'Vicious killer' put to death: 'I'm no good'

'Not something that would happen to someone like him'
Published: Jul. 17, 2018 at 10:21 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A Sharonville man was executed Wednesday morning at Ohio's death house, more than 30 years after murdering his victim in a slaying prosecutors call vicious and gruesome.

Robert Van Hook, 58, is the first Hamilton County man executed in seven years and the first one in Ohio in ten months.

Prison officials released his final statement after he was pronounced dead at 10:44 a.m.

"I'm very sorry for taking your brother from you. I'm no good. I hope you now have some peace. One day may you be reunited with him and  your mother as well. I pray one day he goes through the light."

He arrived at the state prison in Lucasville Tuesday. He saw visitors and ate his final meal: double cheeseburgers, french fries, strawberry cheesecake with whipped cream, a vanilla milkshake, and grapefruit juice.

A federal judge allowed the use of an open phone line to his courtroom during the execution.

The decision by Judge Michael Merz again permits a system created last year when defense attorneys tried unsuccessfully to stop an execution based on the inmate's reaction to the lethal drugs.

Van Hook's attorneys and an assistant attorney general were on the line with the judge in case something went awry.

The case gained national attention during a recent appeal when Van Hook's lawyers said his "homosexual panic" may have prompted the killing.

Van Hook was convicted in the stabbing and strangling of David Self, 25, on Feb. 18, 1985.

He met Self at a gay bar in downtown Cincinnati and then lured him back to Self's Hyde Park apartment under sexual pretenses, prosecutors say.

Van Hook strangled Self unconscious and then stabbed him in the back of the brain, trying to cut his head off and gutting him open with a paring knife, Hamilton County Joe Deters said Tuesday.

Van Hook left a cigarette butt and the murder weapon inside a long wound of Self's mutilated body, stole his valuables and tried to cover his tracks by  smearing fingerprints.

Van Hook fled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but police found him there six weeks later and say he confessed.

Deters said Van Hook had a pattern of preying on gay men, luring them to their apartments and robbing them - and many were afraid to report the crimes.

Van Hook pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to Self's slaying, but he was convicted and sentenced to death.

While court psychologists say he had a personality disorder, they concluded Van Hook was not insane when he murdered Self.

Stew Mathews, Van Hook's lawyer more than 30 years ago, acknowledges the killing but said he believes Van Hook should never have been sent to death row because of a statute in play at the time in Ohio.

"All we had to argue was that David Self allowed himself to be picked up by Robert Van Hook, in some sense contributing to his own demise," Mathews said.

Deters, however, says at long last, Van Hook deserves to die and Self and his family deserve justice.

"This is a vicious killer," Deters said Tuesday.

"He preyed on weak, vulnerable gay men. He would take them, go home with them, rob them, and in this case -- because the victim didn't have any money -- he decided to kill him. So, I really have no use for this guy."

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