester
Allan Poage, 19, of Spearfish.
2 other men also were charged in the killing, Briley Piper, 25, of
Anchorage, and Darrell Hoadley, 26, of Lead. Piper pleaded guilty and was
sentenced to death. Hoadley went to trial, was convicted, and a split jury
sentenced him to life in prison without a chance of parole.
Page likely will be able to decide his own fate, because Gov. Mike Rounds
has said he is not inclined to step in. Page has ended all court appeals.
Page has been housed in a newer wing of the South Dakota State
Penitentiary but will be taken to a cell at the old death row in an older
The chamber has been remodeled since the last execution in the state,
although there are still holes on the floor from where the electric chair
was bolted down for George Sitts' 1947 execution for killing 2 lawmen.
Besides being the first person executed in South Dakota in 59 years, Page
would be among eight inmates younger than 25 put to death since capital
punishment was reinstated in the U.S. in 1976. His case is also unusual
because Page has asked to die.
State law does not allow the exact date and time of execution to be
released until 48 hours beforehand, although the judge set it for this
Judge Warren Johnson of Deadwood granted Page's request to die only after
concluding he was mentally competent. Johnson earlier had acknowledged
Page's difficult childhood, which included physical and sexual abuse.
Page's sister, Desiree Page, said friends and family knew him as "a big
teddy bear with a huge heart," one who is now remorseful.
"Elijah's very, very sorry," she told the Rapid City Journal. "He told me,
'I see that poor boy's [Poage's] face every minute of every day, and I
dream about him every night.' "
Page is entitled to appeals that could last several more years, but
earlier this year he wrote to the court indicating he wanted to die.
"I am writing this because I have decided to end my appeals and face
execution," the handwritten letter said.
His lawyer has said he thinks Page is so depressed that his decision to
end his appeals might be equivalent to a suicide attempt.
(source: Associated Press)
Vic's Mom Waiting for "I'm Sorry"-Execution Next Week----They tortured and
killed him 6 years ago in the Black Hills. Now, one of those murderers
prepares for his own death.
'I haven't heard anybody say I'm deeply sorry' - Dottie Poage, mother of
RAPID CITY - Every now and then, Dottie Poage makes her way through the
backcountry west of Spearfish, to a creek bubbling through a ravine and
the spot where her son, Chester, was murdered more than 6 years ago.
Sometimes she picks up trash along the way to Higgins Gulch. Sometimes she
plants a few flowers. Mostly, she lingers with the memory of her son.
"That's where I feel closest to him," Poage, 51, says now. "I can go up
there and find peace."
Whether she finds that same peace in Sioux Falls this week with the
scheduled execution of Elijah Page - 1 of 3 men convicted of killing
Chester Allan Poage on March 13, 2000 - is another matter.
What she is certain of is that she will be in the room when the deadly
cocktail of chemicals courses through Page's body.
"I'm going to support the death penalty," she says as she sits on a bench
outside a visitor center along Interstate 90 near Rapid City and holds a
small wooden baseball bat that her son made. "It's not necessary to me to
know that he has died, but simply to support the death penalty."
Poage says the state never asked her whether she wanted the death penalty
for her son's killers. It invoked the penalty, she says, because state law
allows it to in this case.
And she supports that law.
"We need to stop slapping people on the wrists for crimes they commit,"
she says. "They get sent back into society and go right back into their
drug situations or their sexual-assault situations."
As for closure or satisfaction, Poage doesn't know what to expect when
Page is gone.
"I do have a lot of different feelings and thoughts these days now that
it's approaching," Poage says. "I can tell you there is a difference in my
demeanor, in my day-to-day living, just knowing what's about to happen.
But it's very difficult for me to describe it to you."
What she will say is she has some compassion for Page because of the
horrible abuse and neglect he suffered as a child.
"If he had gotten into the right hands with foster homes, and the right
counseling and medications and people to run around with, who knows?" she
says. "I'm not saying his foster parents weren't good. I'm saying they
didn't have the right tools to pull him out of his cycle, the upbringing
"And the fact still is, he's sitting where he's at because he killed
someone, not because of some terrible upbringing. I know people who were
sexually abused when they were children who've moved on to wonderful
lives. It's possible. It can be done."
School in Kansas
Chester Poage's life intersected with that of Elijah Page when both had
recently settled in the Black Hills.
Page, 18, had drifted up from Kansas City, Mo., to Spearfish in December
1999 because of people he knew in a church down there, relatives say.
