70 year old Mary Ann Hughes was found dead December
3, 1993, in the doorway of her home outside Stanardsville.
Roach was a friend of Hughes' sister, Mamie Estes,
and frequently helped the elderly woman by chopping wood and cutting the
grass. He even visited Hughes to play Yahtzee. She was a sweet old lady
whose door was open to everyone. But that didn't stop Roach from killing
her. Hughes was standing in the front door of her home, and was killed
by a single shotgun blast to the cheek. Her body was discovered the next
day. Several weeks before the murder, Roach and two of his friends had
been firing a shotgun at his home.
When Hughes was shot, Roach took her car, a 1981
Buick Regal, and fled the state, traveling to North and South Carolina.
Police say that on Dec. 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use the dead woman's
bank card at an automated teller machine in North Carolina. A videotape
taken at the ATM was introduced as evidence.
On Dec. 5, 1993, South Carolina highway patrolmen
spotted the Buick speeding and attempted to stop the car, but the driver
escaped into the woods.
After turning himself in on Dec. 6, 1993, Roach gave
an audiotaped confession in which he stated that he shot Hughes and took
her car and purse. Roach, who was 17 at the time, said he didn't know
why he killed Hughes.
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
In April 1993, Steve Roach was convicted of the capital murder of
Mary Ann Hughes. He was 17 at the time of the crime.
He had been raised by both of his parents, however during his
childhood they separated and got back together on four distinct
occasions. Roach's father had many health problems while Roach was
growing up, and often his father took medication which would cause him
to experience mood swings.
During the occasions that he and his wife were separated, Roach's
father would drink and have numerous affairs, often bringing women home
with him. Roach and his siblings were often home to witness their
father's actions. Roach's parents took him out of school at 14 so he
could work around the house doing odd jobs while looking after his
Other people who testified for Roach stated that he had always helped
people out, often doing different jobs for his neighbors and relatives,
including the victim Mrs. Hughes.
In addition, Roach also was active in
the church, volunteering to paint it and work at a children's camp.
Roach's probation officer testified that his family had undergone
counseling sessions and that Roach was going to get his G.E.D.
A forensic psychologist, Dr. Hawk, who interviewed Roach on several
occasions testified that Roach was "particularly immature" for his age.
Hawk concluded that Roach had poor impulse control and "did not show
very good ability in many situations to control his emotions or behavior
like seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old individuals should do."
Dr. Hawk attributed this immaturity to the lack of supervision and guidance
in the Roach household. He believed that Roach had acted out of emotion
and had displaced his anger on his close friend, Mrs. Hughes. He also
testified that Roach had never committed any violent behavior previous
to this act.
Roach testified that his intent upon going over to Mrs. Hughes' house
was not to kill her, but to rob her. He expressed remorse for his
actions, stating, "I wish I could bring her back."
During the trial Roach admitted into evidence that he had no gunshot
residue on his hands, nor did his clothes have any blood on them. An
expert in forensic science testified that "the fatal wound perforated
one of Hughes' arteries and the pattern of blood splatters indicated
that the person who had fired the gun was standing within five feet of
He also presented the fact that the shoes he was wearing on
December 3 did not match the footprints at the scene of the crime.
However, the trial court found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to
Currently Steve Roach is in the Federal Habeas stage and has filed in
the United States District Court. He has been on death row since May 10,
Steve Roach was sentenced to die for the December 1993 death of Mary
Hughes, a 70-year-old neighbor of Roach's along U.S. 33 in Greene
County, was slain with a sawed-off shotgun. Although Roach confessed to
the killing after the verdict, he since has claimed that he admitted to
the slaying only to have his life spared.
His appeals to state and federal courts failed and the Supreme Court
of Virginia in April dismissed his petition to have his trial and
sentence thrown out on constitutional grounds.
Hughes was found dead Dec. 3, 1993, in the doorway of her home
outside Stanardsville. After Hughes was killed, Roach, then 17 years old,
fled south in her Buick Regal. Two days after the slaying, a trooper in
the South Carolina Highway Patrol pulled Roach over for speeding. Roach
eluded arrest by running into nearby woods.
He later talked to his aunt,
who persuaded him to turn himself in. A day later, he returned to
Virginia and confessed to Greene County Sheriff William Morris.
A Greene County jury sentenced Roach to death based, in part, on his
threat to society. That threat was partially based on his criminal
record of 2 auto thefts and a burglary. In January, the U.S. Supreme
Court refused to hear Roach's appeal.
Steve Roach [Virginia]. Sentenced to death for
the 1993 shooting of Mary Ann Hughes, his only recorded act of violence.
Born into a family with frequently absent parents, Roach dropped out of
school at 14 because they wanted him to do chores. An expert testified
at trial that Roach had poor impulse control and was particularly
immature as a result of the lack of structure in his home life.
that Roach was a future danger, the prosecution cited his parole
violation in possessing a shotgun as a sign of his future dangerousness,
despite the fact that no adult, including the police, had seen fit to
remove it from him.
The Execution of Inmate 225822
At 9:04 p.m. Jan. 13, Steven Edward Roach became the 604th person
executed in the United States since 1976, the year the death penalty was
reinstated. Executions have become so routine that many escape public
notice or widespread media coverage.
This execution was controversial
because Roach was 17 years old when he murdered an elderly neighbor
during a robbery. Anti-death penalty groups have questioned whether
people who commit murder when they are juveniles should pay the ultimate
price for their crime -- their lives.
APBnews.com decided to focus on the Roach execution to give readers a
frontline look at the process. Hear Roach's last thoughts 36 hours
before his death. Read an overview of the murder that took him from a
small town in Virginia to the death chamber in Jarrett.
Learn of the
other 14 people who were convicted of murder at the ages of 16 and 17
and executed. And finally, go into the execution chamber with
APBnews.com's reporter to witness the execution.
Watching Steven Roach Die; Report From the Virginia Death Chamber
By Robert Anthony Phillips.
January 14, 2000
JARRATT, Va. (APBnews.com ) --- Convicted murderer Steven Edward
Roach had nine minutes to live. It was 8:55 p.m. Thursday night. The
side door to the death chamber at Greenville Corrections Center's L Unit
Roach, who had confessed to the shotgun slaying of an elderly
woman, moved through the doorway, escorted by guards into the death
chamber. An hour earlier, Gov. James Gilmore announced he would not
intervene to stop the proceeding. Roach knew then it was over.
Now, a dead man walking, he wore a light blue shirt and dark blue
pants. His hair was short. He appeared calm; his lawyer would later say
that he had been given Valium.
Before night fell, Roach visited with his
wife, brother and father, corrections officials said. Afterward, he
talked with his lawyer and his spiritual adviser before walking down the
short hallway from the holding cells to the death chamber. There, a
dozen state lawyers, corrections officials and execution team members
stood erect, waiting to witness the event.
The viewing room
The viewing room is about 30 feet wide, with a blue curtain running
across its entire length. There are four large windows in front.
Witnesses and reporters sit behind the windows in a separate booth to
view the execution. Watching from a separate room, the family of the
murder victim is never seen.
The first thing condemned men see when they
enter the execution room is the gurney. It is stainless steel, has a
thin pad and is covered with a white sheet. Douglas Thomas, who had
murdered his girlfriend's parents, died on the gurney Monday.
was Thomas' friend, had said he cried. Douglas Buchanan, who killed his
father, stepmother and two half brothers, died on it in 1998. Carl
Chichester, Jason Joseph, Dennis Eaton, Johnile DuBoise, Arthur Jenkins
and dozens of others were strapped to it for the last minutes of their
lives. Steven Roach, who at 17 murdered an elderly woman who lived next
door, would join them.
