State News

Sister apologizes for death row inmate's newspaper rant

Posted January 26, 2012

— 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."

40 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • Lightfoot3 Jan 27, 3:25 p.m.

    "There certainly was lots of executions in the old testament, but the new testament takes a very different tact. " - bill0


    While God does seem to change a bit after having the kid, the biblical changes are in regards to salvation. The New Testament most certainly supports capital punishment as much as the Old. Jesus didn't have a problem with it. Paul didn't have a problem with it, even saying if he has done something worthy of the DEATH PENALTY, so be it.


    "It is the most influential book concerning morality as far as our country goes though." - bill0


    It seems to influence the politics of morality more than morality itself. Something people quote, but not necessarily live by.

  • Barbie Q Jan 27, 3:09 p.m.

    Why would a newspaper publish this letter? He is a CONVICTED murderer. He should not be given the right to free speech, as he should have lost that when he committed murder.

  • ncflynhi Jan 27, 2:55 p.m.

    This totally disgust me! The Gaston Gazette should not have publicized this, they should have ripped the letter up and thrown it away! They gave this animal exactly what he wanted, publicity and traumatizing the victims families. The newpapers owner and publisher should be ashamed of themselves!!

  • bill0 Jan 27, 2:25 p.m.

    "Incorrect. I suggest you read it again. Punishment by DEATH is very much biblical, and for some things much less than killing an innocent.""

    I've read the bible numerous times, but I'm not some sort of fanatic. There certainly was lots of executions in the old testament, but the new testament takes a very different tact.

    And if you knew me at all, you certainly wouldn't think I take the bible as fact. It is the most influential book concerning morality as far as our country goes though.

  • solarflare40 Jan 27, 2:01 p.m.

    RE: ""In a biblical sense, definitely murder." - bill0

    Incorrect. I suggest you read it again. Punishment by DEATH is very much biblical, and for some things much less than killing an innocent."

    And therein lies the many problems with take The Bible as fact.

  • nonemeant Jan 27, 1:24 p.m.

    "he is not happy, he is not comfortable, he is not well" should be the description for every prisoner in the country!!

  • Lightfoot3 Jan 27, 1:12 p.m.

    "Apology was not necessary from the sister." - wildcat


    Agree. Though it is nice of her to do so.


    "He is locked up for life and going no where." - wildcat


    More than likely, correct. Although, there have been cases where killers escaped and were able to kill again before being caught. Once he's executed, then our safety and those that have to guard him will be absolute. Plus justice will be done.

  • wildcat Jan 27, 1:00 p.m.

    Apology was not necessary from the sister. He is locked up for life and going no where. Pray for the sister who is having a hard time with thhis.

  • iknowmyschnitzel Jan 27, 12:32 p.m.

    This man is an absolute psychopath and deserves no attention whatsoever. He accomplished his mission and now has national media coverage...so much so that he is being threatened by other inmates on death row who want to kill him and cowering in fear. If people would stop paying attention to this, we would all be better off. Mental illness....right. This is psychopathy in it's finest.

  • jebar Jan 27, 12:00 p.m.

    Sorry bill0, I am working and unable to repond in a timely manner. I do have to pay a large portion of my paycheck for insurance, food, housing etc. yes I get to go out when and where I want, but I also did not commit a crime and I am considered a "free" person. No my life is not that bad, but I am chain to a desk sitting in a dark room no bigger than his jail cell and do not see the light of day until my 8 hours are up (I promise you this is the truth). And Sherlock, if they went back to the old way of things I bet you prisons wouldn't be as full as they are today!

More...