Raleigh, N.C. — The sister of a death row inmate is apologizing for a letter her brother recently wrote to his hometown newspaper in which he boasted of being "a gentleman of leisure" who spends his days in prison napping, watching TV and eating three meals a day.
"I'm so sorry for any hurt or anger that was caused by my brother, Danny Hembree's letter to the Gaston Gazette," Kathy Hembree Ledbetter said in a statement Thursday. "He is a very depressed man, and in his hopelessness, he lashed out."
The statement and an accompanying letter to Ledbetter from her brother were released by the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit group that provides legal representation to death row inmates.
Hembree, 50, who is imprisoned at Central Prison in Raleigh, was convicted last year in the 2009 death of 17-year-old Heather Catterton, one of three women he is accused of killing.
In the two-page handwritten letter to the newspaper, he wrote, in part: "Kill me if you can, suckers. Ha! Ha! Ha!" He also wrote that it's unlikely he will be executed within the next 20 years.
"The state of North Carolina has sentenced me to death, but it's not real," he wrote.
Ledbetter said her brother suffers severe mental illness and a severe emotional state that was brought out at his trial.
"He is not happy, he is not comfortable and he is not well," Ledbetter said. "He is being punished for his crimes, and he is in a bad place."
A letter Hembree wrote to her paints a picture of a different man, she said. In it, he writes:
"I want this stuff to be over for good, once and for all. I try to put on a nonchalant attitude for you guys, but it is overwhelming and depressing to look at these walls and electric doors and bright lights 24/7 and digest the fact that I'm never going to leave here until they murder me or I just die. … I know I promised you that I would fight this, but I'm almost fought out."
Ledbetter went on to say in her statement: "I feel deeply for the families who have been affected by his actions, actions that were motivated by mental illness."