The final steps
Appearing in the doorway and surrounded by guards, Roach took the
final four steps. A reporter asked why the condemned men always walk
into the death chamber meekly and don't fight the guards. "I've attended
14 executions last year and nine of the 13 in 1998 and ... we never had
problems," said Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department
of Corrections. "In my opinion, between the attorney, the clergy and the
time it has taken to finally reach this point, he's usually pretty
resigned to the fact. I've seen a range of emotions, everything from
complete indifference ... to seeing them cry ... but normally they are
As he was laid on the gurney, Roach was engulfed by guards who
blocked the view of witnesses and reporters behind the glass. Each
member of the execution team was in charge of a strap to put around the
inmate's hands, arms and legs.
The guards moved away, exposing Roach to
full view again. His head faced the witness room, but he didn't not look
at anyone. He said something, but the audience beyond the glass couldn't
hear what it was.
Valley of Death
Pastor Wendell Lamb, who had known Roach since he was a 5-year-old in
Sunday school, stood at his side. Lamb leaned down to Roach's face, gave
him a pat on the cheek and kissed him. "I said I love you and he said,
'I love you,'" Lamb said later. "I said see you on the other side, and
he said, 'I'll see you there.'" Lamb said as Roach was being strapped
down, the condemned man recited verses of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my
shepherd, I shall not want ..."
Suddenly, the curtains closed, blocking the witnesses' view of the
chamber. A corrections official said that this is done while the medical
technicians inserted two intravenous tubes into the inmate's arms. One
of the tubes will serve as a backup in case the other one doesn't work.
The mute witnesses waited for the curtain to reopen. There were five
reporters and six volunteers who had come to watch Roach die. The
witnesses said they filled out applications with the state to volunteer
Her third execution
One witness, a woman, said this was her third execution. She said she
keeps coming because they are "interesting." In a pre-execution briefing
by a corrections official, she asked questions about Roach, including
whether he married while he was on death row and what he had to eat for
his last meal.
Oddly, though Roach talked freely to the press during the
last few weeks, he asked that the details of his last meal not be made
public. Another witness said he came to watch Roach die as a way of
avenging his own son's death. He said his son was beaten to death and
nobody was ever convicted of the crime.
He said he had no pity for Roach.
He said he deserved to die, and it was a citizen's duty to watch. "He
killed a 70-year-old woman who was like a grandmother to him," he said.
Shotgunned a neighbor
Roach confessed to murdering Mary Ann Hughes on Dec. 3, 1993. Hughes,
a widow who lived next door, frequently paid him to do chores for her.
Roach even said he played board games with the elderly woman to keep her
In interviews days before his execution, he said he was ready
to take responsibility for the crime, but he never explained why he
walked to the kindly widow's house and blasted her in the chest with a
Roach said that after shooting Hughes, he took $60 from her
purse, a credit card and her car. After fleeing to South and North
Carolina, he returned three days later and surrendered to the Greene
County lawmen. The curtain opens.
Waiting for the final nod Roach lies on the gurney, his arms
outstretched in a crucifixionlike position, strapped to two wings
attached to the sides of the gurney. The two-person medical team was now
behind the curtain, hidden executioners waiting for Warden David
Garraghty to give the final nod to kill Roach. Roach's eyes appeared
closed. He had said in an interview 30 hours before his death that he
would close his eyes while lying on the gurney and then open them in
The governor had not changed his mind. The nearby red phone was
silent. The warden gave a small nod. Behind the curtain, after about a
minute, witnesses watched as a intravenous tube jiggled.
This was a
signal that the medical technicians had chosen that tube to insert a
syringe and start the flow of a chemical that will put Roach to sleep.
Then, the medical technician will insert a syringe that stops his
The last syringe carries a chemical that will stop his heart.
Roach lay on the gurney, his eyes still closed. Those in the room stood
silently and watched. A monitor hooked up to Roach's chest will tell a
doctor in the room when the condemned man's heart stops beating.
Several minutes go by. Roach did not move. He lay still, as if he was
in a deep, peaceful sleep. "9:04," a corrections official said. Steven
Roach was dead. The curtains to the execution room were closed. The
execution of inmate No 225822 was over.
Roach was the 604th person in
the United States executed since the death penalty was re-established in
1976. He was the 75th person executed in Virginia since 1976. He also
became the 15th person who had committed murder at the age of 16 or 17
to be tried as an adult and executed since 1985.
Lawyer's statement Outside the prison after the execution, Steven M.
Schneebaum, who had handled Roach's appeals, stood in the cold wind and
read a statement saying that Roach did not want to be remembered as a
murderer or "monster." "It was important to Steve Roach that he be
remembered, not just as the boy who killed Mary Ann Hughes, but also as
the man who married Elasa Roach; not just as the teenager who committed
a horrible crime, but also as the adult who accepted responsibility for
it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer; and not just
as someone who ended a life for no reason, but also as someone whose own
life was ended to no one's benefit."
Dead Man Walking in Virginia; Admits Killing; Prepares for Own Death
By Robert Anthony Phillips.
January 13, 2000
JARRETT, Va. (APBnews.com) -- A convicted killer just hours from
being executed has admitted to the shotgun slaying of a 70-year-old
widow and says he is not frightened of death because he will "wake up in
In a telephone interview with APBnews.com Wednesday from
outside the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center, Steven
Roach, 23, also said he has forgiven himself for the murder, but is
ready to accept death. "I will walk in that chamber with my eyes closed.
And I will lay down with my eyes closed with my spiritual adviser which
will walk in there with me. And I will ask him to say a prayer not for
myself but for Mary's family and for my family. And when that hour
comes, I will wake up in heaven."
Roach was convicted of the Dec. 3, 1993, robbery and murder of his
elderly neighbor, Mary Hughes, in Stanardsville. The victim was a friend
of Roach's, who played board games with her and even mowed her lawn.
Roach was just 17 years old when the murder occurred.
He is scheduled
for execution at 9 p.m. Thursday, and if he is put to death, he will
become the 15th person who committed a murder at 16 or 17 years of age
to be executed in the United States since 1976.
Roach was 30 hours away from death and had been placed in a holding
cell outside the death chamber in L unit, Cell 2. During a half-hour
interview, Roach also said he had cried when his friend and fellow death
row inmate, Douglas Christopher Thomas, was executed by lethal injection
Monday and that several members of the Hughes family had written letters
to Gov. Jim Gilmore urging clemency.
Thomas, 26, and Roach had been
transported 10 feet apart in adjoining cells as they waited to die.
Thomas had also committed his crime when he was just 17 years old,
killing his girlfriend's parents. "His last words to me were, 'I love
you Roach. Be strong.' I knew him for about four years, and he's like a
big brother to me," Roach said.
Hopes for clemency
Roach, a former Baptist youth camp counselor, said his only hope to
avoid execution rests with Gilmore granting clemency. He claimed that he
had been told that his case has generated the most letters of any other
clemency case in Virginia.
A member of Gilmore's staff said late
Wednesday that the Thomas case generated 935 letters from residents,
with the majority urging clemency. She also reported that so far Gilmore
has received 400 letters from people urging clemency for Roach, with
seven members of the Hughes family also urging that his life be spared.
She said the governor had not yet made a decision on the Roach case.
Roach said he believes he had a good chance of clemency because he
doesn't have a violent criminal history. Prior to his murder conviction
and death sentence, Roach had been charged with several car thefts and a
burglary. But Roach said that he is also ready for the alternative --
lethal injection. "I'm ready to accept the consequences. ... I'm ready
for the worst, and I'm ready if I get life, " Roach said.
