LUCASVILLE, Ohio — A weeping inmate apologized for choking and fatally stabbing a man he met in a bar in 1985 moments before he was put to death Wednesday in the first Ohio execution in nearly a year.
The execution of Robert Van Hook by lethal injection was carried out at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility with three members of the victim’s family watching on the other side of a viewing window.
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During the execution, Van Hook, crying, told his victim’s sister, brother and brother-in-law, “I’m very sorry for taking your brother away from you.”
He then recited a Norse prayer which begins: “Lo, there do I see my father. Lo, there do I see my mother, And my sister and my brother.” At the end of the prayer, Van Hook began singing, stopping after about two minutes when the drugs took effect.
The execution proceeded without any apparent problems, with the inmate’s chest rapidly rising and falling for a few minutes and Van Hook wheezing and puffing his lips in and out before he went still. The death appeared to take about 14 minutes.
Van Hook, 58, had no remaining appeals, and Republican Gov. John Kasich rejected his request for clemency without comment.
At the time of the killing, Van Hook was suffering from long-term effects of untreated mental, physical and sexual abuse as a child and was depressed that his life seemed to be falling apart, his attorneys argued.
Kasich should have given more weight to Van Hook’s military service and his inability to receive care from Veterans Affairs for his mental health and addiction issues after his honorable discharge, the attorneys said.
Federal public defender Allen Bohnert criticized the execution afterward, saying Ohio continues to use a drug, midazolam, without evidence it renders inmates fully unconscious. That in turn causes inmates to suffer pain from the second and third drugs used, which paralyze inmates and stops their hearts, he said.