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Michael Earl SEXTON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 8, 1990
Date of birth: August 31, 1966
Victims profile: Kimberly Crews (female, 29)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Wake County, North Carolina, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in North Carolina on November 9, 2000

United States Court of Appeals
For the Fourth Circuit


opinion 98-9



Kimberly Crews worked as a social worker/counselor at a pediatric clinic at Raliegh's Wake Medical Center.

On August 8, 1990, Sexton kidnapped her from the hospital parking lot, taking her in her mini-van to a wooded area of town where she was raped and strangled.

She was found dead in her van several hours later. Sexton also worked at the hospital and had a previous assault conviction.


The Facts

The facts of this case are set forth in detail in the opinion of the Supreme Court of North Carolina on direct appeal. See State v. Sexton , 444 S.E.2d 879, 885-91 (N.C. 1994). Accordingly, we need only summarize them briefly.

Kimberly Crews (Crews) was a child abuse counselor. Her office was located in the Wake Area Health Education Center, which is part of the Wake County Medical Center (WCMC) in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Shortly before 6:00 p.m. on August 8, 1990, Crews telephoned her husband, Alan Crews, who was at home with their daughter. Crews asked her husband if the family needed anything from the store, and he replied in the negative. Crews then told her husband that she had just finished with her last client and was on her way home.

Kaye Johnson, a prenatal educator at WCMC, telephoned her husband at 5:45 p.m. on August 8, 1990, and told him that she needed to work one more hour. However, when she realized it was raining heavily, Johnson decided to leave and take her work home. As she left WCMC, she walked through several parking lots to Parking Lot 4.

As she approached her car, she noticed an open umbrella in good condition in front of the car. The umbrella was lying upside down with water in it. When Johnson got into her car, she looked at the car's clock. It indicated 6:02 p.m.

Robert McCoy, the supervisor of WCMC's laundry, where Sexton was employed, testified that Sexton was at work when he (McCoy) arrived at 2:00 p.m. on August 8, 1990. At 3:30 p.m., when the laundry room shift changed, Sexton was missing.

McCoy testified that the next time he saw Sexton was after everybody had punched out. Sexton came running in through the back ramp and was soaking wet. Sexton said to McCoy, "I got to go. I got to go. I was out there fixing my young lady's car and that was the only thing I was out there doing." Sexton left, and his time card indicated that he left at 6:30 p.m.

By 8:00 p.m., Crews had not returned home, and her husband began to worry. Shortly thereafter, her husband telephoned a friend with whom his wife often exercised. The friend said that she and Crews had planned to exercise but changed their minds on account of the stormy weather.

Crews' husband next telephoned 911 and was advised to call area hospitals. Crews' husband contacted three local hospitals, but none had admitted Crews. Crews' husband again called 911.

An officer of the Raleigh Police Department arrived and took a brief statement from Crews' husband. The officer was called away to a robbery but soon returned. The officer asked about possible routes used by Crews in driving home from work and then left to begin checking those routes. Later, the officer returned and informed Crews' husband that his wife had not been found.

Shortly after midnight, Ronnie Holloway, a detective from the Raleigh Police Department, found Crews' minivan on Galahad Street. The minivan was 200 yards from a WCMC parking deck. As Holloway approached the minivan, he shined his flashlight into the minivan.

At this point, he saw a nude body, later identified as Crews, in the backseat. According to Holloway, Crews "was lying on her back side and her arms were down[,] the left hanging toward to [sic] the floor of the van and the right one was laying [sic] across her body and the legs were spreaded [sic] open."

Several pieces of physical evidence tied Sexton to Crews' murder. Johnny Leonard, latent examiner for the City-County Bureau of Identification, testified that muddy footprints found in the minivan were made by Sexton's shoes. One of Sexton's footprints was lifted from Crews' shoe, which was recovered near the front passenger seat. Scott Worsham, a forensic chemist for the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), testified that head hair consistent with Sexton's was found on: (1) the carpet around the driver's front seat; (2) the carpet around the passenger's front seat; (3) the driver's seat cushion and seat back; (4) the minivan's middle seat; (5) the minivan's headlining above the backseat and over Crews' head; and (6) Crews' chest or shoulder.

Worsham also testified that pubic hair consistent with Sexton's was found on the rear seat underneath Crews, in combings from Crews' pubic area, and on Crews' back. SBI Agent John Wayne Bendure testified that fibers from Sexton's shirt and shorts were found on Crews' dress, and in tapings from Crews' shoulders, arms, chest, back, abdomen, and legs. Bendure also testified that fibers from the seat covers in the minivan were also found on Sexton's clothes.

SBI Agent David Spittle testified that swabs taken from Crews' mouth showed the presence of spermatozoa consistent with Sexton's blood type and inconsistent with Alan Crews' blood type. Spittle also testified that vaginal swabs from Crews showed the presence of Sexton's spermatozoa, which was also found on the seat under her buttocks.