'Enjoying' rest of life
Roach said he plans to spend the remaining hours he might have
visiting with family members and enjoying himself. "I believe in God,
and I put my faith in him. ... If I die I'll be in heaven. ... I'm not
letting myself get down. What do I have to gain by getting depressed
when I know that I'm in Gods hands and in the best hands?" Roach, who
married while on death row for nearly five years, said that his wife,
Elasa, had visited with him every day and that he was being strong for
her and the rest of his family.
Admits he lied
In an August interview with APBnews.com, Roach -- despite confessing
to the local sheriff and again to a jury -- had claimed that another man
was with him during the Hughes robbery and killed the woman. He even
provided the man's name. "The reason I confessed to it is that the
sheriff made some implied promises about me getting out sooner, and the
death penalty was never mentioned," Roach had said. However, one of
Roach's own trial lawyers called him a "pathological liar" and said that
despite an extensive probe by a private investigator, no other person
named by the then-teenaged killer had ever been located nor has anyone
admitted to taking part in the Hughes robbery and slaying.
But now Roach
admits he lied and it was he alone who killed a woman who was like "a
grandmother to me." He said he admitted his guilt to members of Hughes'
family. "I told them the truth about the crime ... I killed Mary Hughes.
I'm truly sorry. I had a difficult time with the remorse that I feel for
doing this act. I asked for their forgiveness. I tried the best way ...
I did not plan this ... I did not plan to kill a loved one. [If] I could
see Mary today, I would ask for her forgiveness. "She was like a
grandmother to me, and at first I could not forgive myself," Roach said.
'I don't know why this happened'
Roach said that he had been with two members of the Hughes family the
night of the murder and then left to go to Mary Hughes' house to "check
on her." Roach was a friend of the widow, frequently mowing her lawn and
playing a board game with her.
Sheriff William Morris said that Hughes
was a beloved member of the community who used to pay the unemployed
Roach money for helping her. "On the way over 200 yards away ... nothing
was going through my mind that I would kill Mary," Roach told
APBnews.com. "There was a lot of stress on me. My family -- mother and
father -- were going through a difficult divorce, and my father was
blaming me for the difficult divorce. ... My father hated me. I'm not
blaming it on my father, but myself. When I knocked on that door, I did
not realize I was going to kill her. "She opened the door and I shot her,"
Roach said. "I don't know why this happened." Roach then stole $60 and a
credit card from Hughes' purse and her car and headed to North and South
Carolina. He returned to Virginia and surrendered three days later.
I Killed Mary Hughes; Brutal Crime Put Teen on Death Row
By Robert Anthony Phillips
January 12, 2000
JARRETT, Va. (APBnews.com) -- For murdering and
robbing an elderly neighbor, Steve Roach got $60 and a credit card from
her purse, an old Buick from her driveway and a date with the
executioner from the state.
He was just 17 years old when he confessed
to pointing a shotgun at Mary Hughes, 70, a next-door neighbor in the
small town of Stanardsville, and firing a blast into her chest. Several
times he tried to lie his way out of the murder by claiming another
person who was with him during the robbery had actually pulled the
trigger, prosecutors said.
But when the local sheriff questioned his
story, Roach thought that by finally confessing, he would get a chance
to get out of prison someday.
Less than five years later, Roach, once a counselor at a Baptist camp
for youths, may get out of prison -- but not alive. He is scheduled to
die by lethal injection at Greenville State Prison at 9 p.m. Thursday. I
killed Mary Hughes," Roach told APBnews.com in a telephone interview 30
hours before his scheduled execution. "I did not plan this. I did not
plan to kill a loved one. If I could see Mary today, I would ask her
forgiveness." In a previous interview with APBnews.com last August,
Roach claimed that he and another man had robbed Hughes and that it was
this other man who had killed her with a shotgun blast. This led one of
his lawyers to say that Roach was a "pathological liar."
No 'late-breaking evidence'
Last year, Roach had won a temporary court reprieve from that death
warrant after his appeals lawyer, Steven Schneebaum, argued that his
parents were not properly notified that he was to be tried as an adult.
The courts later rejected all legal arguments, and Roach, barring
clemency from Gov. Jim Gilmore, was to become the 15th person who had
committed murder at the age of 17 or younger to be executed in the
United States since 1976.
Two of those executions took place in
Virginia. Schneebaum said the fact it took less than five years to bring
his client to the brink of execution was probably a combination of new
laws that speed up death penalty appeals and legal issues that the
courts had no trouble resolving. "We didn't ask for a new trial because
there was no late-breaking evidence," Schneebaum said. "We didn't
question his guilt. The legal issues were resolved quickly."
Does he deserve to die?
But Roach's lawyers argue that he does not deserve to be executed.
The reason? Before he murdered Hughes, he had no history of violence and
was "not dangerous." A jury had sentenced him to death on the basis of
his future dangerousness.
Schneebaum said that since capital punishment
was reinstituted in Virginia in 1977, "no defendant sentenced to death
on the basis of future dangerousness has had anywhere near as scanty a
record of criminal violence as Steve Roach."
In arguing for Roach's life
to be spared, Schneebaum said that in all the cases where the Virginia
Supreme Court had confirmed death sentences on the basis of future
dangerousness, Roach had the least violent criminal record.
said the other men sentenced to death had previous convictions for
assault, armed robbery, threatening witnesses, illegal firearms
possession, narcotics violations, abduction, attempted murder and
assaulting police officers.
Court records show that Roach had twice been
convicted of grand larceny of automobile. One came in May 1993 and the
second in August 1993. Schneebaum said that the thefts were mostly "joyriding"
Roach was also arrested in June 1993 for breaking and entering
and grand larceny arising out of a burglary. He had ransacked a home and
stole a .357 Magnum pistol. He was on probation at the time of his death
Teens on death row Anti-death penalty advocates argue that Roach was
not old enough to vote when he murdered but old enough to be executed,
thus making him one of the few killers put to death in the United States
for crimes committed as a teenager.
He is one of about 75 people across
the United States who, at the time they committed murder, were under the
age of 18 and are now on death rows. The so-called juvenile death
penalty has sparked protests by Amnesty International, the National
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the American Civil Liberties
Union, the American Bar Association and the United Nations.
that the United States is one of the few countries that executes
offenders for crimes committed as juveniles. If Roach had committed the
murder in New York, Ohio, Connecticut, California or 11 other states, he
would not have been eligible for capital punishment.
Those states and
the federal government require the person who committed the murder to be
at least 18 years old. But Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho,
Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming
will allow persons 16 years or older to be subject to the death penalty.
High court approves death for teens
In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in a Kentucky case that that the
Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes
committed at age 16 or 17. In 1988, the high court had barred the
execution of offenders age 15 or younger at the time of their crimes,
saying it was unconstitutional.
But in Florida, which traditionally
ranks near the top in executions, the state Supreme Court ruled in 1999
that executing a person who committed murder at 16 constitutes cruel and
unusual punishment under the Florida constitution.
The court said that
in three other cases where 16 year olds had been sentenced to death, the
sentences had been overturned. The ruling effectively upped the bar for
a death sentence in that state to 17. With the Supreme Court upholding
the right to execute 16 year olds, defense lawyers and civil rights
advocates have attempted to use a United Nations treaty to pressure the
United States into banning the execution of those who committed crimes
These rights groups and lawyers are attempting to use a
1977 agreement in which the United signed the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights that, among other things, prohibits executing
17-year-olds or those who committed capital crimes as juveniles. But the
Senate, in ratifying the covenant, refused to agree to the ban. The
courts have dismissed several cases seeking to overturn death penalty
convictions based on the covenant.