About that same time, 19-year-old Poage was taking a break from pursuing a
degree in communications technology at Northwest Kansas Technical School
in Goodland, Kan., to spend a few months with his mother and sister,
Samantha, in Spearfish.
Her son had recently informed her that he didn't want to be called
"Chester" anymore, Dottie Poage recalls. He wanted to be known by his
middle name, "Allan."
"For 19 years I had called him Chester, so it was real hard for me," she
says. "But people made fun of his name, he said, so he wanted to go by
He was a quiet boy, she says, with brown hair and brown eyes, 6-foot-1
with a love for the woodworking that his father had taught him, and a
passion for baseball that he was never that great at but still loved.
Natives of Norton in northwest Kansas, the Poages were a farm family until
the mid-1990s. Then because of the severe asthma that plagued Dottie
Poage's husband, David, they decided to move to Rapid City in the Black
Hills and its more accommodating climate.
That was spring 1994. For a year and a half, David Poage tried selling the
vanities and desks and other furniture he made by hand. When that didn't
work out, he drove a truck for a while.
With his marriage faltering, David Poage committed suicide Sept. 5, 1996.
"Chester, being a boy, had a tough time dealing with that," his mother
says. "He had an anger in him, a real hurt, because he missed his dad."
Dottie Poage took her son out of Rapid City Central High and, with her
daughter, went back home to northwest Kansas to recover with support from
Chester graduated from high school in Norton and decided to enroll in the
technical school at Goodland in the fall of 1998. Dottie Poage and her
daughter moved to Spearfish, where they were thinking that Samantha - two
years younger than her brother - might go to Black Hills State University
At that point, their lives seemed to settle into a happy routine.
Certainly there were bumps along the way. Her son was a good boy, Dottie
Poage says. He went to church regularly while attending the technical
school. He routinely visited his grandparents, whom he loved. But he also
experimented with marijuana and got into minor trouble because of it.
"I'm not going to say my son was perfect," Dottie Poage says. "He had his
time with that stuff. And when you do, that can put you in the wrong group
When he came to Spearfish at Christmas 1999, Chester Poage was going to
work for a few months, his mother says, then planned to return to the
technical school in Kansas to finish his degree.
He took a job in Spearfish that winter working for Cramer Concrete
Construction, setting forms and doing concrete work.
"He was a good kid, a real fast learner," owner Randy Cramer said. "He
kept pretty much to himself, but he did his job, he did it well, he never
called in sick and he was never afraid to work."
Dottie Poage suspects her son somehow stumbled across Elijah Page, Piper
Briley and Darrell Hoadley after work, maybe at a convenience store.
"The newspapers said Chester was friends with these kids," she says. "They
were acquaintances but not friends. He was maybe around them 2 or 3 times
before he was killed. That's not a long enough time to make a solid
Besides, Poage adds, friends would not have tortured her son for hours and
so savagely killed him.
Less than 3 months after he arrived in Spearfish, Chester Poage was dead.
Now Dottie Poage understands that Elijah Page is dropping his appeals
because he's convinced he must die for taking her son's life. That's not
an apology, in her mind.
"I haven't heard anyone personally say, 'I'm deeply sorry,' " she says. "I
don't know if they feel sorry and there is deep remorse. I don't know
"He feels like this (execution) will put him at peace. He's maybe doing
part of it for me, but he's probably doing most of it for him."
At one point, Pam Guettler of Spearfish, the mother of the woman Page was
dating at the time of the murder, says she contacted Dottie Poage's
daughter to tell her that Page was sorry.
"She didn't want to hear it," Guettler, 50, says. " 'She said, 'Don't tell
me he is sorry and that he's paying the ultimate price.' "
But that's not the way Dottie Poage heard it. She says Guettler called
asking the Poage family to have sympathy for Page, and to enlist the
family's help to stop the execution.
"I was not happy with that call," Poage says. "She wasn't saying she was
sorry or Page was sorry. She just wanted us to sympathize with him."
Ready for execution
Dottie Poage is ready for this day of execution, she says, as are many of
"I don't think they should have waited this long," Randy Cramer says. "If
you would have been in that trial and heard even part of the way they
tortured him, you'd understand what I mean."
Poage says she has encouraged family members not to come to the execution.
Page could always change his mind and thus stop it. If he does, she will
simply return at the next scheduled date.
In the meantime, she prefers to linger in the memories of her son.
