Why convicted Cleveland killer Billy Slagle hanged himself early yesterday isn't known, but he apparently knew he had little time to act.
Slagle, 44, was found in his Death Row cell at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution about 5 a.m., only hours before he was scheduled to go on a round-the-clock watch before his scheduled execution on Wednesday.
He was pronounced dead about an hour after he was found. No other details were released by state prison officials.
"We will be conducting a complete investigation," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Slagle was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility near Lucasville for the 1987 murder of 40-year-old Mari Anne Pope.
Slagle stabbed Pope, a neighbor, 17 times with scissors while she was baby-sitting two young children.
Under state prison protocol, inmates facing the death penalty are placed on around-the-clock watch 72 hours before their scheduled execution -- 10 a.m. yesterday for Slagle.
Before they are moved to Lucasville, Death Row inmates are required to be observed on regular rounds by corrections officers, with staggered visits not to exceed 30 minutes, Smith said.
She would not comment when asked whether Slagle gave any indication of plans to kill himself.
Slagle's defense team was shocked and had no clue he might commit suicide, said one of his attorneys, Vicki Werneke.
"We were still litigating in court and had hoped that the execution would have been stopped. There was oral argument scheduled for Monday afternoon," she told the Associated Press in an email.
Although Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty sought clemency for Slagle -- arguing that, under current law, he would have been given life without parole and not the death penalty -- the courts, Ohio Parole Board and Gov. John Kasich disagreed.
Kasich declined clemency, which was Slagle's best hope to avoid execution. McGinty and Slagle's attorneys had cited his age -- at 18, he was barely old enough for execution in Ohio -- and his history of alcohol and drug addiction.
It was the first time a killer about to be executed had killed himself since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Another inmate, Lawrence Reynolds Jr., 43, of Akron, hoarded and took an overdose of anti-depressant pills that delayed his execution in 2010. He survived and was executed nine days later.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
By Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services