OKLAHOMA CITY – On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 4-1 to deny clemency for death row inmate Donald Grant.
“I don’t know what happened,” a 911 caller told dispatch. “It’s a woman that’s bloody. I don’t know.”
That was back on July 18th, 2001. Grant was convicted of killing Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith at a La Quinta Inn in Del City in July of 2001. Both of the victims were employees of the hotel.
Grant confessed to the murders, saying he wanted the hotel’s money to bond his girlfriend out of jail.
During testimony on Tuesday, Grant’s attorneys argued that he suffers from schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses due to abuse he received as a child and should be in a mental health facility.
“His brain is profoundly damaged,” one of Grant’s attorneys told the board.
However, the state argued that Grant planned out the murder and knew exactly what he was doing.
“Grant’s murders were not impulsive. He planned them out over a matter of weeks,” Caroline Hunt, an attorney with the AG’s office, said.
Smith’s family did not attend Tuesday’s hearing because they felt it would be too painful for them. But members of McElyea’s family spoke to the board.
“Please, I firmly believe that he deserves to die,” Susie Webster, McElyea’s aunt, said. “Given the chance to live, he would cut your throat and put a bullet in your brain.”
Former Midwest City police chief Brandon Clabes also spoke to the board. His crime scene investigators were called in to assist Del City PD with processing the scene. He told News 4 that in his over 40 years in law enforcement, that crime scene still haunts him.
“It was absolutely a horror what those women went through before they were killed,” Said Clabes. “He slashes their throats, brutalizes them, shoots them. It’s just, it was one of the most horrific crime scenes I’ve been at.”
Grant also spoke to the board on Tuesday.
“I’m sorry for my actions. I’m sorry for my actions,” he said. “I know words can’t bring them back. I can’t change that.”
Board member Richard Smothermon questioned Grant about the murders, specifically about a past claim from Grant where he said in a written confession that he wanted to “leave no witnesses.”
“You chose to leave no witnesses?” Pardon and Parole Board member Richard Smothermon asked Grant.
Yes, sir,” he replied.
“So no one could recognize you?” Smothermon asked.
“Yes,” Grant replied.
The board ultimately voted 4-1 to deny clemency.
Grant is scheduled to be executed on January 27th.
When the board recommended clemency for death row inmate Bigler Stouffer a few weeks ago in a 3-2 vote, some of the members raised concerns about Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol, which is being challenged in court in February.
Media witnesses described seeing death row inmate John Grant violently convulse and vomit when the first drug in the three-drug cocktail, midazolam, was administered during his execution on October 28th.
However, during a hearing in federal court last week for Stouffer, Dr. Ervin Yen, who also watched John Grant’s execution, used the word regurgitation and called Grant’s movement a “rocking” motion, saying it was normal and that there was no convulsing.
Judge Stephen Friot ultimately ruled that Stouffer’s attorneys did not prove under the 8th amendment that Oklahoma’s execution protocol is cruel or unusual.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Pardon and Parole Board member Larry Morris said Friot’s ruling eased his worries and concerns about the execution protocol. Morris is one of the four members who voted no to recommending clemency for Grant.
Board member Adam Luck is the only member who voted yes.
“Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith were working at the La Quinta Inn in July 2001 when they were brutally murdered by Donald Grant. Today, Grant’s request for a recommendation of clemency was denied by the Pardon and Parole Board. Grant received a jury trial and, in 2006, received the sentence of death. This was a just and appropriate sentence for the brutal murders of two innocent women. This conviction and sentence was affirmed after years of thorough review by the appellate courts. I am grateful that the Board denied Grant’s request for executive clemency. Our thoughts and prayers are now with the families of Brenda McElyea and Suzette Smith,” said Attorney General John O’Connor.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City released the following statement once the decision was reached:
“The Catholic Church recognizes the grave harm done to victims of crime and their families, and the need for healing and justice. It also understands that executions only perpetuate cycles of violence and often provide no measure of true healing. The burdens of trauma and violence weigh heavy in our country and world these days; this is our opportunity to reject a culture of death and build up a culture of life. Please pray for the leaders of our state that they recognize the flaws of execution. Pray for the families and friends of Brenda McElyea and Felecia Suzette Smith, innocent victims of a senseless crime, and for the redemption of Donald Grant and comfort for his family.”