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Stephen STANKO





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: April 8, 2005
Date of arrest: 4 days after
Date of birth: 1968
Victim profile: Laura Ling, 43 (the librarian who lived with him) / Henry Lee Turner, 74
Method of murder: Strangulation / Shooting
Location: Georgetown County, South Carolina, USA
Status: Sentenced to death in 2007 (Laura Ling). Sentenced to death in 2009 (Henry Lee Turner)

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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 2005.

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".

The murders

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.

Awaiting execution

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 deliberation.

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 for them.“

Before resting their Monday, prosecutors presented their rebuttal witnesses to refute what the defense put up during the weekend.

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 jury.

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 psychopathic manner.”

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 his trial.

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 home.

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 conviction.

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 death.

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., shopping center.

The CBS show television show “48 Hours” also featured the Stanko case in January 2007.



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