The murder of Mary Hughes
Roach's fast track to the Virginia death house began Dec. 3, 1993. It
was in his hometown of Stanardsville, at the foot of the Blue Mountains,
that Roach-- before that nothing more than a joyriding car thief and
small-time burglar who had no history of violence or drug use-- turned
killer. Hughes, a widow, had been a friend of Roach and lived next door
to his family. Roach was born April 10, 1976.
He was one of four
children, but his parents, who are now divorced, had at least 12
children between them. In court testimony, Roach's lawyers said his
family was poor and dysfunctional. He had witnessed his father's
attempted suicide. He was permitted to drop out of school at 14. He was
'She was a sweet old lady'
Schneebaum said Roach was a friend of Hughes' sister, Mamie Estes,
and frequently helped the elderly woman by chopping wood and cutting the
grass. He even visited Hughes to play Yahtzee, a board game, with her.
"[Hughes] was one of the very few people in the world -- Donald and
Mamie Estes were two others -- who Steve Roach felt cared for and about
him," Schneebaum wrote in a clemency request to the governor. "She was a
sweet old lady whose door was open to everyone," said Greene County
Sheriff William Morris, who investigated the murder. "She was retired
after having worked at a restaurant. She did a lot more good than she
But that didn't stop Roach from killing her, prosecutors said. On
Dec. 3, 1993, Hughes was standing in the front door of her home, about
five miles outside of Stanardsville, and was killed by a single shotgun
blast to the cheek. Her body was discovered the next day. Morris said
that several weeks before the murder, Roach and two of his friends had
been firing a shotgun at his home.
He said a deputy went over and
actually took the shotgun to make sure it was not stolen, and then gave
it back to the Roach family. He said he did so because the gun belonged
to Roach's father. Morris even said that to this day, he never found out
why Roach killed the elderly woman who had been his friend.
Goes on run
When Hughes was shot, Roach took her car, a 1981 Buick Regal, and
fled the state, traveling to North and South Carolina. Police say that
on Dec. 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use the dead woman's bank card at an
automated teller machine in North Carolina.
A videotape taken at the ATM
was introduced as evidence. On Dec. 5, 1993, South Carolina highway
patrolmen spotted the Buick speeding and attempted to stop the car, but
the driver escaped into the woods. A search of the car later turned up
Hughes' purse and a shotgun shell.
Roach's palm print was also found on
a plastic grocery bag in the car, prosecutors charged. Morris said Roach,
after turning himself in on Dec. 6, 1993, gave an audiotaped confession
in which he stated that he shot Hughes and took her car and purse Roach
told APBnews.com that he didn't know why he killed Hughes.
He said she
just opened the door and he shot her and then stole her purse and car.
Roach said it could have had something to do with him having family
problems, with his mother and father separated at the time, and fighting
with his father.
A pattern of lies
But in first telling the story to Morris, Roach claimed that he and
another man went to the woman's house to steal money and that the other
man shot Hughes. During questioning, in which inconsistencies were
spotted in his story, Roach confessed that he alone shot Hughes.
said he has no doubt that Roach acted alone. "He was a kid who wanted
more than he had and didn't want to work to earn it," said Morris. "It
was a tragedy. It a shame to have this woman's life snuffed out by
somebody like Steven Roach. The whole thing was based on the robbery of
a small mount of money, a credit card and a car."
At the penalty phase
of his trial, after a jury had found him guilty of murder and was
considering whether to give him the death penalty, Roach took the stand
and confessed again, hoping for mercy. In sobbing testimony, Roach
admitted that when Hughes came to the door of her house, he shot her,
stepped over her body and took her purse.
Defense points to inconsistencies
David Heilberg, who represented Roach at his trial, called Roach a "pathological
liar." He believes that even Roach's confession was a lie and that
nobody will ever knew what happened the day of the murder and why he
shot Hughes. Heilberg said that blood splatter evidence indicated that
the woman was shot at close range. If Roach had shot Hughes, he would
have had blood all over his clothing.
No blood was found on Roach's
clothing, and police never searched the Roach family home, he said.
Heilberg and Pete McCloud, who also represented Roach at his trial, said
that their client changed his story several times about what happened at
the Hughes home, giving different names of people who were allegedly
with him. "We were given several different accounts by Mr. Roach, with
different people involved," said McCloud. "We had a court-appointed
private investigator who tried to run down all the leads and any other
course. We were never able to see who that person was." Dan Bouton, the
part-time commonwealth attorney for Greene County who prosecuted Roach,
did not return a telephone call for comment.
Was it a fair trial? Heilberg also argues that it was impossible for
Roach to get a fair trial in Stanardsville, which he described in court
documents as "small and insular." He also said that it is a community
where everyone knows one another and the judge refused a change of venue.
In seeking a mistrial, Heilberg complained in court documents that three
dozen members of the Hughes' family were present every day in court,
emitting sounds, gasping noises and exclamations of exasperation when
evidence was introduced.
During jury selection, defense lawyers said
they dismissed 31 potential jurors -- an unusually high number -- for
possible prejudice. One prospective juror, in the presence of others,
made an outburst saying the defendant was guilty. During the trial, one
juror twice fell asleep, the lawyer said.
Heilberg also complained that Morris positioned himself in front of
the jury and made "facial expressions" when evidence was introduced. The
sheriff also positioned 10 deputies in the courtroom, making Roach
appear to the jury as being more dangerous that he really was, Heilberg
charged in court documents.
Morris denied the allegations that "he used
his badge to influence" the jury, and questioned the strategy of the
defense lawyers in attacking his office. "They choose to attack the
sheriff's office ... how incompetent we were and ... running the office
down," Morris said. "They had no evidence. They had to try to belittle
us. Then the jury turns around and convicts this kid and they put [Roach]
on the stand and he confesses again to the same jury that he killed this
woman. The defense lawyers messed up.
Those Who Died for Juvenile Crimes
By Robert Anthony Phillips.
January 12, 2000
14 Killers Executed for Murders Committed as
NEW YORK (APBnews.com) -- One raped and murdered a 76-year-old
nun. Another came up behind a Louisiana State Trooper and pumped a
bullet into his brain. And another turned on a woman who had raised him,
waiting in the dark for her and stabbing her to death.
They were 14
teenage killers, one as young as 16, convicted of capital crimes and
executed in the United States since 1985. The Death Penalty Information
Center (DPIC) says that the first reported execution of a juvenile
occurred in 1642, when Thomas Graunger, a resident of the Plymouth
Colony, was hanged.
He had committed the crime when he was 16 years old.
Since then, the DPIC reports more than 356 persons have been executed
for juvenile crimes, constituting 1.8 percent of the estimated 19,200
executions that have occurred in the United States since 1608.
of the executions for juvenile crimes have been imposed since the
reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Of those 14 people, seven
have been executed in Texas and two in Virginia.
The other executions
have occurred in Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and South
Carolina. Eight of those put to death were white, five were black and
one was Latino.
The following are capsule summaries of the young men
executed since 1985 for murders committed at the ages of 16 and 17.
Charles Rumbaugh, Texas - At 17, Charles Rumbaugh shot and killed the
owner of a jewelry store in San Angelo, Texas, in 1975. He was executed
by lethal injection Sept. 11, 1985, becoming the first person 18 years
of age or younger at the time of the murder to be executed in the United
States since 1964. Before his death, Rumbaugh took responsibility for
the murder, but added that it was no excuse for society to put him to
death. "Murder is murder!" Rumbaugh wrote in a last statement. "Just as
society labels me a murderer for causing the death of a human being, so
must it label itself for knowingly, intentionally, premeditatedly and
hypocritically causing the deaths of each and every human being
throughout this country whom it has put to death."