There is a shoebox filled with aftershave and colognes his grandfather
used to give him, scents that her son loved, Dottie Poage says. It took
her a long time to part with that.
And there was a conversation they had four months before he died, when a
contemplative Chester Poage quizzed his mother on where she thought he
might be in four years. She gave him a mother's vision of her hopes.
"You've got to be content and happy with what you do," she told him. "This
world takes a lot of people to make it work. If you do it, and do it in a
good way and you're happy, that's what I want."
Now as she wanders through the backcountry west of Spearfish, picking up
garbage and planting flowers, she knows that dream is gone. And she
wonders about what might have been.
But Dottie Poage holds no ill will against these gulches, valleys and
mountains of the Black Hills, despite the deaths of her husband and son.
"The Hills didn't do this to me," she says. "It's still home to us, and
that's a good feeling to know I don't hate it here."
Maybe the scent of her son has vanished from his clothes now. But she
doesn't need to keep the box of colognes and aftershave. That's because in
the shadows of Higgins Gulch, in the serenity of a peaceful day, he is
"He didn't disappear," she says. "He will always be woven throughout my
Believes He Deserves to be Executed
'He believes he deserves to die' - Desiree Page, sister of Elijah Page
In his prison cell, waiting on the specter of death, convicted murderer
Elijah Page is tormented by other ghosts, friends and family say. There is
a TV to distract him, a radio and a few photographs on the wall. And if he
wants, he can stare out the window at the airport in the distance.
Yet alone in his cell, more than 23 hours every day, Page undoubtedly
stares inward as well, those who know him say - at the face of Chester
Allan Poage, the young man he helped to murder on March 13, 2000, and at
the abused and abandoned little boy that Page himself once was long ago.
Day and night, Page must confront his memories of holding a gun to Poage's
head, of making him strip beside an icy creek, of stabbing him and bashing
his head with heavy rocks as the young man slowly died after hours of
"All that time in his cell has affected him," says Pam Guettler, 50, of
Spearfish, a friend and the mother of the girl Page was dating at the time
he, Briley Piper and Darrell Hoadley murdered Poage in a gulch three miles
west of Spearfish. "He has too much time to remember what he has done, and
what he has been through."
It is that steady torment of hours, days and months that has driven the
24-year-old Page to depression, Guettler says, and has convinced him to
bypass years of appeals for the escape of an executioner's needle sometime
this coming week.
In many ways, he considers it his duty, his responsibility, say Guettler
and Page's sister, Desiree, of suburban Kansas City, Mo.
"He believes he deserves to die," Desiree Page, 27, says by telephone from
her home. "I know he is remorseful. This is the way he can say, 'I can
understand what I did was so horribly wrong.'
"Of course, I've tried to talk him out of it. He's my brother; I don't
want him to die. But I can't be mad or angry at him. I don't know what I'd
do if I had to see that person, that boy's face, in my head all the time."
There is also a sad and twisted logic to his reasoning, his sister,
Guettler and others say. For Elijah Page grew up being taught that every
bad thing that ever happened to him and his family was his fault, they
When his stepfather beat him, it was his fault, Guettler says. When his
mother poured a can of beer over his head and belittled him, it was his
fault. When social service workers hounded Michelle Page and her husband,
Wes Cline, or threatened to take away their neglected and bruised
children, it was Elijah's fault.
"Eli was raised to take the blame so Michelle and Wes looked good,"
Guettler says. "That's why he's doing this now. He's telling everyone that
he killed Chester Poage, that Briley and Darrell didn't. He's taking the
responsibility because of the way he learned growing up. And that's all
Michelle Page and Wes Cline could not be reached for comment. Nor could
Page's biological father, Kenneth Wayne Chapman, who didn't really appear
in Elijah Page's life until he was 13.
But the story pieced together through interviews with Desiree Page, with
Pam Guettler, with families who knew the Page children when they were
growing up in Kansas City, and with court documents is unquestionably a
Ignored and scorned
Elijah Page was born Dec. 11, 1981, in Titusville, Fla., almost three
years after his older sister, Desiree. Soon after, Michelle Page married
Wes Cline, and they moved to Missouri, where they had a child, Cassia.
>From the beginning, the little boy was scorned in his own home.
"The saddest part for Elijah was that Michelle, who I refuse to call their
mother, she really liked Desiree because Desiree looked like her," says
Tamie Person of suburban Kansas City, a foster parent who had custody of
the Page children in the early to mid-1990s. "Wes liked Cassia because she
looked like him. But Elijah kind of got ignored. When he was a little
child, Desiree would tell her mother that he was hungry. Michelle would
just say, 'Who's hungry?' It's like he wasn't there."
