Va. Man Executed for Killing He Committed at 17

Associated Press
Thursday, January 13, 2000; 12:00 AM

JARRATT, Va., Jan. 13 -- Steve Edward Roach tonight became the second inmate executed here this week for a crime committed at age 17.

Roach, 23, who shot his 70-year-old neighbor, Mary Ann Hughes, in her Greene County home before fleeing with her purse and car, was pronounced dead of an injection at 9:04 p.m. Roach's petition for clemency was turned down by Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) about an hour before the execution, carried out at the Greensville Correctional Center.

Roach, asked if he had any final words, recited the 23rd Psalm.

After the execution, Steven M. Schneebaum, Roach's attorney, released a lengthy statement in which Roach asked to be remembered "not just as the teenager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer."

Roach wrote that he was "unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing is wrong."

Douglas Christopher Thomas, 26, was executed Monday night for killing his girlfriend's parents in Middlesex County in 1990, when he was 17. Both cases drew attention because of the condemned men's age when they committed the crimes.

Pierre Sane, secretary general of Amnesty International, had sent Gilmore a letter asking him to grant clemency. "We in no way seek to excuse that crime or belittle the suffering it has caused. We seek only Virginia's compliance with international law and global standards of justice," wrote Sane.

In denying clemency, Gilmore noted that Roach had been convicted of four felonies in the seven months before he killed Hughes and was armed at the time of the slaying, a violation of his probation terms.

In an interview last week, Roach said: "I put all my trust in God. It's in his hands. I am ready to accept whatever happens and I am praying for a miracle."

About 50 people gathered in front of Charlottesville Circuit Court on Wednesday to protest the death penalty, especially when used to punish crimes committed by juveniles.

One person carried a sign reading: "Stop state executions now. Don't kill for me." Another sign read, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."


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