James Terry Roach, South Carolina - James Terry Roach, 25, was
executed Jan. 10, 1986, for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl
and her 17-year-old boyfriend in Columbia, S.C. The murders occurred in
1977, when Roach was 17. Despite pleas to spare his life from Mother
Teresa, former President Jimmy Carter and human rights groups, Roach was
strapped into the electric chair after all his appeals were exhausted
and Gov. Richard Riley refused clemency. "To my family and friends,
there is only three words to say: I love you," he said. He then
reportedly gave the thumbs-up sign that he was ready to die.
Jay Pinkerton, Texas - Jay Pinkerton, 24, was executed May 15, 1986,
after being convicted of the rape and murders of two Amarillo women in
1979 and 1980. He was 17 years old when he committed the crimes.
Pinkerton was a butcher by trade and mutilated his victims, prosecutors
said. But Pinkerton had claimed he was innocent, saying that he received
ineffective counsel and a witness had lied at his trial. Prosecutors
said Pinkerton broke into one woman's house, raping and stabbing her
more than 30 times. He also was convicted in the 1980 rape and slaying
of an Amarillo beauty queen.
Dalton Prejean, Louisiana - Dalton Prejean, 30, was executed May 18,
1990, after being convicted of the murder of a state trooper. The lawman
had stopped a car Prejean was riding in. Prosecutors charged that
Prejean, a passenger in the vehicle, got out of the car, came up behind
the trooper and shot him in the head. He had committed the crime when he
was 17 years old. Defense lawyers said Prejean had an IQ of about 71 and
that he had been abandoned by his mother when he was just 2 weeks old.
As a teenager, he was institutionalized and suffered from schizophrenia.
He had killed a taxi driver when he was just 14 years old, was
institutionalized, and was let out three years later.
Johnny Garrett, Texas - Johnny Garrett, who raped and killed a 76-year
old nun, is probably best known for his last statement before being
executed Feb. 11, 1992: "I'd like to thank my family for loving me and
taking care of me," he said. "The rest of the world can kiss my ass."
Garrett reportedly suffered from brain damage and was insane, his
lawyers had argued. Pleas for clemency were made by Pope John Paul II
and even friends of the nun, Sister Tadea Benz, who was killed at an
Amarillo convent in 1981. Then-Gov. Ann Richards, at the urging of the
Pope, did delay Garrett's execution for 30 days, but the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles voted 17-0 to carry out the sentence.
Curtis Harris, Texas - Curtis and Danny Harris had the distinction of
being one of the few brother teams ever executed in the United States.
Curtis Harris, 17 at the time, and Danny Harris, 18, were convicted of
beating and robbing a motorist who had pulled off the road to help them
with their disabled vehicle. The crime occurred in 1978 in Brazos County.
Danny Harris, 32 when he was executed, had held the motorist down on the
ground, while Curtis beat him to death with a tire iron, prosecutors
charged. Curtis Harris was executed July 1, 1993, and his brother was
put to death at the end of the month. Frederick Lashley, Missouri -
Frederick Lashley, 29, was executed July 28, 1993, for stabbing to death
the woman who raised him. He was 17 years old at the time of the crime.
Lashley was convicted of murdering his foster mother while he was under
the influence of drugs. Court testimony revealed that Lashley had been
abandoned as a child, had started drinking alcohol at the age of 10 and
had been suicidal, requiring psychiatric care from an early age. Lashley
was the youngest person on Missouri's death row when he was sentenced to
die for killing Janie Tracy, 55, in St. Louis in 1981. Tracy was
Lashley's cousin, having raised him since he was just 2 years old.
Lashley told police that he waited in a dark room to jump her, first
smashing the victim over the head with a pan and then stabbing her. His
lawyers attempted to save his life, arguing that he had suffered brain
damage as a child and was high on PCP at the time of the murder.
Ruben Cantu, Texas - Ruben Cantu, 26, was executed Aug. 24, 1993. At
the age of 17, Cantu, a ninth-grade dropout, shot two men who were
guarding an empty house in San Antonio. One of the men died; the other
survived and identified Cantu as his attacker. Cantu claimed he was not
in San Antonio at the time of the Nov. 8, 1984, shootings. A 15-year-old
accomplice was given 20 years in prison.
Chris Burger, Georgia - Chris Burger, 33, was executed Dec. 7, 1993,
after being convicted of the 1978 murder of a Fort Stewart soldier who
was moonlighting as a cabdriver. Burger became the first person who
killed as a minor to be executed by the state in 36 years. Burger, then
17, got drunk and ran out of money. He and another soldier then robbed
and sodomized the moonlighting cabbie, locked him in the taxi's trunk
and rolled it into a water-filled pit, where the victim drowned.
Burger's accomplice also was executed. Burger's supporters described him
as a frightened, confused, lost man who had been abused as a child.
Joseph Cannon, Texas - At the time of his execution at the age of 38,
Joseph Cannon had been on death row for more than half his life. He had
been sentenced to die for shooting and attempting to rape Anne Walsh, a
45-year-old attorney and mother of eight in September 1977. The crime
occurred in San Antonio. He was executed April 22, 1998, despite claims
that he was diagnosed as brain-damaged and schizophrenic. He had never
received medical treatment. Cannon, 17 at the time of the crime, was a
juvenile criminal and runaway from Houston. Prosecutors said he was
facing a prison sentence for burglary unless he found somewhere to live.
Walsh, an attorney whose brother had represented Cannon, asked her to
take the boy in. She did. Cannon later told police that he had been
drinking and taking drugs on Sept. 30, 1977, when he shot the victim six
times and then tried to rape her.
Robert Carter, Texas - Robert Carter was sentenced to death in 1982
for the fatal shooting of a cashier in a Houston gas station during a
robbery. He was 17 years of age at the time and had no criminal record.
Carter also had confessed to killing a man in another robbery five days
earlier. His lawyers described him as being abused as a child and having
suffered head injuries and being semiretarded. However, he was executed
May 18, 1998.
Dwayne Allen Wright, Virginia - Dwayne Allen Wright, 26, was executed
Oct. 14, 1998. In October 1989, he murdered a woman when he was 17 years
old. Amnesty International, a human rights group, said Wright was
mentally retarded because of the abuse he had suffered as a child.
Sean Sellers, Oklahoma - Sellers, who killed his mother, stepfather
and a store clerk when he was 16, was executed Feb. 4, 1999. He was 29
at the time of his execution. Sellers said he became a Christian in
prison and learned to paint and write. Sellers' case was highly
publicized, as human rights and anti-death penalty groups pleaded for
Douglas Christopher Thomas, Virginia - At the age of 17, Thomas was
convicted of murdering his girlfriend's parents in their Middlesex home.
The crime occurred Nov. 10, 1990. Prosecutors said Thomas killed Kathy
and J.B. Wiseman because they wanted their daughter, Jessica Wiseman, to
break off her relationship with him. She was 14 years old at the time of
the murders and was confined to a juvenile detention facility until she
was 21 years old. He was executed by lethal injection Monday.
Death Be Not Proud
The youngest inmates on death row prepare to die
for their crimes
By Jeff Glasser - U.S. News & World
January 17, 2000
SUSSEX I STATE PRISON, VA.– Dressed in baby-blue coveralls, the
eighth-youngest inmate on Virginia's death row says he is too young to
die. Steve Roach, 23, was 17 years old when he killed Mary Ann Hughes, a
70-year-old grandmother, in rural Stanardsville, Va., with a shotgun
blast to her chest.
Since a jury sentenced him to death in 1995, the murderer claims he
has dedicated his life to redemption. He has apologized to the victim's
family and community, studied the Bible, married, and written letters to
wayward juveniles. "I know what I did was wrong," Roach said in a
jailhouse interview 14 days before his planned January 13 execution. "I
put the blame on myself. But I am not the same person as I was then."
