OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It’s been almost 13 years since Jo Milligan’s sister and brother-in-law were brutally stabbed to death in their rural Le Flore County home, but Milligan still feels the void their deaths created.
“I miss having a sister. I struggle when someone asks if I have a sister,” Milligan wrote in an April 24 letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in which she described the impact the deaths of 70-year-old Gloria Plummer and 73-year-old Curtis Plummer had on her.
“Glo (or Gloria) was my big sister — my only sister — my only sibling. And Curt became my brother when I was 5 years old,” Milligan wrote. “When shopping and I pass birthday cards, Valentine cards, etc., always the ones for ‘Sister’ reach out to me. And I cry in the card aisle.”
Family members wrote to the five-member board after the man convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the case, James Lewis DeRosa, sought clemency and a reduction of his death sentence to life in prison. He is scheduled to die Tuesday.
Janet Tolbert, the victims’ daughter, wrote that she still has nightmares after discovering her parent’s bodies in their home in Poteau following their deaths on Oct. 2, 2000.
“I saw my 70- and 73-year-old parents laying in pools of blood that went through the carpet to the cement foundation, with both of their throats slashed from ear-to-ear and stab wounds all over their 70-year-old bodies,” Tolbert stated in a letter to the board.
“With this description of the scene in your mind, why should James DeRosa have a second chance at life again?” Tolbert wrote.
On May 17, the board rejected DeRosa’s request that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. And on Tuesday, DeRosa, 36, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
Prosecutors said DeRosa had worked at the Plummers’ ranch and alleged that DeRosa and a co-defendant, John Eric Castleberry, talked their way into the victims’ home, slashed their throats and left with $73 and the couple’s truck, which was abandoned at a nearby lake.
Castleberry, 33, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in an agreement with prosecutors in which he testified against DeRosa.
The prosecutor in the case, former District Attorney Rob Wallace, wrote that while practicing law in eastern Oklahoma over 25 years, “I have not encountered a more heinous murder than that of Curtis and Gloria Plummer.
“The physical evidence in the crime scene bespoke a nightmarish experience for the victims beginning when Gloria let a trusted former employee into their house,” Wallace wrote.
DeRosa’s death sentences have been upheld by state and federal appellate courts, but not without dissent. In September, a federal appeals court judge cited DeRosa’s case as he called out state courts and prosecutors for allowing murder victims’ relatives recommend to jurors whether the death penalty should be imposed against the perpetrator.
“I would halt the Oklahoma prosecutors’ systematic abuse of the federal Constitution,” wrote Judge Carlos F. Lucero, one of two judges who voted to rehear DeRosa’s appeal of his death sentence. “As I note herein, state prosecutors and courts have developed a pattern and practice of non-compliance with — if not outright ignoring of — United States Supreme Court precedent that specifically prohibits eliciting from a relative of the victim an opinion as to whether the death penalty should be imposed.”
DeRosa is one of two Oklahoma death row inmates scheduled to be executed this month.
Brian Darrell Davis, 39, is scheduled to be executed on June 25 for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother almost 12 years ago. The Pardon and Parole Board recommended on June 6 that Davis’ death sentence be commuted to life in prison, a recommendation that was rejected by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Another death row inmate, Anthony Rozelle Banks, 60, is scheduled to be executed Sept. 10 for the June 6, 1979, killing of a 24-year-old woman. A clemency hearing for Banks has not been scheduled.
Oklahoma has executed one death row inmate so far this year. Steven Ray Thacker, 42, was executed on March 12 for the 1999 death of a woman whose credit cards he used to buy Christmas presents for his family.
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