Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 9, 1991
Date of birth: 1963
Victim profile: Ann Kathryn “Katie” Clarey, 11
Method of murder: ???
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1991

Two South Dakotans recall own struggles with death penalty

Patrick Lalley - Argus Leader

August 29, 2006

Most South Dakotans absorbed the news of Elijah Page’s delayed execution today and returned to the pleasant rhythms of work and family.

But for a few, the fast-track march to the death chamber had opened a portal to painful decisions about life and death.

In Bridgewater, Mike Clarey recalled the daughter he lost to another murderer’s hand, and his family’s decision to spare the man’s life.

In Yankton, Lori Nooney felt the wrenching inner conflict of holding life in her hands and opting to send a killer to his death.

They are among the handful who’ve made concrete decisions in an otherwise theoretical discussion.

Clarey and Nooney had to make a choice – life or death.

They came down on opposite sides of the question, but they see the other side. Their real-life decisions are shaded with the kind of consequences with which the rest of us are not burdened.

Ann Kathryn “Katie” Clarey was 11 years old when she was kidnapped, raped and murdered while doing her paper route in central Sioux Falls on May 9, 1991. Kelly Van Engelenhoven, then a 28-year-old man with a history of exposing himself, was arrested for the murder.

Mike and Kathie Clarey, devout Catholics, persuaded prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in the case. Engelenhoven pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, where he still resides.

Fifteen years later, Elijah Page’s voluntary walk to the death chamber revives the memories of the Clareys’ decision.

“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about what happened,” Mike Clarey said from Bridgewater, where his family moved three years ago after a stint in Nebraska. “Whenever the death penalty comes up, of course, it’s linked.”

The Clareys followed the coverage leading up the Page execution and hoped for a reprieve from the governor.

For all his certainty about the death penalty, Mike Clarey says he believes there may be times when taking life is justified to protect innocent people.

“Unfortunately in this country it’s become politicized,” he said. “It’s more for revenge than for justice, and that’s where the problem comes in.”

Clarey, a salesman, planned to spend today working as normal, finding time for prayer and reflecting on a society that he says cheapens the value of life.

“The people I come in contact with, if we have an opportunity for discussion, I will express my views,” he said. “That is all I can do.”

Nooney also was involuntarily thrust into the death penalty spotlight as a member of the Yankton County jury that convicted Donald Moeller of raping and killing 9-year-old Becky O'Connell of Sioux Falls.

It was the first death sentence handed down in South Dakota since the reinstatement of capital punishment. The verdict was overturned (Moeller was retried, reconvicted and again sentenced to death) but the vote to kill another person was a “life-altering decision,” said Nooney.

“I went on to the jury thinking I was more opposed than I was for it,” she said from Yankton, where she works as a paralegal. “Up until five minutes before we went out there I still didn’t know if I was doing the right thing.”

In the end, she believes Moeller should die for his crime. She wishes it would happen quicker and she resents a system that put her in that position to begin with. Judges, not juries, should decide sentencing, she believes.

Nooney tried to avoid news in recent days but admits being drawn to Tuesday’s coverage in a sort of morbid preparation for Donald Moeller’s execution, if that day ever comes.

“It’s hard,” she said. “I don’t know that if I do live to see the day he is executed that I will have any relief. “I don’t know.”



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