Crews' autopsy, performed by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. John Butts, revealed that she died as a result of ligature strangulation, which obstructs the flow of blood to the brain. The autopsy also revealed that Crews' body was battered. Crews had facial injuries, two burn-like ligature marks on her neck, two bruises on the back of her left hand, a deep bruise on one of her forearms, and scrapes on both of her knees and on her right elbow.

Crime scene investigators found Crews' keys, employee parking lot entry card, health club membership card, and other personal items in a water- filled ditch on Old Bunch Road. Crews' pocketbook, portfolio containing books, and her pantyhose were found beside the same road. Nearby, crime scene investigators recovered Crews' umbrella and her checkbook, which was propped against a tree. Sexton assisted the crime scene investigators in recovering many of these items.

The state also introduced evidence that at 6:50 p.m. on the evening of Crews' murder someone withdrew $100 from Crews' checking account by way of an automatic teller machine (ATM) at the Centura Shopping Center on Poole Road in Raleigh. The Centura Shopping Center is approximately two miles from WCMC. Leon Turner testified that he saw Sexton at the Centura Shopping Center ATM at 6:40 p.m.

The state also introduced evidence that at 7:30 p.m. there was a withdrawal request for $200.00 from Crews' savings account. This request, made from an ATM at the Triangle East Shopping Center in Zebulon, was denied because it exceeded the daily withdrawal limit.

In his confession, which was played to the jury, Sexton stated that Crews saw him trying to start his girlfriend's car and offered to give him a ride to the security office at the front of the WCMC. Sexton stated that he asked Crews to drive him to Galahad Street because his cousin's car was there and he could use his cousin's jumper cables to start Perry's car.

Sexton also stated that he asked Crews if she wanted to go to the back of the minivan and that, in response, Crews got up and went to the back without saying anything. Sexton said he asked Crews to take off her clothes and she did so.

Sexton stated that Crews changed her mind about having sex with him and that he wrapped her pantyhose around her neck and tightened them because she was attempting to scream and get out of the minivan. Sexton further stated that when he left the minivan he thought Crews had passed out and would later wake up. Sexton also denied having sex with Crews.

Sexton's trial testimony was consistent with his confession, except that in his trial testimony Sexton admitted having sex with Crews. Sexton testified the encounter was consensual.


North Carolina Department of Correction

Sexton Execution Carried out Nov. 9, 2000.

Death row inmate Michael Earl Sexton was executed Thursday Nov. 9, 2000 shortly after 2 a.m. at Central Prison in Raleigh. Warden Robey Lee pronounced Sexton dead at 2:34 a.m. The body was transported to Wake Medical Center.

Sexton, 34, was convicted Sept. 24, 1991 in Wake County Superior Court for the murder of Kimberly Crews, a counselor whose office was located at the Wake Area Health Education Center. A request for clemency was denied by Governor Jim Hunt on Nov. 8, 2000.

Sexton requested a last meal consisting of a Philly cheese steak sub and a Pepsi. He did not make a final statement.

The execution was witnessed by four members of the victim's family: Alan Crews, her husband; Clayton and Cleon Futrelle, her parents and Randy Futrelle, her brother. Media witnesses were Andrea Weigl of the News & Observer, Andrea Leatherman of the Lincoln Times News and Estes Thompson of the Associated Press. Members of Sexton's family did not wish to witness the execution.

Michael Sexton has been on death row since September 1991 for the rape and murder Kimberly Crews, a social worker at a pediatric clinic at Raliegh's Wake Medical Center, on August 8, 1990.

Kimberly was kidnapped from the hospital parking lot and taken in her mini-van to a wooded area of town where she was raped and strangled. She was found dead in her van several hours later. Sexton also worked at the hospital and had a previous assault conviction.


Michael Earl Sexton

Associated Press

North Carolina executed a death-row prisoner early Thursday for the 1990 rape and murder of a Wake County hospital counselor. Michael Earl Sexton, 34, was pronounced dead at 2:34 a.m. after receiving a lethal injection at Raleigh's Central Prison, said Tracy Little, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction.

Sexton died about 8 hours after Gov. Jim Hunt and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected pleas from Sexton's lawyers to stop his execution. Hunt said Wednesday evening that the evidence showed that Sexton was guilty of the crimes.

The full Supreme Court rejected two petitions for a stay of execution filed on Sexton's behalf. There was no dissent.Hunt, who has granted executive clemency only once in his 16 years as governor, met last week with prosecutors, the victim's family, Sexton's attorney and death penalty opponents.

Sexton spent his last day visiting with half brother David Sheppard and his godmother, Myrtle Sheppard, in the death watch area at Central Prison in Raleigh. Crews' parents, husband and brother asked to watch Sexton die."

Mr. Sexton acted with premeditation in ending the life of a woman who had done nothing to deserve her fate, and who had devoted her life to helping others in need, especially children who had been abused and mistreated," Hunt said. Hunt said his review of the case left him "absolutely certain that there is no question here concerning the guilt of the convicted individual, or of his mental capacity.