Mental health and social service reports used in a legal brief filed as
part of Page's appeal of his death sentence reveal a childhood of terror
In Kansas City, the family lived in abandoned buildings without heat or
utilities in the winter, according to the reports.
"People who tried to protect Elijah and his siblings found out that his
parents and caretakers were drug users. ... and that Elijah was sexually
abused by his mother beginning at age 2," the reports say.
They also suggest that Michelle Page sold her children to others in
exchange for money and drugs. And that the children "were exposed to and
witnessed domestic violence and explicit sexual activity in the home."
Desiree Page says she has blocked out many of those years and doesn't
recall all the specific details. But she remembers one occasion when
Elijah "was real little, and there was a guy that went to jail because my
mom caught him in the act with Elijah, trying to get him to do things."
Wes Cline and Michelle Page lived in an area of southern Kansas City
inhabited by people predominantly from the nondenominational Metro
Christian Fellowship Church, Person said.
Moved by the sight of the disheveled family with no money and no apparent
means, members of the church provided Cline and Page with a kerosene
heater, and made sure they had food and clothes.
"What I heard from others is that that's the way Wes and Michelle
operated," Person says. "They were pitiful people, always asking, 'Would
you help us with the kids?' "
To Arizona and New York
At one point, Michelle Page simply took off and disappeared, Desiree Page
says. She was gone maybe 18 months when she finally reappeared with a
boyfriend, her daughter says.
"She came and got us, and we went off to Arizona," Desiree Page recalls.
Person says she has been told that the mother, boyfriend and children
lived in a car in the Arizona desert.
Later, Michelle Page and the boyfriend, Jeff Watts, took the children to
Carthage, N.Y. Department of Social Service reports from Jefferson County
in New York reveal that Michelle Page and Watts drank excessively and
often fought. The children reported seeing their mother being beaten. And
it was common for Michelle Page to go out drinking, leaving the children
home to fend for themselves, or to wander the streets with little proper
clothing, the social service reports say.
"Desiree told me Michelle sometimes wouldn't allow the kids to wear
clothes in the house," Person says. "Then she'd bring guys home, pour beer
over the kids' heads and tell these men, 'These are my kids.' "
Eventually, Wes Cline came to New York and took the children back to
Kansas City. And their nightmare continued.
The Bible and the belt
Neighbors of Wes Cline and Michelle Page testified at Elijah Page's
sentencing hearing about how Cline would consume drugs and large amounts
of alcohol around them, and how he physically abused the children.
"The kids told me that they would have to sit at the table and listen to
Wes read the Bible for hours on end," Person says. " 'I'm the father,' he
told them. 'You have to respect me.' It was almost a brainwashing thing.
And after reading the Bible for hours, he'd take them into a room and
Desiree Page recalls being beaten with belts, extension cords and brushes.
"Wes punished in private, so I didn't always see what happened to Elijah,"
his sister says. "But I think he had it a lot worse than I did. ... maybe
because of the fact that he was a boy."
Used as a human shield
At the sentencing hearing, neighbors Pete and Suzanne Sandhu testified in
detail how Cline called their house one night in a panic, saying someone
was beating on his door and demanding repayment of drug money.
When he went to investigate, Pete Sandhu testified that he opened the door
and saw Cline holding a rifle or shotgun over 10-year-old Elijah as if
using him for a shield.
According to the brief filed in Page's sentencing appeal, Cline was found
by a Missouri Family Court judge to have physically and sexually abused
the children, including allowing others to sexually abuse them in exchange
Eventually, Person and other neighbors went through Department of Social
Service training to become foster parents specifically to help the Page
>From tender to defiant
Elijah Page stayed with the Persons from spring 1993 until the last part
"I think his true nature is very kind and very tender," Tamie Person says.
"He was so happy to be with us. And he was really, really good with my
kids. For the first year, he was not a problem. The only problem we had
was, he would do his schoolwork but not turn it in. And that was because
he wouldn't let himself succeed."
Desiree Page says she always saw the tender side of her brother when
"I think things just affected him more than me," she says. "And I think I
just stood up for myself more. I wasn't as easy a target."