Roach is one of three teenage killers in Virginia and Texas scheduled
to die this month, an unprecedented number of juvenile executions that
has human rights groups howling and law-and-order enthusiasts applauding.
The latest death penalty debate pits those who believe the four young
men were terribly misguided youths from troubled families who deserve
another chance against those who feel they are budding superpredators
who must pay the ultimate penalty.
Americans find themselves in a strange–and lonely–position on the
juvenile death penalty. The United States is the only nation in the
world since 1997 known to have executed inmates who committed crimes
while under the age of 18. Earlier in the decade, five other countries–Iran,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen–killed juvenile criminals.
The 23 states that allow the practice executed 10 juvenile offenders in
the 1990s; outside the United States, the combined total was nine.
"It puts the U.S. in an embarrassing international position on human
rights," says Victor Streib, dean of Ohio Northern University's law
school and a death penalty expert. When the president assails the lack
of individual liberties in other countries, "They say, 'But you executed
your children.' " Death penalty proponents counter that a killer's age
is irrelevant. "The word 'juvenile' is bantered about in an effort to
create an illusion that a defenseless, helpless, innocent small child
will be executed by the state. Nothing could be further from the truth,"
says Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a victims' rights
The United States has a long history of executing young murderers.
The first known execution of a teenager took place in 1642, in Plymouth
Colony, Mass., when 16-year-old Thomas Graunger was hanged for having
sex with animals.
The youngest to die for his crime within the past 100
years: 14-year-old George Stinney, a youth killed in 1944 for murdering
two girls in South Carolina. In all, 357 Americans have died for murders
they committed as kids–13 since the death penalty was reinstated in
1976. Another 70 sit on death row.
Troubled beginnings. The three prisoners who face imminent death (a
fourth, Anzel Jones in Texas, last week received a delay pending federal
court appeals) all share troubled family backgrounds, struggled in
school, and started out committing lesser crimes.
In the most extreme
case, Glen Charles McGinnis, who turns 27 this week, grew up in Houston,
the son of a prostitute hooked on crack. His stepfather raped him, beat
him with a baseball bat, and burned him with sausage grease. A school
dropout and runaway at age 11, McGinnis was a chronic shoplifter and
auto thief before he robbed and killed Leta Wilkerson, a 30-year-old
laundry clerk, in Conroe, Texas, when he was 17.
At his trial, McGinnis's attorneys portrayed their client as a
neglected, sexually molested boy who could be rehabilitated with a long
prison stay. The jury didn't buy it. "Some kids have it tough, but a lot
of kids still manage to come out on top, and they don't kill," says
David Newsum,Wilkerson's then brother-in-law. It's unlikely McGinnis
will get any sympathy from Texas Gov. George W. Bush, either. The GOP's
top presidential contender supports the death penalty for murderers 17
and older but opposes proposals to lower the age.
In Virginia, Douglas Christopher Thomas was 17 when he fatally shot
the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Jessica Wiseman, after they
forbade the young lovers to see each other. A federal judge wrote that
"[T]he record strongly supports the conclusion that it was Jessica
Wiseman who wanted her parents killed and who instigated Thomas to carry
out her wishes."
Yet, Thomas received the death sentence; Wiseman,
because of her age, was sent to juvenile detention until her 21st
birthday. She was freed in 1997. "Me being executed and her walking
around, I don't see any fairness in it," Thomas told U.S. News 11 days
before his January 10 execution date. Maybe not. But there's a reason.
"He got the maximum under the law at that time. She got the maximum
under the law," says prosecutor James H. Ward Jr.
The Supreme Court effectively set 16 as the minimum age for a death
sentence in 1988 in Thompson v. Oklahoma. "[I]t would offend civilized
standards of decency to execute a person who was less than 16 years old
at the time of his or her offense," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.
court found that "inexperience, less education, and less intelligence
makes the teenager less able to evaluate the consequences of his or her
Disturbing. Federal and state courts in Virginia and Texas have
reviewed the Thomas, McGinnis, and Roach cases and found their death
sentences within the boundaries of the law, if disturbing. Federal Judge
Samuel Wilson, in an opinion rejecting one of Roach's appeals, mentioned
four separate times that he was troubled by the finding. "[T]his court
might not have reached the same conclusion" as the jury, Wilson wrote.
But he refused to alter the sentence, noting that he could not
substitute his reactions for those of the Greene County jurors.
Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, during the oral
arguments of another appeal, said the penalty "pushes the envelope." But
she, too, left Roach's sentence in place, supporting the jury's
conclusion that he posed a future threat to society based on the murder,
two auto thefts, and the burglary of a gun, all in a seven-month span.
"To walk over and shoot this sweet lady in cold blood is a very savage
crime," says Greene County Sheriff William Morris.
In the years since his trial, Roach has enlisted an unlikely
supporter in John Whitehead, the director of the conservative Rutherford
Institute (which footed the bill for much of presidential accuser Paula
Jones's case). "If anyone's redeemable, it's him," says Whitehead. "Why
kill someone who can be profitable to society?" But Roach's only hope
now is a reprieve from Gov. James Gilmore. "I just can't understand how
Virginia can execute two juveniles in one week," he says from prison as
his date with death approaches. "How can they say we can't be
Virginia juvenile execution
January 13, 2000
A man who was sentenced to die for killing and robbing a neighbor
when he was 17 was executed Thursday night, 3 days after Virginia
executed another man for crimes committed as a juvenile. Steve Edward
Roach, 23, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional
Center. Roach was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m. Roach, asked if he had
any final words, recited the 23rd Psalm.
After the execution, Steven M. Schneebaum, Roach's attorney, released
a lengthy statement in which Roach asked to be remembered "not just as
the teen-ager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who
accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he
caused to suffer."
Roach wrote that he was "unable to grasp, even to his
last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing is
wrong." Wendell Lamb, Roach's spiritual adviser, spoke briefly to the
condemned man and kissed him on the cheek just before the execution.
Roach, who met with his wife and 2 other relatives earlier Thursday,
remained calm in the hours leading to his death, Lamb said.
An hour before the execution, Gov. Jim Gilmore rejected Roach's
request for clemency. Gilmore noted that Roach had been convicted of 4
felonies in the 7 months before the December 1993 slaying of 70-year-old
Mary Ann Hughes and was armed in violation of his probation terms.
Amnesty International had sent Gilmore a letter asking him to spare
Roach, who shot Ms. Hughes in her Greene County home before fleeing with
her purse and car. "We in no way seek to excuse that crime or belittle
the suffering it has caused.
We seek only Virginia's compliance with
international law and global standards of justice," wrote Pierre Sane,
secretary general of the human rights group. In an interview last week,
Roach said he "put all my trust in God. It's in his hands. I am ready to
accept whatever happens and I am praying for a miracle."
On Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in front of Charlottesville
Circuit Court to protest the death penalty, especially when used to
punish crimes committed by juveniles. Steve Ford, a longtime
anti-capital punishment activist, said Roach's crime was "heinous, but
putting him to death is way out there."
Douglas Christopher Thomas, 26, was executed Monday night for
shooting his girlfriend's parents in Middlesex County in 1990, when he
was 17. Last November, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the convictions
of Roach and Thomas, who had argued their parents weren't properly
notified of hearings before their trials.
The 2 men had hoped to take
advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June in which another
Virginia youth was granted a new trial because only his mother was
notified of a hearing to transfer his case from juvenile court to adult
court. Virginia law at the time required notice of such hearings go "to
the parents" of the juvenile.
