Billy Slagle had been on death row for 25 years and was about to face execution after years of appeals and trials this coming Wednesday. This weekend Slagle was found hanged in his jail cell. Somehow, the convicted murderer had found a way to truly escape justice and deny the family members of his victim -- Mari Ann Pope -- any chance at justice and closure.
Slagle was 18 when he was convicted of the brutal crime, which included breaking into Pope's home (she was his neighbor) and stabbing her 17 times with a pair of scissors. Two children were in the home at the time, though they weren't Pope's. She was the kind of woman who helped care for other people's children.
The children said they heard Pope screaming, praying, and police found a rosary near her body.
Slagle apologized to the children witnesses and blamed his own horrible childhood and his developmental delays for his crime. He said:
I'm neither inherently evil nor a bad person, but rather someone that has made a terrible mistake and wishes that I could take that night all back.
If that were true, then why hang himself? I mean, really. If he had real remorse, why would he not pay for his crimes like a man?
No details have been released as to how he managed to kill himself while in solitary confinement. It could be error on the part of his guards. It could have just been his incredible determination to leave on his own terms.
What is clear is that he has escaped his sentence. Maybe her family will find comfort in the fact that he is gone. But maybe they won't. Maybe they needed to see justice carried through and to see him pay for his horrific crime against an innocent woman.
Generally, the death penalty isn't a great punishment, but it IS a punishment in our country and, like it or not, it was his sentence. He may feel like he outsmarted something by ending it himself and the fact that he died smug is sickening.
My heart goes out to the family of his victim.
Do you think he escaped justice?
Image via Joseph Kranak/Flickr