Georgia on Thursday scheduled the lethal injection of Steven Frederick Spears, who thus far has chosen not to fight his death sentence for murdering his girlfriend in 2001.
If he dies by lethal injection on Nov. 16 as scheduled, Spears, 54, will be the eighth person Georgia has executed this year, which is more than any other state.
Last week, Georgia executed Gregory Lawler for murdering an Atlanta police officer in 1997. His lethal injection was Georgia’s seventh since Feb. 3, more than any other year since the death penalty was reinstated nationwide in 1976.
Spears, now 54, readily admitted he murdered his ex-girlfriend, Sherri Holland, in the early-morning hours of Aug. 25, 2001, in Lumpkin County.
“I loved her that much. I told her I wasn’t letting her go, and I didn’t,” Spears said in his confession. “(If) I had to do it again, I’d do it.”
Spears told friends and detectives that he had warned Holland when they started dating that if he “caught her or found out she was (with) somebody else,” he would “choke her … to death.”
When he began suspecting Holland was romantically involved with someone else, Spears made four plans to kill her.
Following one plan, Spears connected electrical wiring to the plumbing in the crawlspace under Holland’s house so she would be electrocuted in the shower during a lightening storm. According to court records, Spears boasted, “Pretty creative, ain’t it?”
He also left a bat under a canoe at Holland’s house in case he decided to beat her to death.
Spears also crawled into Holland’s house through an air conditioner vent to leave a loaded shotgun for later. “If she brought somebody else in there I was just gonna shoot him,” Spears said.
His fourth plan — which he used — was to choke her, bind her with duct tape, and suffocate her with a plastic bag.
On the night of Aug. 24, 2001, Spears hid in Holland’s son’s closet for several hours. Around 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m. the next day, he went into her bedroom and woke her.
As Holland tried to run, Spears hit her several times in the head, then followed through with his fourth plan.
“Last thing she said was she loved me,” Spears told investigators.
Holland’s ex-husband found her body when he brought their son home after a visit.
By then, Spears was hiding in the woods, sleeping in a deer stand.
Ten days after the murder, Spears came out of hiding and was picked up as he walked along a highway. He said he was going to turn himself in.
Even though Spears declined to challenge his conviction or sentence, death penalty cases are automatically appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. On Feb. 16, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the automatic appeal, and the Spears case was not voluntarily submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, which is usually the next step.
Unless he changes his mind, Spears will be the first person to go to his death in Georgia without contesting his sentence.
Twenty years ago, Larry Lonchar was electrocuted for a DeKalb County triple murder after he gave up his appeals, but only after he twice allowed his lawyers to file challenges hours before he was scheduled to die.
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