Local News

N.C. Death Row Inmate Executed For Parents' Murder

Posted November 11, 2005 5:36 a.m. EST

— Steven Van McHone smiled and laughed with friends, then turned serious and apologized to his half brother for the murders of McHone's mother and stepfather minutes before he was executed early Friday.

"I'm so sorry," McHone, 35, mouthed through thick glass panes separating the execution chamber from the witness room to Wesley Adams Jr., who disarmed McHone after the killings 15 years ago. Strapped to a gurney, he turned his head to rub a teary eye on the light blue pillowcase.

Shortly afterward, about 2 a.m., McHone stopped talking and breathed deeply. He looked at the ceiling, then shut his eyes and never reopened them. There were a few muscle movements and color drained from his skin before he was declared dead at 2:10 a.m.

McHone made no final statement.

"We have sympathy and pray for comfort for those who will grieve Steve's passing," Adams said in a statement. "We do, however, feel that justice was upheld and that this fate was sealed many years ago.

"We feel that the enforcement of duly deliberated and prescribed sentences send a stronger message, as to the sanctity of human life, than does the sparing of those who have taken life willfully and brutally."

McHone lost his last chance to halt the execution when Gov. Mike Easley denied clemency late Thursday. That decision was announced after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down McHone's appeal without comment.

Defense lawyers had asked the court to stop the execution so that his mother's dying statement that he didn't intend to shoot her could be considered.

Last week, the governor and his legal adviser met with prosecutors, defense lawyers and members of McHone's family. Two half sisters and a half brother had asked that McHone not be executed, saying they forgave him and wanted to forge a relationship with him.

A Superior Court judge gave McHone a brief reprieve this week when he stopped the execution to allow a paramedic who treated Mildred Adams, McHone's mother, to testify about her patient's dying statement. Paramedic Teresa Durham said in an affidavit that Adams told her that McHone didn't mean to fatally shoot her. McHone also killed Adams' husband, Wesley Adams Sr.

Prosecutors said the statement was suspect, largely because Mildred Adams was in pain and had trouble talking and because it wasn't recorded in the paramedic's original report.

The state Supreme Court rejected the defense argument and McHone's lawyers sought a last-ditch stay from the federal high court.

McHone, housed alone in a cell block near the death chamber since Wednesday afternoon, visited with family members who supported his try for clemency _ his half sisters, Tina Walker and Cheryl McMillian, and a half brother, Randall Adams. As they left the prison about 11 p.m., they expressed disappointment that Easley didn't change the sentence to life.

McHone had a last meal of medium rare Porterhouse steak, French fries, chocolate cheesecake and a Mountain Dew soft drink, prison officials said.

Evidence showed McHone and his 52-year-old mother argued over money and that he chased her around the yard before shooting her in the back of the head. Wesley Adams Sr., 52, disarmed McHone and went to help his wife while McHone found another weapon and shot his stepfather before being disarmed by Wesley Jr.

Two other North Carolina men convicted of murder are also scheduled for execution over the next several weeks. Elias Syriani, 67, scheduled for execution Nov. 18, was convicted in June 1991 for the July 1990 death of his wife. Kenneth Boyd, 57, was sentenced to death in July 1994 for the March 1988 deaths of his wife and father-in-law. He is scheduled for execution Dec. 2.