Stephen Stanko (born 1968), is a convicted
murderer, who killed two people and raped a teenage girl in Murrels
Inlet, a great small town near Georgetown County, South Carolina, in
Prior to the murders
Prior to his murder conviction, Stanko had been
incarcerated for Assault & kidnapping in 1996. Stanko was released
from prison in 2004 after serving 8 years of the 10-year sentence.
While in prison, he co-authored a book titled "Living in Prison: A
History of the Correctional System With an Insider's View".
Stephen Stanko has been described as "a highly
intelligent, polished ex-convict who didn't mind talking about his
life in prison or the book he'd written about it." The book is about
prison life and Stanko's fear of being labeled "a convicted felon"
after his release. Stanko wrote: "What I fear most now is that I may
carry some of this total institution back into society with me".
About one year after being released from prison,
Stephen began doing library research, supposedly for a second book.
While doing this research he befriended Laura Ling, and eventually
moved in with her as her boyfriend. He also had developed a seemingly
friendly relationship with library patron, Henry Turner.
Shortly thereafter, however, something went
terribly wrong with both of these relationships. Stanko was convicted,
after a failed insanity defense, of strangling Laura Ling, 43, the
librarian who lived with him outside Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,
shooting Henry Lee Turner, 74, and sexually assaulting and stabbing
Ling's teenage daughter, who survived and made the 911 call for help.
Following the conviction, he was sentenced to death.
Articles on Jeffrey Dahmer, Green River killer Gary
Ridgway and other serial killers were found in Stanko's home.
According to a police spokesperson: "He either was just interested in
serial killers or he was becoming a serial killer."
After a nationwide manhunt, based on tips received
after the posting of a $10,000 reward for information leading to his
capture, Stanko was arrested without incident by the U.S. Marshals
Service in Augusta, Georgia on April 12, 2005.
Stephen Stanko is currently on Death row at Lieber
Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, South Carolina. A date of
execution had been set for October, 2007, but is currently stayed for
appeals. If the execution does take place, he will have a choice of
the Electric chair or Lethal injection. He is the first person to be
sentenced to death in Georgetown County in nearly 11 years.
The first phase of Stanko's appeals process began
on 23 September 2007, when he appeared before the S.C. Supreme Court
in a bid to overturn his death penalty conviction. His attorney said
that errors in the original trial resulted in his conviction, in that
the trial judge did not allow the defense to ask potential jurors how
they felt about the insanity defense and did not allow the defense to
present Stanko's age/mentality as aggravating or "mitigating" factors.
Court officials said that Stanko will not be put to
death on his set execution date Oct. 17, 2007, because the appeals
process takes years to complete. Stanko faces another trial for the
murder of 74-year-old Henry Turner, which is set to begin in the week
of November 9, 2009.
Stephen Stanko is charged with forgery and
obtaining goods through false pretense, in the case of Connie Price.
Stanko was pretending to be Ms. Price's attorney. Ms. Price testified
at Stanko's first murder trial.
Stephen Stanko sentenced to death
November 19, 2009
Stephen Stanko received his second death sentence
Thursday afternoon. After deliberating for a little more than an hour,
the jury sentenced him to death.
Judge Steven John allowed Stanko to address jurors
with a hand-written letter during closing arguments prior to their
During that address, Stanko said, “No matter what
it is I know you (the jury) will make the right decision. But do it
fairly. Don’t put me in that position I am going to kill you and do
the same thing that you are accusing me of.“
“In going to court, I just didn’t want to hurt
anybody else and that’s why I didn’t want my family here,“ Stanko said,
“because I didn’t want them to go through this.“
The same jury took just 45 minutes Monday afternoon
to convict Stanko of the murder of 74-year-old Henry Lee Turner in his
Conway home more than four years ago.
“It’s the first step, in talking so briefly with
them,“ said 15th Circuit Court Solicitor Greg Hembree about Turner’s
family who were at the trial since it began, “you could see the relief
on their faces, guilty is really what they are about, I mean they
wanted to hold him accountable for his actions, for killing their dad
and family member so that’s been accomplished and that’s a huge relief
Before resting their Monday, prosecutors presented
their rebuttal witnesses to refute what the defense put up during the
The team brought in forensic psychologist Dr.
Pamela Crawford, who told the jury that when she interviewed Stanko
for 17 hours in 2006, she concluded “he has a grandiose sense of self
importance, failure to conform to social norms and lack of remorse.”