Roach becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year
in Virginia and the 75th overall since the state resumed executions in
1982. Roach also becomes the 6th condemned prisoner to be put to death
this year in the USA and the 604th overall since America resumed capita
punishment on Jan. 17, 1977.
USA/Virginia: Steve Edward Roach, aged 23
December 13, 1999
Edward Roach was executed in the state of Virginia on 13 January 2000
for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. International law bans
the use of the death penalty against child offenders -- those who commit
crimes when under 18 years old.
Steve Roach was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of his
neighbor, 70-year-old Mary Ann Hughes, on 3 December 1993. She was shot
at her home in the small rural town of Stanardsville in Greene County.
The following is the full statement given by Steve Roach’s lawyer
after he was executed on 13 January:
“Steve Edward Roach was put to death tonight by the Commonwealth of
Virginia. He died at 9.04pm, Eastern Standard Time, on January 13, 2000.
He was 17 years old when he committed the crime that led to his
execution, and 23 when he died: the youngest person to be executed by
the Commonwealth in modern times. As his lawyer, I witnessed his death.
Steve asked me to make this public statement, which we discussed earlier
this week at length, on his behalf.
As Steve faced death, his thoughts were first of his wife, now his
widow. They were then of Mary Hughes, his neighbor and friend, and of
her family and community. They were of other young people, very like
Steve himself, who might have been saved from the consequences of broken
youths by his participation and his example.
He sincerely wished that
James Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, had found it in his heart to spare
his life, so that he might have been able to make some small effort to
help to save the lives of others.
But the Governor chose not to intervene. So be it. Steve wanted to be
certain that the reports of his death at the hands of the Commonwealth
also reflected four of the beliefs that he carried with him to the very
end: his love for and gratitude toward those who selflessly tried to
prevent this from happening; his genuine remorse for the terrible act he
committed; the confidence that in life he had secured the forgiveness of
his God, even if he never quite persuaded himself that he was worthy of
that forgiveness; and the certainty that the deliberate, methodical
killing of children is inconsistent with the values of any civilized
society. He knew that his apology, however heartfelt, would not fill the
void left by Mary Hughes, but neither will his death.
Steve died without bitterness, but with a great deal of regret. He
never understood what really happened in the instant in which he took
the life of someone who loved him. And he was unable to grasp, even to
his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing
people is wrong.
The principal lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that
this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped.
It is too late to save Steve Roach; it is not too late to save the life
of the next young man or woman who, in a moment of bewildered rage or
utter confusion, commits an act totally out of character in its violence
and awful in its result, yet which does not place its perpetrator
forever beyond the power of redemption in this life.
After the execution, his attorney released a statement on behalf of
“It was important to Steve Roach to be remembered not just as the
teenager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted
responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to
suffer. And not just as someone who ended a life for no reason, but also
as someone whose own life was ended to no-one’s benefit. Steve Roach
wanted us who live after his death to know that he was not a monster: He
was a human being, a young man, with flaws and with promise who deserved
to live. The principle lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is
that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be
Roach v. Com., 468 S.E.2d 98 (Va. 1996) (Direct Appeal).
Juvenile petitions were issued against Roach, who was 17 years old at
the time of these offenses, charging him with capital murder, use of a
firearm in the commission of murder, and robbery. The Commonwealth gave
notice of intent to try Roach as an adult and a transfer hearing was
conducted in the Greene County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District
Court (the juvenile court).
Finding probable cause to believe that Roach
committed the crimes, the juvenile court advised the Commonwealth's
Attorney that he could seek indictments against Roach before a grand
jury. The circuit court then reviewed the transfer order and found
probable cause to believe that Roach committed all three offenses.
Roach was tried as an adult on indictments charging (1) capital
murder of Mary Ann Hughes in the commission of robbery while armed with
a deadly weapon, in violation of Code § 18.2-31(4); (2) use of a firearm
in the commission of murder, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1; and (3)
robbery by violence to the person of Mary Ann Hughes, in violation of
Code § 18.2-58. At the first stage of a bifurcated jury trial conducted
pursuant to Code §§ 19.2- 264.3 and -264.4(A), Roach was found guilty as
charged in all three indictments. Since Roach was a juvenile at the time
these offenses were committed, the jury did not fix punishment on the
noncapital charges. See Code § 16.1-272.
At the penalty phase of the capital murder trial, the court struck
the evidence as to the "vileness" predicate of a capital sentence, but
submitted the case to the jury upon the "future dangerousness" predicate.
The jury found that the "future dangerousness" predicate was satisfied
and unanimously fixed Roach's punishment at death. Upon review of victim
impact statements and a probation officer's report, and after conducting
a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Roach in accord with the
jury verdict on the capital murder conviction.
Further, the court
sentenced Roach to three years imprisonment for the use of a firearm in
the commission of a murder and to life imprisonment for robbery.
II. THE EVIDENCE - Guilt Phase
On the evening of December 3, 1993, Mary Ann Hughes was shot and
killed in her home about five miles west of Stanardsville. Hughes was
standing at her open front door when she was shot. Her body was
discovered the next day. The cause of death was a single shotgun wound
to the chest, which caused injury to an artery, the chest wall, and the
Dr. Deborah Kay, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on
Hughes, recovered shotgun pellets and wadding from Hughes's chest. The
pellets and wadding were identified as number eight shot from a 12 gauge
Remington shot shell case.
The day before the killing, Roach brought a
12 gauge shotgun to a neighbor's house, and he and two friends engaged
in shooting the gun in the back yard using number eight shot. The police
later recovered from the neighbor's back yard number eight shot that was
consistent with a 12 gauge Remington shell case.
Roach and Hughes were also neighbors. Roach helped Hughes with
household chores and also spent a great deal of time visiting her. The
evidence showed that Roach was familiar with Hughes's habits, and that
Hughes customarily deposited her social security check in the bank
within the first few days of each month.
On the night she was killed,
Hughes's purse, containing a Discover credit card and approximately
sixty dollars in cash, was taken from her home. Hughes owned a 1981
Buick Regal, which also was taken.
In the early morning hours of December 4, 1993, Gregory Lee Giuriceo,
Jr., a deputy sheriff for Nottoway County, noticed a Buick Regal parked
in a parking lot of a shopping center in Blackstone. Roach was
identified by Giuriceo as the operator of the car. After leaving the
parking lot, Giuriceo determined that the automobile was registered to
Later in the morning of December 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use
Hughes's Discover bank card at an automated teller machine in Louisburg,
North Carolina. A video tape from the machine showed Roach attempting to
withdraw cash from Hughes's account.
On December 5, 1993, Trooper David F. Chavis of the South Carolina
Highway Patrol observed a 1981 Buick Regal automobile with Virginia
plates which was being driven at 69 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour
zone. He activated the lights on his patrol car and proceeded behind the
Buick. The driver of the Buick drove the automobile over to the left
shoulder of the road, got out of the car, ran into the woods at the side
of the road, and escaped.
The driver was wearing clothes which matched the description of the
clothes Roach had been seen wearing for the previous two days. Trooper
Chavis impounded the vehicle and traced its ownership to Hughes. Items
retrieved from the automobile included Hughes's purse, a blue jacket, a
number eight load shotgun shell, and a plastic bag from a Winn-Dixie
Mahlon Jones, a fingerprint expert employed by the
Commonwealth's Division of Forensic Science, identified a latent palm
print from the plastic bag as matching Roach's left palm print. In
addition, latent fingerprints were recovered from the automobile which
matched Roach's fingerprints.
Roach made several telephone calls to his aunt, Annie Betty Dean,
while he was in North Carolina and South Carolina. During those
telephone conversations, she asked him to "come home and give [himself]
On December 6, 1993, Roach contacted Sheriff William L. Morris and
arranged to come that day with his father to the Sheriff's Department
for questioning. At the Sheriff's Department, Morris advised Roach of
his Miranda rights in the presence of Roach's father.
