Charles Rodman Campbell
|Charles Rodman Campbell|
|Born||October 21, 1954
|Died||May 27, 1994
Walla Walla, Washington, United States
|Cause of death||Hanging|
|Number of victims||3|
|Span of killings||April 12, 1982–April 12, 1982|
|Date apprehended||April 1982|
Campbell was born in Hawaii in 1954, but his parents soon moved to Washington. They later abandoned him and his congenitally-retarded sister to their grandparents, who were little-interested in raising the two. Often ridiculed by schoolmates for his sister's disability and his Hawaiian origins, he was large for his age and developed a bad temper early on. Frequently fighting and running away, Campbell began to get in trouble with the law as a teenager. He dropped out of high school and married a 22-year old woman, but they got divorced in six months (she gave birth to a son soon afterwards).
In December 1974, Campbell attacked 23-year old Renae Wicklund while she was doing yard work outside her Clearview, Washington home. He demanded that she perform oral sex on him at knife point while threatening to kill her infant daughter Shannah if she didn't comply. Wicklund submitted to his demands and then called police after he left. Campbell was not apprehended until 1976 when she picked him out of a police lineup. At the subsequent trial, Wicklund and her neighbor Barbara Hendrickson testified in detail about the assault. Campbell was sentenced to 40 years in prison for first-degree rape. However, he ended up being paroled in 1981 after only 5 years behind bars for "good conduct" and his victims were never informed by anyone of his release.
On April 12, 1982, Barbara Hendrickson's husband Don walked over to Renae Wicklund's house and discovered her, 9-year old Shannah, and his wife dead, all with their throats cut. Charles Campbell (then residing at a halfway house) was arrested the following week and charged with first-degree murder and second-degree theft (he had attempted to sell some of Renae Wicklund's jewelry only hours after the killings). Wicklund had been severely beaten and raped with a blunt instrument in addition to having had her throat slit (the murder weapon and the object used to rape her were never found however). Barbara Hendrickson had been attacked and her throat cut after going over to the house to check on Wicklund, who had been ill with the flu that week. Shannah suffered the same fate when she came home from school. Police were told by a neighbor girl that she saw Campbell sneaking around Renae Wicklund's yard with a knife that morning.
At Campbell's November 1982 trial, he refused to testify in his defense or discuss the murders at all. Numerous citizens of Clearview had signed a petition demanding the death penalty for him, and the jury agreed, arguing that he showed no signs whatsoever of remorse for killing the Wicklunds and Barbara Hendrickson. Renae Wicklund's mother and sister, who lived in North Dakota, were particularly shocked by the murders because she had never told them about being raped 8 years earlier.
During the trial, Campbell's attorneys argued that he could not be charged with rape since the wound in Renae Wicklund's vagina was a postmortem injury that had not bled. Snohomish County Coroner Dr. Clayton Haberman (who performed the autopsies) pointed out that brain death does not occur until a few minutes after circulation ceases and she could technically have still been alive when the assault happened, but it may just as easily have been hours later. He also noted that Shannah lost so much blood that it was difficult to collect a sample from her. Judge Dennis Britt thus ordered the jury to disregard the rape allegations. The defense also protested the prosecution's decision to display graphic autopsy photos of the Wicklunds and Barbara Hendrickson. Judge Britt allowed this, but said that the jurors could decide for themselves whether they wanted to see their blood-splattered clothing.
Incarceration and Appeals
Campbell's prison record showed that he had not committed anything more than relatively minor offenses there, but one inmate (who was fearful of being labeled a prison snitch and so had his identity hidden) testified that he had terrorized fellow prisoners into submitting to sodomy and obtaining drugs for him. His ex-wife told police that he'd come to her house and raped her on Christmas Day 1981 and two subsequent occasions, but they said there was insufficient evidence to charge him with anything. Campbell's mother claimed that he had sex with a pet dog that he adopted. As a condition of his parole, he was also required to attend rape counseling sessions, but he ended up becoming romantically involved with his counselor which led to the therapy being terminated (she became pregnant and gave birth to Campbell's second child).
By 1984, the case had gone through the entire state court system, and the conviction and sentence was affirmed by the Washington Supreme Court. He was sentenced to death on December 17, 1984, but appealed his conviction and sentence for 12 years (a total of three appeals). The state offered inmates the choice of either lethal injection or hanging for their execution method, the latter being the default. Campbell declined on the ground that the state was asking him to commit suicide by choosing. He remained a much-feared figure in Walla-Walla's death row for the next decade, spitting at Governor Booth Gardner when he peered into his cell.
On November 7, 1988, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal. Afterwards, however, it was again appealed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by the state, which wished to conclude the case. There was debate over whether hanging was cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional.
On April 14, 1994, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay of execution. On May 3, 1994, Campbell asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put another stay on his execution and rule on his claim that hanging was unconstitutional, but his request went unanswered. His execution was set for May 27. Then-governor Mike Lowry was an opponent of the death penalty, but upon hearing the details of Campbell's crimes refused to commute his sentence.
Twenty-four hours before the execution Campbell was given his last shower. His last meal was served two hours before the hanging took place, and he refused to eat most of it. The Wicklunds' family requested to view the execution, but they were turned down. He spent his last hours talking to friends and relatives, including his ex-counselor and son. Campbell’s was the second hanging in 2 years, after serial child killer Westley Allen Dodd. When the time for his execution arrived, Campbell refused to cooperate and resorted to passive resistance, refusing to get up off the floor of his cell when instructed, finally having to be removed from his cell using pepper spray. Campbell wouldn’t stand up and Corrections officers had to strap him to a board. Afterwards, Campbell repeatedly rotated his head so that neither the cloak nor noose could be put on easily. It took prison officials 90 seconds to place a hood on his head and to fix the noose before the trap was opened. Later the authorities found a four-inch piece of metal in his holding cell which he had been sharpening into a blade.
- Washington Hangs Murderer; Texas Executes Officer-Killer May 28, 1994
- Federal Court Upholds Execution by Hanging February 9, 1994
- Inmate Faces 1st Hanging in U.S. Since 1965 March 27, 1989
- The State of Washington, Respondent, v. Charles R. Campbell, Appellant.
- Charles' son, Jacob Campbell's experiences regarding father