COLUMBUS (AP) — The impact of a condemned killer’s traumatic and chaotic childhood on his later behavior was on trial before the Ohio Parole Board on Tuesday.
Raymond Tibbetts was sentenced to die for stabbing Fred Hicks to death at Hicks’ Cincinnati home in 1997. Tibbetts also received life imprisonment for fatally beating and stabbing his wife, 42-year-old Judith Crawford, during an argument over Tibbetts’ crack cocaine habit.
The 67-year-old Hicks had hired Crawford as a caretaker and allowed the couple to stay with him.
Tibbetts, 59, grew up with an emotionally distant mother and an absentee father whose few appearances were usually accompanied by drunken and violent rages, according to family members’ video testimony presented Tuesday by Tibbetts’ attorneys. An older sister, then about 8 years old, often cared for Tibbetts as a baby.
Tibbetts and his siblings later spent time with abusive foster parents and then cycled in and out of state custody and the juvenile justice system, according to the video shown to the board by federal public defender Sharon Hicks.
“People aren’t born evil, but something happened in Ray’s life, and we’re here to explain what happened that led to this crime,” Hicks told the board in morning testimony.
Hamilton County prosecutors argue that what Tibbetts went through doesn’t outweigh what he did to Crawford and Fred Hicks. That included stabbing Crawford after he’d already beaten her to death, then repeatedly stabbing Hicks, a “sick, defenseless, hearing-impaired man in whose home Tibbetts lived.”
Prosecutors note that Tibbetts told the parole board in an interview that he doesn’t deserve clemency, and also told the board he believed he had a fair trial.
“In nearly every case this Board reviews, inmates assert that their poor childhoods, drugs, or some other reason mitigate their actions,” Ron Springman, an assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, told the board in a Jan. 12 filing. “The mitigation in this case does not overcome the brutality of these murders.”
The board won’t rule until March 10, about a month before Tibbetts’ scheduled execution on April 12.
Tibbetts and other inmates set for execution this year are challenging the state’s new three-drug lethal injection process in federal court. They say the method, which begins with a sedative used in problematic executions in Arizona and Ohio in 2014, could lead to extreme pain and suffering.
The state says the method is similar to one Ohio used many times several years ago. They also say a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year made clear that the disputed drug, midazolam, can be used in executions.
A ruling is expected soon from Magistrate Judge Michael Merz.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections plans to put Ronald Phillips to death Feb. 15 for the 1993 rape and killing of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins.