Virginia executes man for torture slaying of Pr. William youth

By Spencer S. Hsu; Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 7, 1997; 12:00 AM

JARRATT, VA., FEB. 6 -- Michael Carl George, a twice-convicted child killer, was executed by injection tonight for the 1990 sexual torture slaying of a 15-year-old Prince William County youth.

George was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m. at the Greensville Correctional Center here. Earlier today, George's attorney said he had sent "an expression of remorse" to the parents of the slain youth, but its contents were not made public. A prison spokesman said George's last words were, "I have prepared a written statement and given it to my pastor." But the minister left the prison without releasing a statement.

George, 39, of Stafford County, had decided against asking Gov. George Allen for clemency. By midafternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his attorneys' final request for a stay of execution by a 7 to 2 vote, with Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting.

Stephen A. Northup, George's court-appointed attorney, said George's "expression of remorse" came in a letter to Gail and Attila Sztanko, the parents of Alexander E. Sztanko, for whose murder George was condemned. "I think it's an effort to do what he can to help them find some measure of peace in all of this, if that's possible," Northup said.

George asked for the letter to be delivered by a clergyman, instead of mailed, so the family would know what it was and decide whether they wanted to open it, Northup said. A family member said last night that the letter had not yet arrived.

On June 16, 1990, George persuaded Alexander Sztanko to get off his motorbike on an unpaved utility right of way in a wooded area near Woodbridge. He handcuffed the teenager to a tree, sexually assaulted him and used an electric stun gun to burn his genitals before shooting him in the head with a 9mm pistol.

The next day, police found George hiding in the woods near the teenager's bloody shoes. In George's sport-utility vehicle, they found the handgun, a stun gun, handcuffs and a map marking the location of the youth's body and his motorbike. Forensic tests found blood and clothing fibers consistent with the youth's on George's pants and jacket and seminal fluid consistent with George's on the youth's body.

Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert called the killing an outrage. When the jury returned George's death sentence in 1990, Ebert said, "This case, of all the cases I have had, is the most heinous."

George served 2 1/2 years in prison during the 1980s for his involvement in the death of Larry Perry, 8, of Dumfries, who disappeared in 1979. George, who said the boy accidentally shot himself while they were target shooting, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and abduction. The boy's body was never found.

Jo Ann Kirkpatrick, Larry Perry's mother, said yesterday that she hoped George would tell where her son's body is. She also said George was "taking the easy way out -- the lethal injection instead of the slow death like he did to Larry and Alexander. At least he won't be out there free to bother any more kids."

Attila Sztanko, 57, said the execution will help bring closure to his son's murder and prevent George from killing again. Gail Sztanko, 54, said after the execution that it "does not assuage the grief at all. Even though the two events are related, this doesn't in any way compensate for Alex's death."

Among the 16 official witnesses to the execution was Del. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William), in whose district the Sztankos lived at the time of the murder. He recalled that the case had "electrified the community. . . . We never had a killing that had such onerous overtones."

George's execution was the first in Virginia this year and the 38th in the state since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.

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