Convicted killer moved to Ohio death house

AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- An Ohio man convicted of killing two strangers 23 years ago was moved Wednesday to the state's death house in preparation for his execution.

Donald Palmer, 43, was moved from death row in Chillicothe to the single-cell death house in Lucasville for his scheduled execution by lethal injection Thursday. His lawyer, David Stebbins of Columbus, said Wednesday he doesn't plan to file any other appeals and expects the execution to proceed.

"He has always accepted responsibility for this and wants the families of his victims to have justice," Stebbins, who plans to be among the witnesses, said.

Palmer was convicted of aggravated murder in the May 8, 1989, shooting deaths of Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo along a Belmont County road in eastern Ohio. The men, who were each married and had children, were shot in the head.

Palmer also decided not to request mercy from the Ohio Parole Board, which can recommend clemency for a condemned inmate to the governor. Belmont County prosecutor Christopher Berhalter told the board the execution should proceed because Palmer's guilt is undisputed and because of the brutality of the crimes.

According to court records, Palmer told police that he and co-defendant Edward Hill were driving from Columbus to the Belmont County home of a man who had dated Palmer's ex-wife and Hill's sister.

As they were driving back and forth in front of the residence, Sponhaltz, who was keeping an eye on the home, lightly hit the back of their pickup with his own truck and yelled at them: "What in the hell are you trying to prove?" according to the records. Palmer then shot Sponhaltz twice in the head, the records say.

Vargo, a passing motorist, stopped and asked "What the hell did you guys do," Palmer told police, the records say. Palmer then shot Vargo twice in the head, according to the records.

Sponhaltz's body was dumped in a field; Vargo's was left on the road.

Hill, 46, was convicted for his role in the crimes and sentenced to 35 years to life in prison.

Valerie Vargo Jolliffee, 51, Vargo's widow, told The Associated Press she plans to attend Palmer's execution because he ruined her life. She said she and Vargo fell in love at first sight and had been married just two months when he was killed.

"I was looking forward to growing old with him," she said.

Sponholtz's widow, two daughters and his brother also are expected to watch the execution.

Corrections officials say Palmer asked that his last meal include a chipped ham and Velveeta cheese sandwich, Doritos, peanut M&Ms, hazelnut ice cream, cheese cake and soda.

Ten Ohio inmates, including Palmer, are scheduled for execution through March 2014. Palmer will be the second this year if the execution goes forward.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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