Ohio death row inmate Robert Van Hook executed for 1985 murder, mutilation of gay man

Ohio executed a man convicted of a brutal 1985 murder on Wednesday in the state's third execution since it lifted a temporary halt last year on carrying out death sentences, Reuters reports. 

Robert Van Hook, 58, died by lethal injection at 10:44 a.m. EDT, according to JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Van Hook was sentenced to death three decades ago for the murder of David Self, who he picked up at downtown Cincinnati's Subway Bar on Feb. 18, 1985. 

Court records show that after meeting his victim at the bar, Van Hook accompanied Self back to his apartment. He then strangled the 25-year-old until he was unconscious before taking a kitchen knife and stabbing him multiple times in the neck and abdomen until he was nearly disemboweled.

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The convicted killer then stole a necklace and a leather jacket from Self before fleeing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was arrested about a month after the crime. He was convicted of murder on July 30, 1985, and sentenced to death on Aug. 8 of the same year.  His sentence was the subject of multiple failed appeals and was ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009. 

The decades-old case again made headlines in May 2018 when Van Hook's attorneys asked the Ohio Parole Board for mercy, arguing that their client's crime was spurred by "homosexual panic."

His defenders said in a May 17 filing with the board that their client had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused as a child and was "troubled by increasing questions about his own sexual identity" at the time of the murder. 

Prosecutors argued that Van Hook's "homosexual panic" claim was nonsense, pointing to his history of committing crimes against gay men to have the appeal dismissed. 

Van Hook's final request for clemency, which the Ohio Parole Board voted against in an 8-1 recommendation, was ultimately denied by Ohio Governor John Kasich in June 2018.

Van Hook's execution at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville brought to 56 the number of executions in Ohio since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution in Ohio took place in September 2017.

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