Brian Steckel

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Brian David Steckel (December 14, 1968 – November 4, 2005) was a convicted murderer executed in the U.S. state of Delaware. On September 2, 1994, he was convicted of the rape and murder of 29-year-old Sandra Lee Long near Prices Corner, near Wilmington.

Crime[edit]

On September 2, 1994, Steckel knocked on Long's door and asked if he could use her telephone. He then unplugged the telephone and demanded sex from her. After she refused, he threw her onto a couch and attempted to strangle her with some pantyhose. The pantyhose broke, so he continued his attack with a sock. After she succumbed to the lack of oxygen, he penetrated her first with a screwdriver he had brought with him, and then sodomized her. He dragged her to a bedroom, where he set her and the bedroom curtains on fire.

Steckel left the scene and went to the home of a former co-worker for a few beers. The man left, and so Steckel got the man's wife to drive him to the liquor store. The route she chose took them past Long's apartment, which was now on fire. The woman said that Steckel became noticeably agitated and became angry when she jokingly said "you look like you've killed someone".

At the apartment, two men tried to rescue Long, who had since regained consciousness. They could not get into the burning apartment, however, and she died from smoke inhalation and burns to 60 percent of her body.

Within hours of the fire, a man called The News Journal saying he was the "Driftwood Killer" and named his next victim. This woman was put into protective custody by police, where she told them that she had been receiving phone calls that were "very lurid, very sexual." The calls to the newspaper and the woman were traced to Brian Steckel, and he was arrested over an outstanding harassment warrant. Steckel was intoxicated at the time of the arrest and so given the night to sleep it off. The next morning, after waiving his Miranda rights, he confessed to the attack on Long. A forensic dentist determined that a bite wound on Steckel's finger had been received in the last 24 hours, by Long's teeth.

Trial and imprisonment[edit]

He was convicted in New Castle County of three counts of first degree murder (one count of "intentional" murder and two counts of felony murder). After the separate penalty phase, he was sentenced to death on January 8, 1997, by a vote of 11-1. During the penalty phase he told the jurors that: "I ask you to hold me accountable for what I did … I know what I did was wrong: it was selfish [and] despicable."

Steckel was otherwise unrepentant for his crime. During his trial he sent Long's mother a copy of the autopsy report attached to a note that read "Read it and weep. She's gone forever. Don't cry over burnt flesh."

The sentence and conviction were affirmed by a Delaware Superior Court on May 22, 1998. Throughout 1998 and 1999, Steckel continued to appeal his conviction and sentences, claiming that he had ineffectual defense. This claim was rejected by the Superior Court on August 31, 2001, and by the Delaware Supreme Court on April 11, 2002. Other appeals for the writ of habeas corpus were denied by U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Steckel also tried to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty laws in place in Delaware at the time of his sentencing. On September 30, 2005, a Superior Court set an execution date of November 4.

Death[edit]

For his last meal he ordered cheesesteak, coleslaw and a Pepsi. During his last statement he said:

"I want to say I'm sorry for the cruel things I did. I'm not the same man I was when I came to jail. I changed. I'm a better man. … I walked in here without a fight, and I accept my punishment. It is time to go. I love you people. … I'm at peace."

He was pronounced dead at 00:21 hrs EDT on November 4, 2005, after being executed by lethal injection at the Delaware Correctional Center, near Smyrna.

Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert, said that descriptions of the execution seem to suggest that there were several failures in injecting the drugs. Witnesses said several audible clicks (from the lethal injection machine, which led to them getting rid of the computer) were heard during the twelve minutes after Steckel finished his last statement. During this time Steckel was still lucid and continued to make several comments to his family members and friends who witnessed the execution. She said it appears that the sedative and paralytic drugs failed to take effect as Steckel was seen to convulse. Delaware Department of Correction spokeswoman Beth Welch said that nothing went wrong with the execution and the length of time was just due to the Warden giving Brian Steckel more time for his statement.

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