The controversial execution of Preble County’s only Death Row inmate, Dennis McGuire, took place Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
McGuire had been convicted for kidnapping, raping, sodomizing, and stabbing to death 22-year-old, Joy Morningstar Stewart, on Feb. 11, 1989, in Eaton.
Stewart, a native of West Alexandria, was seven months pregnant and “beaming with happiness and couldn’t wait to meet her baby,” said the statement prepared by her family, when her life was taken from her by McGuire. Her body was found by hikers in the woods near Bantas Creek. The case went unsolved for five years until McGuire was convicted for the crime.
McGuire was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m. on Thursday after receiving the highly-debated blend of drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, intravenously. This drug cocktail was adopted as a lethal injection method after the previously used drug was discontinued by its European manufacturer.
In the moments before his death, McGuire repeatedly said to his family “I love you” until his eyes closed. It was reported by media witness, Shiela Gray, from WKEF TV of Sinclair Broadcasting Group, that McGuire did not appear to be conscious when the process of his death became graphic. After closing his eyes, McGuire’s breaths for air were accompanied by a snoring-like sound and a rattling in his lungs until 10:43 a.m.,when Gray reported that there was no longer any movement or noise from McGuire. Officials began looking over McGuire’s body at 10:48 a.m., until he was pronounced dead at 10:53 a.m.
Alan Johnson, State House Reporter from the Columbus Dispatch and Ohio Legislative Correspondent Association, said McGuire’s death was “difficult to watch” because McGuire “seemed to be struggling for air.” Johnson said he also did not believe that McGuire seemed to be conscious while he was “gasping” for air.
Gary Moore, Director of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said prior to the execution, “Our expectations, our mission, our vision, of this going back to the planning meeting over 30 days ago, was a humane, dignified execution consistent with the law… If we believed that [the execution] would not be [humane], we would not be proceeding. The Governor and I would not do that,” said Moore of himself and Governor John Kasich.
One of McGuire’s attorneys, Allen Bohnert, spoke to the press after McGuire was pronounced dead, stating there was no definitive plan to file charges. Friday, Jan. 17, the day after the execution, it was announced that the family would be taking legal action against the State of Ohio.
Shiela Gray relayed McGuire’s final statement: “He would like to say to Joy’s family ‘thank you for the letter and the kind words, it means a lot. To my children, I’m sorry, I love you. I’m going to Heaven, and I’ll see you there when you come.’” Bohnert said he was unaware of any letter received by McGuire from the victim’s family.
“My brothers, my husband, and I are Christians and believe in forgiveness. We have forgiven him, but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions. It is time — past time — for him to pay for what he did to my sister,” said the final statement prepared by Stewart’s family and distributed to reporters after the execution.
“He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her. Ultimately, we must all face judgment — both here on Earth and in Heaven. It is his time to face his judgment.”
McGuire led Stewart out of his vehicle at knife-point and led her into the woods where the violent offense took place. Stewart and her unborn child died alone in the woods at the hands of Dennis McGuire, according to court records.
McGuire initially denied any involvement in the case after being indicted, however, later implemented himself in the crime while incarcerated for a prior conviction. McGuire was in prison after being found guilty of one count of Felonious Assault and one count of Abduction, which occurred on April 18, 1990, when he approached a 15-year-old girl at knife point less than a year after killing Stewart. McGuire’s Death Penalty Clemency Report published Dec. 30, 2013, suggested McGuire had a propensity to violently prey on vulnerable victims.
McGuire’s attorneys have been contacted, but have subsequently not responded with comment on the alleged lawsuit against the State.