In time, under the Persons' roof, Elijah Page grew more sullen, more
defiant. He would take off when he was told he couldn't go anywhere. Her
children became more uncomfortable around him, more nervous, Tamie Person
says. It was decided he could no longer stay.
For a time, he went to Athens, Texas, where his biological father, Kenneth
Chapman lived. But Chapman couldn't care for the troubled youth, so he
moved in and out of foster homes.
'Drinking a lot'
At some point between the ages of 16 and 18, Page managed to get a job and
do well in Kansas City, his sister says. The brother and sister lived
together for a while, until he decided to move in with a friend.
"He was drinking a lot," Desiree Page says. "He ended up without a place
to say, living on the streets. Then one day he told me he was going up to
South Dakota with some people he knew from the church."
A good boyfriend
Page was in Spearfish for only 3 months or less before the murder of
Chester Poage. Soon after he arrived in December of 1999, he had met Misty
Guettler and they had begun dating.
"He was so polite, so considerate," Pam Guettler says of the 18-year-old
dating his daughter. "He did so many little things to show his true
nature. He'd come over to eat supper and do the dishes just to say thank
Page and Misty Guettler would watch TV and movies together. Her daughter
had gotten into trouble with drugs and was under the supervision of the
Department of Corrections, and her new boyfriend made sure she stayed
"He wouldn't allow her to do a thing to screw up," Pam Guettler says. "He
kept her totally straight and clean. He was good for her. In all reality,
I thought he would be my son-in-law."
Elijah Page's good fortune turned when the state decided Misty Guettler
had to report to a correctional boot camp. He lost his job at McDonald's
in Spearfish when he decided to miss work to go with the Guettlers when
they delivered their daughter to the corrections department in Rapid City.
It wasn't even 2 weeks later that he, Piper and Hoadley went on a binge of
alcohol, methamphetamine and LSD before deciding to rob Chester Poage and
eventually kill him.
"My feelings are, I still love this kid to no end," Pam Guettler says now.
"I think it was the combination of drugs and alcohol that led him into
this situation. He is a follower. He was raised that way. He got into this
and, once it got out of hand, he didn't know how to get out of it."
Secrets kept, rage released
Desiree Page says she never saw her brother get physically violent with
anyone, even when his stepfather was beating him or people were making fun
But she is also cognizant of the fact that, despite the shared horrors
from childhood, she and Elijah turned out differently.
"It took a lot of counseling to not feel that all of this was my fault,"
Desiree Page says. "Everybody ends up differently. They're different in
life, and they make different decisions. I decided to deal with that in
Elijah Page did not, Person says.
"Desiree wanted out of it," Person says. "She wanted no part of it. She
believed it wasn't her fault, and she wanted to talk to someone about that
and deal with it.
"Elijah could never talk about it. It's family secrets you just can't
tell. His family secrets were so intense, he couldn't deal with the
emotions dealt to him. Because of how much rage he had to have inside of
him, I don't think it would have been out of the question that he
participated in this."
Come time for the execution, Desiree Page intends to be there. She says
their father, Kenneth Chapman, will be there as well. And their mother
wants to be there, too, though Elijah Page has told others that he wants
nothing to do with her.
"I understand where Elijah is coming from on that, which is justified,"
Desiree Page says. "I just hope he can find some peace with it before he
"Even though he doesn't want her around, she's going to come anyway. I'd
probably do the same thing if my son was going to die."
The Guettlers, who visited Page regularly in jail in the Black Hills, and
at the penitentiary since this past May, have been told they can spend
time with him the day before he is executed.
Both they and Desiree Page wish they could be allowed to hug him and hold
him, though the rules apparently don't allow it.
If nothing else, they hope they can chase away the ghosts that haunt him
and maybe, just maybe, convince him to change his mind and choose life
"I won't give up," Desiree Page says. "I'll fight it to the end."
Witness to An Execution----Witness to death: Last gasp fresh in memory
Jeff Martin, now a metro desk editor for the Argus Leader, covered the
execution of Alvie Hale in McAlester, Okla., on Oct. 18, 2001, when he was
assistant city editor at the Tulsa World.
In the moments before witnessing an execution, the sights and the sounds
rain down on the senses. And the rituals of death are seared into memory:
The rhythmic pounding and kicking of steel cell doors, a traditional show
of respect as the inmate is led to the chamber;
The condemned man's last words, barely audible over a prison microphone
that hardly works;
His chest, heaving violently as a final burst of air rushes from the
The images are as vivid now as they were 5 years ago on a surreal autumn
night inside H Unit, death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Several steps in the march toward death are universal. In 37 states, the
method is the same: Injection, a process developed with advice from a
University of Oklahoma doctor in 1977. Northern states still learn how to
carry out executions from southern states such as Texas and Oklahoma,
where death is now routine.
Unless there's a last-minute reprieve, life will end for Elijah Page in
Sioux Falls the same way it did for Alvie "Jim" Hale in Oklahoma on Oct.
The path that brought Hale together with a half-dozen relatives of his
victim, all gathered here to watch him die, began years earlier in
Hale was sentenced to die for kidnapping a banker named William Jeffrey
Perry, 24. He then called the victim's parents - who were the bank's top
officers - and promised Perry would be freed unharmed in return for
$350,000 in ransom.
Perry was already dead when the ransom demand was made, police later
determined. He'd been shot 5 times.
The day of Hale's execution, yellow ribbons fluttered from trees and
businesses in Tecumseh, where Perry grew up.
Across the state in McAlester, Hale began his last day behind the soaring
white walls and imposing guard towers of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.
Hale eats his last meal.
Witnesses to the execution also begin pulling up to the main gate near the
small prison museum. It features "Old Sparky," the electric chair used
until the 1960s, and a display of homemade weapons found on inmates
through the years - one of the "shanks" is stained with blood.
About 6 p.m., not far from the museum, about 2 dozen protesters pray. They
will light candles after dark.
The first stop for witnesses is the so-called media center, where sugar
cookies baked by inmates are served. I visit with the victim's sister,
Ronnye Perry Sharp.
I think to myself: God, give her strength.
Though Hale killed her brother, tonight she is one of the condemned man's
last visitors. They are now friends, and this becomes part of my story for
the next day's Tulsa World.
"I will be praying for Jim Hale's soul this evening," she says.
As night falls, witnesses board a prison van for the short ride from the
media center to death row. There, a half-dozen prison guards stand at
attention, the bright floodlights of H Unit casting long shadows in front
We take our shoes off, and the guards pat us down before we are allowed
We are led to the unit's law library. There are about five of us in the
room. We sit quietly, collecting our thoughts.
Then we are jarred from the relative calm as inmates begin to kick and
pound on their cell doors in unison. This signals the inmate's last walk.
The sound is a ways off, at first, then it grows louder and louder until
it is all around us. There's a certain cadence to the banging and clanking
of those cell doors, something writer Jay Grelen called "the soundtrack of
Shortly after that, guards lead us into the viewing gallery and we take
For years, Oklahoma executed its inmates shortly after midnight. That
changed in 2000, when the time was moved to 9 p.m. to make it more
convenient for state employees and relatives of victims.
Little else has changed since the mid-1970s, when Oklahoma's electric
chair broke down and the state was faced with a choice: Spend $60,000 to
fix "Old Sparky" or find a cheaper way.
In 1977, the head of the anesthesiology department at the University of
Oklahoma's medical school detailed such a way: lethal injection. It was "a
rapid, pleasant way of producing unconsciousness," Dr. Stanley Deutsch
wrote to state Sen. Bill Dawson.
That year, Oklahoma became the 1st state in the nation to introduce
legislation changing the method of death to injection.
By 2001, the year Hale was killed, Oklahoma led the nation in executions
with 18. There were more execution nights than Friday football nights.
And as the deaths become more routine, state residents pay less attention.
Shortly after 9 p.m., a set of mini-blinds opens on a large window. We can
see Hale, 53, in a hospital gown only a few feet in front of us. He is
strapped to a gurney, his arms and legs shackled. Needles are already in
place, one in each arm, and both are connected to tubes. He speaks for
about a minute and a half. The microphone fails to pick up most of what he
"Let the execution begin," the warden calls out.
Then the drugs start to flow.
Death's final grip is evident as Hale's face bulges. His chest collapses
when a final breath leaves his body. The microphone that didn't work
during Hale's last words now picks up the sound of air rushing from his
A doctor checks him. Then a voice from the chamber makes it official:
"Time of death, 9:24 p.m."
The mini-blinds close.
Under the dome light in the back of the prison van as it leaves H Unit, I
struggle to decipher my notes and find some scraps of his last words that
could be understood. Only 4 sentences are clear:
"I want to say goodbye to my family and friends. Thanks for being there
and supporting me," he said. "Watch what you see here. Remember it, and go
(source for 3 above: Sioux Falls Arugs Leader)
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