"Death penalty opponents said they were disappointed with the governor's action because of a growing public sentiment to halt executions while the fairness of the death penalty is studied. A legislative study commission looking into capital punishment already had asked Hunt to stop Sexton's execution."

Some of the most important political leaders in North Carolina urged Gov. Hunt to not grant clemency, but simply delay this execution while our state's lawmakers review the evident problems with the death penalty," said Stephen Dear, executive director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.

About 100 people protested Sexton's death outside Central Prison early Thursday in a vigil leading up to the execution.Dear said studies show a racial bias against blacks in administration of the death penalty and the number of people on death row.

Dear said Sexton had one black on his jury."There is evidence of institutional racism and what Gov. Hunt is saying is I don't care," Dear said. "The system is broken and it is not fair.

"Sexton becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in North Carolina and the 16th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1985. 2 more executions are scheduled in the state this year.Sexton becomes the 74th condemned inmate to be executed this year in the USA and the 672nd overall since America resumed executions on January 17, 1977.


Campaign to End the Death Penalty

Summary of the Case of Michael Sexton - An Alert from People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

Michael Sexton was executed 11/9/00

Twenty six hours after the November Election Day, the people of North Carolina are scheduled to execute Michael Earl Sexton, an African-American. Michael is scheduled for execution at 2 a.m., Thursday, November 9, 2000 at Central Prison in Raleigh.

It is difficult to overstate how shocking, brazen and ruthless the timing of this execution is. The powers that be in North Carolina have withheld scheduling executions all year, throughout the election campaign season (a time when the administration of the death penalty is coming under increasing public criticism) and have now scheduled an execution for within hours after voters walk out of the voting booths in November.

Now is the time for the abolition movement and those who support a moratorium on executions to show Attorney General Mike Easley, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Gov. Jim Hunt that they are ignoring a growing body of evidence that the death penalty in North Carolina is awash with racial and class bias.

More and more North Carolinians are learning how deeply flawed our death penalty system is. Condemned by a jury of 11 whites, Michael Sexton's case is an example of such flaws.

In North Carolina, black defendants who kill whites are three times as more likely to face execution, according to a Charlotte Observer study (9/13/00). During the past decade, "just 40 percent of all murder victims in the Carolinas were white, but in cases of inmates now on death row, nearly 70 percent of the murder victims were white." The Observer concludes in an editorial that "minority defendants start out with an intolerable and indefensible disadvantage compared to white defendants" (9/13/00).

A N.C. Legislative Study Commission is studying racial disparities in the application of the death penalty in North Carolina. The Commission has heard extensive testimony about the use of racial slurs and racial stereotypes by participants in capital trials.

The Commission will likely issue a report by the end of the year. In the face of the questions now being raised in the legislature and in by the public about racial disparities in the application of the death penalty, the timing of Michael Sexton's execution date is shocking. Questions of Fairness and Racial Bias Mandate Stay of Execution

Michael was 23 at the time of the crime, the rape-murder of Kimberly Crews, a white social worker at Wake Medical Center, in August 1990. The record in this case shows that racial bias tainted this death penalty prosecution. In addition, Michael Sexton's nightmarish childhood, as documented by juvenile social services records, show that he cannot be among the "worst of the worst" for which the death penalty is reserved.

Michael grew up a ward of Central Orphanage and the Wake County Department of Social Services. His father died when Michael was five. As a child, Michael was abused and abandoned by an alcoholic mother and a series of his mother's violent boyfriends.

One of his mother's boyfriends sexually assaulted Michael's younger sister, giving her syphillis at the age of nine. Another boyfriend beat Michael with an iron poker. While trying to escape the beating, Michael overturned a pot of boiling water and scalded his leg.

When Michael was 14, his mother told the family court that she did not want the children. Michael's sister and brother were placed in foster homes and Michael was sent to training school because DSS could not find a foster home for him.

A year later, Michael was admitted to Central Orphanage. After DSS removed him from his mother's home, Michael did not see his mother or his siblings for a number of years. A DSS social worker recommended that Michael be placed in the Willie M program but he was rejected because he was "not violent enough." Less than a decade later, Michael committed the capital offense.

Michael was sentenced to death by a jury composed of 11 whites and one African-American. The State exercised four consecutive peremptory strikes to remove all but one of the African-Americans called for jury service. Asked to give reasons for excluding such a disproportionate number of African-American jurors, the prosecutor stated that one juror did not maintain eye contact and "was not forthcoming." The prosecutor objected to another juror because of "the way he was dressed."

The prosecutor further noted that this juror wore an earring and concluded that he was "not mature" despite the fact that this juror was married, a father of two, and had lived at the same address for a number of years. The prosecutor faulted a third juror because she had poor eye contact. This juror had been a witness to an accident that resulted in a lawsuit. Based on this fact, the prosecutor excluded this juror because she was "litigious."

The prosecutor also expressed concern that because the juror's husband worked at a hospital the juror would "identify" with the defendant who also worked at a hospital. The victim worked at a hospital too but the prosecutor did not explain why the juror would identify with the defendant rather than the victim.



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