McALESTER, Okla. -- Oklahoma executed a 36-year-old man on Tuesday for the October 2000 stabbing deaths of a couple on whose ranch he had worked.
James Lewis DeRosa was killed by lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was the second inmate the state executed this year.
Prosecutors say DeRosa and an accomplice, 33-year-old John Eric Castleberry, went to Curtis and Gloria Plummers' home in the Le Flore County community of Poteau on Oct. 2, 2000, and convinced the couple to let them inside. DeRosa had worked at the couple's ranch.
Authorities say DeRosa and Castleberry stabbed the couple, who were in their 70s, and slashed their throats. Prosecutors say the duo made off with $73 and the Plummers' pickup truck, which was later found abandoned at a nearby lake.
Castleberry pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the couple's death and testified against DeRosa as part of a deal that included a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Although it's been almost 13 years since the victims were killed, their family members say they still feel the void their deaths created.
"I miss having a sister. I struggle when someone asks if I have a sister," Jo Milligan wrote in an April 24 letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. "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."
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 said.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month voted 3-2 to reject DeRosa's request for his death sentence to be commuted to a life term. Speaking at the hearing via teleconferencing from prison, DeRosa apologized to the victims' family.
"I can't express how truly sorry I am for the pain I've caused the Plummer family," DeRosa said from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. "I take full responsibility for their deaths. If not for me, they wouldn't have died that night."
DeRosa told the board he had turned to religion since his arrest and convictions and urged the board to set aside his death sentence so he could be a positive influence on the prison system's general population.
DeRosa's death sentences had been affirmed by state and federal appeals courts.
DeRosa was 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.