Before her testimony, Crawford told 15th Circuit
Court Judge Steven H. John, in the absence of the jury, Stanko said he
was in fear of his life and that’s why he had to shoot Turner.
“It’s clear from what he told me that not only did
he remember the events, but he was asserting that he was defending
himself,” Crawford said, “which sort of rules out an insanity defense
in the sense that he said that, ‘I remembered it, I did this because I
was trying to protect myself,’ and that’s just pretty crucial.”
John told persecutors he wouldn’t allow the details
of the conversation between Crawford and Stanko to be heard by the
During closing arguments both sides asked the jury
to come up with a verdict that “will speak the truth.“
“Folks let me tell you something,“ said Deputy
Solicitor Fran Humphries, “he had plans, and if you can plan you will
appreciate the wrongfulness of your actions and if you appreciate them
then he is not insane, not by law of the State of South Carolina,“
“He has a severe case of anti social personality
disorder,“ said defense attorney Bill Diggs, “but he has a severe case
of it because it manifests not only in terms of lying and stealing but
killing , I mean if you think you could recognize the rightness or
wrongfulness of your conduct would you do it with your family member?“
Diggs and along with attorney Brana Williams rested
their case Sunday after working to convince jurors Stanko was insane
when he killed Turner, a Florence County native, in 2005.
The team brought several of the same mental health
experts who testified Saturday back to the stand.
Dr. Ruben Gur testified Stanko has damage to his
frontal lobe area which causes his brain to be abnormal. He said very
few people have this problem, which he said causes them to have a
personality disorder that results in having “little regard for others.”
Neurologist Dr. Thomas Sachy, who also took the
stand during Stanko’s previous trial for the murder of his-live in
girlfriend in 2005, said because Stanko has a damaged frontal lobe, it
would force someone to act in an “impulsively violent or in a
Sachy backed up his statements by showing the jury
Positron Emission Tomography, or PET, scan data analysis he said
clearly shows Stanko’s brain doesn’t function the same way a normal
human being’s brain does.
During cross examination, Hembree asked Sachy
whether Stanko knew right from wrong during the time of the killing.
“He did not understand the moral difference between
right and wrong,” Sachy said. “Morals aren’t something we think about
because they are something we appreciate, they are biologically
determined, its how your brain works.”
Sachy told the jury he reviewed Stanko’s past
medical records, including his birth records, through which he
concluded that something “bad had happened to him during his birth.”
He said those records show Stanko had “signs of brain damage and there
was a threat that he might die.”
In the absence of the jury, the court heard Stanko
speak for the first time when John asked him if he will testify during
Stanko said he will not.
During testimony and evidence presentation Saturday,
psychiatrist Bernard Albiniak, who also testified Friday, told the
jury Stanko “is considered a psychopath.”
Just after 3 p.m. Saturday Stanko’s attorneys
decided to move forward with an insanity defense.
Diggs asked the jury to consider Stanko’s mental
state during opening statements Friday.
“I don’t want to say this, and I know it’s going to
sound wrong to my client because he’s a human being, but he’s not
healthy, period,” Diggs said.
Crime scene expert Brent Turvey took the stand
Saturday and showed the jury several photographs taken at the crime
scene where Turner was shot to death in his home.
Photos showed the gun used, a bloody suitcase and
Stanko’s business cards recovered from the truck he stole from Turner’s
Turvey said Turner was killed with a gun that was
shot through a pillow found on his bed at the crime scene.
Police said Turner’s murder was only one of many
crimes Stanko committed in one week. He already received the death
penalty for the killing of 43-year-old Laura Ling of Murrells Inlet, a
librarian who lived with Stanko.
Investigators found Ling’s body after a teenager,
later identified as Ling’s daughter, called police from the home and
said she had been raped. They said Turner’s murder happened a few days
later. A Georgetown jury convicted Stanko guilty of the murder and
sexual assault in August 2006.
Stanko was sentenced to death soon after his
Stanko and his legal team appealed that sentence
within a year. His lawyers argued in S.C. Supreme Court the jury wasn’t
questioned properly and Stanko didn’t have a fair chance in court.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled against the appeal
and wouldn’t allow a new trial for Stanko.
The appeal process delayed the trial for Turner’s
The Stanko case received national attention when a
nationwide search for him followed the Turner and Ling slayings. U.S.
Marshals tracked him down and arrested him in an Augusta, Ga.,
The CBS show television show “48 Hours” also
featured the Stanko case in January 2007.