Ohio prepares to execute first inmate in 6 months

Andrew Welsh-Huggins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned inmate was moved to the southern Ohio prison where he was scheduled to be executed Wednesday for fatally stabbing the 15-year-old son of his former employers during a 1985 farmhouse burglary.

Mark Wiles, 49, arrived at the Lucasville facility Tuesday morning, prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.

The execution scheduled for Wednesday would end an unofficial six-month moratorium on the death penalty while the state and a federal judge wrangled over Ohio’s lethal injection procedures.

Records show Wiles was caught during a burglary by Mark Klima, the straight-A son of the family for whom Wiles had been a farmhand. Wiles stabbed Klima repeatedly with a kitchen knife until he stopped moving, the knife left buried in his victim’s back.

For his special meal Tuesday night, Wiles requested a large pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese, hot sauce, a garden salad with ranch dressing, a large bag of Cheetos, a whole cheesecake, fresh strawberries, vanilla wafers and Sprite, Smith said.

He was visited by two sisters, a brother-in-law, and his attorney, Smith said.

Wiles, who dropped his final appeal last week, told members of the Ohio Parole Board during a March 2 interview he wasn’t sure he deserved mercy but was asking for clemency because he had to.

Wiles’ defense team had argued he should be spared because he confessed to the crime, has shown extreme remorse and regret and has a good prison record.

“Mark does want to live out his natural life in prison,” his attorneys said in their application for clemency. They added, “his remorse and regret are so overwhelming that he could not articulate reasons his life should be spared.”

Wiles could easily have escaped the farmhouse after Mark Klima surprised him, Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci told the parole board. “Instead, Wiles chose to repeatedly plunge the eight-inch kitchen knife into Mark Klima again and again,” Vigluicci said.

A report to the parole board said Wiles had suffered a head injury in a bar 12 days before the slaying in Rootstown in northeast Ohio, and a doctor testified that tests indicate he may have an injury to part of the brain that regulates impulse control. Another doctor agreed that Wiles has a brain injury and said he also has a substance-abuse problem and personality disorder.

The parole board earlier this month ruled unanimously that Wiles’ execution should proceed because he exploited the family’s kindness and because his remorse doesn’t outweigh the brutality of the crime.

Gov. John Kasich, without additional comment, agreed with the board last week.

Wiles went to prison in 1983 for stealing tools, jewelry, a wallet, a checkbook, a pistol and other items from a Tallmadge home in November 1982.

Carol Klima agreed to fill out a form in March 1983 ahead of a parole hearing for Wiles.

The farmhand was “polite, very helpful and did a nice job,” she wrote.

“Yes,” she answered to the question: “If possible, would you re-hire him?”

Ohio’s most recent execution delays stem from inmates’ lawsuits over how well executioners perform their duties.

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Frost sided with inmates last summer and postponed executions while the state updated its procedures.

In November, Frost allowed Ohio to put Reginald Brooks to death for killing his three sons in 1982. In the process, executioners deviated slightly from their written execution plan.

The changes were minor — failing to properly check a box on a medical form, for example — but they angered Frost, who had made his impatience with even slight changes clear. He once again put executions on hold.

Two weeks ago, after a weeklong trial over the latest procedures, Frost said the state had narrowly demonstrated it was serious about following its rules. He warned prison officials to get it right the next time.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at @awhcolumbus

Associated Press writer Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.