This Morning’s Execution: Donald “Duke” Palmer


Ohio has carried out the execution of 43-year-old Donald “Duke” Palmer this morning in Lucasville. Palmer was convicted of aggravated murder for the May 1989 shootings of Charlse Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo. He did not know either of the men.

Palmer’s time of death was 10:35 a.m. ET. His death reduces Ohio’s death row to 145 inmates, its lowest population since 1995.

According to the Associated Press, “Palmer told police that he and co-defendant Edward Hill were driving from Columbus to the Belmont County home of a man who had dated Palmer’s ex-wife and Hill’s sister.

“As they were driving back and forth in front of the home, Sponhaltz – who was keeping an eye on the house – lightly hit the back of their pickup with his own truck and yelled at them: “What in the hell are you trying to prove?” according to the records.

“Palmer then shot Sponhaltz twice in the head.

“Vargo, a passing motorist, stopped and asked “What the hell did you guys do,” Palmer told police, according to the records. Palmer then shot Vargo twice in the head.”

Palmer decided not to request clemency from the Ohio Parole Board, and his attorney, David Stebbins, told the Associated Press that he does not plan to file any more appeals on Palmer’s behalf.

“He has always accepted responsibility for this and wants the families of his victims to have justice,” Stebbins said in the article.

In an interview with Fred Connors for The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, Palmer admitted to his crimes and said “I deserve to die” for them.

Palmer was moved from the state’s death row in Chillicothe to the death house at the Souther Correctional Center in Lucasville on Wednesday. He spent his final evening visiting with his son and daughter, spending about two hours with them, according to a local reporter who was on the scene. He also visited with his ex-wife and his pastor.

Palmer’s final meal, which was served at 8:05 p.m. Wednesday night, included chipped ham, Velveeta cheese, mayonnaise, two sliced tomatoes, one loaf of wheat bread, one bag of ranch Doritos, two large bags of peanut M&Ms, one quart of hazelnut ice cream, one piece of cheesecake and six 20 ounce bottles of Coke. Palmer was also offered but declined a breakfast this morning of apple juice, grits, boiled eggs, margarine, white bread, milk, coffee and sugar.

According to prison officials, Palmer only slept about 30 minutes Wednesday night, and spent most of his time reading, watching television and writing.

In the detailed report of Palmer’s final hours released by local media outlet, Palmer was allowed another visit with his children this morning from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., during which they read the Bible and sang. He also visited with his ex-wife and Chaplain Lyle Orr, and received Communion at 7:51 a.m.

In his final words before the execution began, Palmer apologized repeatedly to the family of his victims:

“I want you to know I’ve carried you in my heart for years and years,” Palmer said. “I’m so sorry for what I took from you …I hope your pain and hurt die with me today.”

Palmer also said he wished his death could bring back their family members.

“I know it can’t,” he said. “I pray that you have good lives now. I’m sorry.”


Donald Palmer, Ohio Death Row Inmate, Set To Be Executed

Ohio Inmate Calm, Emotional as Execution Nears

Convicted Killer Moved to Ohio Death House

Donald Palmer’s blog from death row

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