Killer is executed

HE NEVER GAVE A REASON FOR MURDEROUS RAMPAGE

bestep@herald-leader.comNovember 22, 2008 

  • Death penalty background

    Executions in Kentucky have been rare in the past 40 years, but the death penalty has a long history in the Bluegrass state.

    Chapman is the 165th person executed at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, and only the second to die by lethal injection. Others died by electric chair.

    The racial breakdown is disproportionate: 81 whites and 84 blacks. Blacks currently make up less than 10 percent of Kentucky's population, although that proportion was higher in the early 20th century.

    Chapman is the third inmate executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977, and only the fourth since 1956, when three people were executed. The death penalty once was common in Kentucky, with 161 men executed in Eddyville from 1911 to 1955. (Kentucky did not begin to keep complete records of executions until 1911.) The most inmates to be executed in one night is seven, on July 13, 1928.

    Nine others were legally hanged elsewhere in Kentucky between 1920 and 1938.

    Only 50 of Kentucky's 120 counties have sent someone to Death Row. The last time someone convicted in Fayette County was executed was in 1943. Jefferson County has sent the most inmates to death — 44.

    After Chapman's execution, there are 35 men and one woman on Death Row. Thirteen of them have been on Death Row longer than 20 years. Thirty inmates are white, six are black and one is Hispanic.

    Brandon Ortiz

    Source: Kentucky Department of Corrections

EDDYVILLE — Marco Allen Chapman, who killed two children by slitting their throats after raping and stabbing their mother, was put to death Friday as he requested when an executioner pumped drugs into his veins to shut down his lungs and heart.

Chapman, 37, became the third person executed in Kentucky since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a national moratorium on the death penalty.

With his last words, Chapman apologized to Carolyn Marksberry for the attack on her and her children — Courtney Sharon, 10, Chelbi Sharon, 7, and Cody Sharon, 6 — but he also said the murders were not in his nature.

Chapman stabbed all three children in their home in Warsaw. Chelbi and Cody died, but Courtney survived and identified the killer.

"I don't know why I did the things I did and I know the hate of me over that night must be overwhelming, but Carolyn and Kourtney you have to know that wasn't who I was or am," Chapman wrote in a statement that Warden Tom Simpson read for him.

"I am not a moster (monster) even though I did a mosterous (monstrous), evil thing. That is why I give my life willing as well as quickly in hopes that you know how truelly sorry I am. I hurt and ache daily for the loss I've created in the Marksbury's family, but I hurt as well.

"I don't know if I deserve Heaven after what I did, but I pray with all my heart that I find some sort of peace and happiness after my last breath."

After Simpson read the statement, Chapman raised his head, looked toward the room where Marksberry and family members were to view the execution, and apologized again. His voice shook and he had tears in his eyes.

Chapman could not see into the room reserved for families of victims because of two-way glass.

The execution team, made up of prison employees who volunteer for the duty, escorted Chapman into the death chamber from a cell down the hall at 7 p.m. CST.

Media witnesses were not allowed to see the execution team members insert needles into Chapman's arms. The team completed that task without problems; the execution went according to plan, said Lisa Lamb, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.

Simpson drew back the beige curtain for media witnesses to see Chapman at 7:15. He lay on his back with both arms bound to a gurney at right angles to his body; there was a needle in each forearm. He wore a red shirt and was covered to his chest by a white sheet. He had aged visibly in the last few months, one witness said.

Simpson gave the order to start the drugs flowing into Chapman's veins at 7:20 p.m.

The drugs were sodium thiopental to render him unconscious, pancuronium bromide to stop his breathing by paralyzing his muscles, and then potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Chapman appeared to take a series of short breaths two minutes later, but he was motionless after 7:23 p.m. His skin color had changed noticeably by 7:29 p.m., an apparent indication that his blood wasn't circulating.

Simpson, who with deputy Warden Greg Howard stayed in the death chamber with Chapman, announced at 7:34 p.m. that Chapman was dead.

Chapman had asked that his body be cremated and the remains given to relatives, corrections officials said.

Marksberry had declined for some time to comment on the crime, but she said in a statement after the execution that it was a fitting end for Chapman.

"This event brings only one measure of closure — justice may have been served, but any personal satisfaction will likely be fleeting for nothing can truly bring my children back to me except for our memories and the heart-filled bond that only a mother can know," Marksberry said. "Perhaps now though, not only can our family and community start to heal but Cody and Chelbi can truly rest in peace."

Corrections officials would not confirm whether Marksberry witnessed the execution, but the grandfather of the slain children, Garry Sharon, told the Herald-Leader that he, Marksberry and her husband would watch.

There were 30 state troopers and some National Guardsmen at the prison to ensure order during the execution, but there were no disturbances, officials said.

Chapman's crime was the stuff of nightmares. A construction worker with an eighth-grade education and a record for bank robbery, he knew Marksberry because he had dated a friend of hers and had been in Marksberry's home, said Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith, the prosecutor for Gallatin and Boone counties. Smith said she thinks that Chapman, a crack cocaine abuser coming off a binge, targeted Marksberry for robbery in part because he probably knew that her husband was out of town for job training.