Roach waived his
rights, and both he and his father signed the waiver form. Sheriff
Morris then questioned Roach out of his father's presence. Clarence
Roberts, an acquaintance of the Roach family and an employee of the
Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was present with Morris during
At first, Roach told Morris that he and a friend, Scott Shifflett,
went to Hughes's house on the evening of December 3, 1993. Roach said
that Shifflett left the 12 gauge shotgun at the door, and that they
entered the house and played Yahtzee with Hughes.
Roach recounted that
Shifflett then took the keys to the Buick Regal and the two began to
leave the house. Roach said that, after he left, Shifflett ran back to
the front door, fired one shot, and ran back to the Buick with Hughes's
purse. According to Roach, Shifflett said that he had "fired through the
roof to scare her."
Roach stated that Shifflett then jumped into the driver's seat of the
Buick and they drove to North Carolina. He said that Shifflett must have
tried to use Hughes's Discover credit card while Roach was in a Winn-Dixie
store making some purchases. Roach also stated that he and Shifflett
abandoned Hughes's vehicle in North Carolina.
During the questioning, Morris related to Roach certain evidence that
had already been discovered, stating, "[W]ith all these discrepancies in
the story, ... I'm finding it really a little difficult to believe some
of the things you're telling me." Roberts then told Roach that he knew
Roach was lying and that "this is a heavy burden to carry on your
shoulders for the rest of your life, if you committed this act you need
to tell Sheriff Morris and you need to unburden yourself." Roach then
I went over there and saw her counting the money and as I was leaving,
I had the shotgun laying at the door and I shot her, took the money, the
car and left, went to North Carolina. And I cashed--I tried to use--use
the credit card but--about four times[,] but it wouldn't work. When
asked where he shot Hughes, he answered, "In the chest." At trial, Roach
offered evidence that there was no gunshot residue on his hands or
clothes when he was arrested. He also presented evidence that no
footprints at the scene of the crime matched the shoes he was wearing on
December 3, 1993.
In addition, Barbara Llewellyn, an expert employed by the Division of
Forensic Science in the analysis of blood and body fluid, testified that,
when Roach was arrested, he had no blood on his clothing, except a "very
light stain" on his shirt, despite the fact that the fatal wound
perforated one of Hughes's arteries and the pattern of blood splatters
indicated that the person who had fired the gun was standing within five
feet of Hughes.
Penalty Phase - During the penalty phase of the trial, the
Commonwealth put on evidence of Roach's prior juvenile convictions.
Roach had been convicted twice of grand larceny of an automobile. He
committed the first larceny in May 1993 and the second in August 1993.
In connection with the first automobile larceny, Roach was convicted of
reckless driving and failure to stop for a police officer.
In June 1993, Roach was convicted of breaking and entering a
residential dwelling and of grand larceny arising out of the burglary.
Roach gained entry to the home by breaking a window. He then ransacked
the house and stole a . 357 magnum pistol.
In August 1993, Roach was sentenced to supervised probation and house
arrest under the supervision of his parents at all times. He violated
the conditions of this probation when he left the family home and
carried a weapon.
When Roach was placed on probation in August 1993, a psychological
evaluation was ordered. The psychologist recommended that Roach and his
family attend family counseling and that Roach increase his level of
academic attainment. Roach had stopped attending school in 1991 when he
was 14 years old.
According to John T. Frey, Roach's probation officer, Roach and his
family attended counseling sessions at the regional counseling center
prior to December 1993. Roach also enrolled in G.E.D. classes in the
adult education program offered by Greene County.
Shirley Ann Roach, Roach's mother, testified that she and Roach's
father had separated and reconciled their marriage four times during
Roach's childhood. She testified that she and her husband requested that
Roach be released from compulsory education at age 14 because he was
needed around the house to do chores and to care for his brothers. She
also stated that she did not realize that possessing a weapon violated
the terms of Roach's probation because the probation papers did not
explicitly state this fact.
John Roach, Roach's father, testified that he was frequently absent
from home. He also suffered from significant health problems. When Steve
Roach was six years old, John Roach sustained a shotgun injury which
required him to remain in the hospital for six months.
treated for the gunshot wound, he contracted Hepatitis C from a blood
transfusion. The medication he received for this condition caused mood
John Roach testified that, when his wife left him, life "got worse"
for his children. He began drinking heavily and brought young girls into
the home in order to make his wife jealous. He stated that the children
were present when this occurred and that they did not receive parental
supervision. He also stated that Steve Roach had free access to all the
guns in the house. Several family friends and relatives testified on
Steve Roach's behalf.
Clarence Roberts testified that Roach had performed numerous "odd
jobs" for him, and that Roach was "an excellent employee." Tammy Estes,
Roach's half sister, stated that Roach often helped his neighbors,
including Hughes, cut firewood, cook, and clean their laundry.
Wendell Lamb, the pastor of Roach's church, testified that Roach
volunteered his time to help paint and remodel the church and to work at
a camp for children in the George Washington National Forest. Lamb
conceded that, while Roach was doing volunteer work for the church, he
was accused of stealing a watch. Roach and the owner of the watch
resolved the dispute privately.
Roach testified on his own behalf. He stated that, shortly after 9:00
p.m. on December 3, 1993, he walked to Hughes's house with his shotgun.
When she opened the door, he fired once, walked past her body, and took
her purse and the keys to her car. He stated that he then drove to North
Carolina and attempted to use her Discover credit card to get cash.
Roach testified that he did not know Hughes had died until he spoke by
telephone with his aunt.
Roach also testified that, when he went to Hughes's house, he knew
she had just received her social security check, knew the location of
her purse, and intended to steal both items. However, he stated that he
did not intend to hurt her, and that he could not explain "what went ...
through [his] mind." He also testified that he was sorry he had killed
Hughes, stating, "I wish I could bring her back."
Dr. Gary Lee Hawk, a forensic psychologist appointed by the court,
testified concerning his evaluation of Roach. Hawk met with Roach on six
different occasions and spoke with Roach's parents and other family
members. Hawk determined that Roach was of average intelligence and had
mild depressive symptoms. Hawk found no indication that Roach had
suffered any brain injury. He also found no evidence that Roach suffered
from any serious mental illness.
Hawk testified that Roach lied to him about a number of things and
gave him four different versions of what happened on December 3, 1993.
He also stated that Roach was "particularly immature" for his age. Hawk
concluded that Roach had poor "impulse control" and "did not show very
good ability in many situations to control his emotions or behavior like
seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old individuals should do."
Hawk related Roach's immaturity to the fact that he did not get the
guidance and the structure that children need to mature. Hawk further
stated that Roach's probation violation for carrying a weapon was a
result of this lack of structure and supervision.
He also testified that
there was no pattern of violent behavior in Roach's life. Hawk stated
that, in psychological terms, Roach's act of killing a friend arose from
the fact that "[a]dolescents in conflict, adolescents in turmoil
frequently express extremely strong and angry emotions with very little
provocation ... If it's an immature adolescent, that sort of reaction is
Hawk stated that "displacement of emotion" occurs when one person or
situation makes a person angry, but the feelings and anger are expressed
toward someone else. Hawk stated, "Knowing that this was a woman that [Roach]
was close to, and knowing that there was not an existing pattern of this
sort of violent offending, and considering what he told me, it's
dynamics like that [which] would explain [the murder] in psychological
terms." In addition, Hawk testified that, "[i]n terms of normal
development," impulsiveness diminishes and "doesn't cause problems for