"He basically was just desperate for money," Smith said.

Chapman banged on the door of Marksberry's home about 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, 2002, waking her. He told her he needed to use the phone, and she let him in.

He put a knife to her throat and demanded money. Marksberry gave him her credit cards and what little cash she had in her purse.

Chapman then forced her into the bedroom, bound her hand and foot with duct tape, tied her to the bed with a cord he had cut from her vacuum cleaner — he apologized for cutting the cord — and sexually assaulted her. He also stabbed her repeatedly, going to the kitchen for more knives after breaking two during the attack, Smith said.

Marksberry's son, Cody, awakened by the noise, came into the bedroom during the attack and told his mother he'd had a bad dream. She told him to go back to bed and turn on the light, but shortly after, Cody went into his sister's room, awakening Courtney.

"He said, 'I think Mom needs help. Mom's hurt,'" Smith said.

Courtney and Cody met Chapman coming out of the bedroom. He said their mother was hurt and they needed to call an ambulance, but then he attacked Courtney.

She fell to the floor and played dead, but she peeked and saw Chapman stab her brother.

While Chapman went to the girls' bedroom to attack Chelbi, Courtney told Cody she was going for help. He begged her to stay with him, but she thought she had to get help and ran to a neighbor's, Smith said.

Chelbi fought Chapman, but he killed her. When he came out and saw that Courtney was gone, he fled.

Marksberry, nude and bleeding badly, jerked loose from the cord binding her to the bed. She crawled over the body of her slain son and made it to a neighbor's house for help, Smith said.

Warsaw is a small town, and Marksberry's family is well known. The murders were like a kick in the stomach.

"The town's just terribly distraught, sad," said Kelley Warnick, editor of the Gallatin County News.

With the killer identified quickly and information about where he had friends and relatives, police arrested Chapman in West Virginia within eight hours.

The case, already sensational, took an unusual turn in 2004 as the trial approached. Chapman told Judge Tony Frohlich he wanted to fire his attorneys, plead guilty and be sentenced to death. Chapman said he didn't understand why he committed the murders, but that death was the only acceptable punishment and that he hoped his execution would free the Marksberry family from the nightmares he inflicted on them.

"I am so sorry and remorseful for the crimes I have committed that the pain and guilt have become too much for me to bear," he said in a letter to Frohlich. "I also want the Marksberrys to feel that justice has been served with my death instead of the possibility of me living when their children are dead by my hands."

Frohlich urged Chapman not to give up his right to a trial.

One reason was the details of Chapman's wretched childhood, which could have provided evidence for arguments that a jury shouldn't sentence him to death.

Chapman's parents were alcoholics; his father sexually abused him and often beat him unconscious, and his mother whacked him in the head with a skillet, according to court documents.

Chapman was suicidal as a child and began abusing drugs at a young age. He also suffered depression, had flashbacks and hallucinations and showed symptoms of bipolar disorder, according to a court motion.

One of Chapman's attorneys, John Delaney, said Chapman was not criminally responsible at the time of the murders. Attorneys argued that Chapman wanted to commit suicide and was getting the court to do it for him.

But Chapman said his troubled life was not an excuse for the crimes.

After evaluations showed that Chapman was mentally competent, Frohlich acceded to his wishes and sentenced him to death.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-ditch request to halt the execution from an attorney for people challenging the state's regulations on lethal injection.

Chapman's impending execution again exposed the raw emotions involved with the death penalty.

Catholic bishops, the Kentucky Council of Churches and some family members of murder victims said they recognized the pain of Chapman's victims, but urged Gov. Steve Beshear to commute Chapman's sentence to life without parole.

Some oppose the death penalty on moral or religious grounds, saying decisions over life belong to God. Others are concerned the death-penalty process can't be fairly administered — that poor people are more likely to get death because they can't afford top legal help, for instance.

Shortly before Chapman's execution, a group of about 10 people huddled in a semi-heated tent and read aloud the names of Kentucky's Death Row inmates and their victims, The Associated Press reported. They prayed for Chapman, his victims and his execution team.

The Rev. Patrick Delahanty, head of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said their presence was to show that state executions are "not acceptable to everybody." Vigils were scheduled throughout the state, with about three people turning out for one in Frankfort, he said.

Emotions were equally strong on the other side of the issue, if not stronger.

Garry Sharon, grandfather of the slain children, said Carolyn Marksberry and Courtney, now 16, seem to be doing well six years after the murders.

Courtney has had nightmares and trouble sleeping but is involved in soccer and cross country and does well in school even though she's "fighting geometry," Sharon said.

But Sharon said he and others still feel the pain from the crimes. Sharon said he contemplated how to kill Chapman, and told Chapman's attorneys he'd like to be put in a room with the killer and a knife.

"The Bible says an eye for an eye," Sharon said. "He took the lives of two babies. He deserves to die."

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