Steven Brian Pennell

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Steven Brian Pennell
Born November 22, 1957
Died (aged 34)
James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware
Cause of death Execution by Lethal injection
Other names The Route 40 Killer, The Corridor Killer, The Route 13 Killer
Criminal penalty Death
Victims 5
Country United States
State(s) Delaware
Date apprehended
November 29, 1988

Steven Brian Pennell (November 22, 1957 – March 14, 1992), aka The Route 40 Killer, was convicted of the murders of two New Castle County, Delaware women and suspected of three more. The evidence that ultimately locked him away were the blue carpet fibers found on his 1st victim. An undercover cop posed as a prostitute to gather Steven's attention and insisted that she inspect the van before she got in. While she was "inspecting" the van she pulled fibers of the blue rug located in the back part of the van. Officers tailed Steven and one night he left his home around 12 PM and came back hours later. He had been driving by the same route 40, the very same one where his first victim was found. Later the blue fibers came back as a match to the ones found on the body of the first victim. This evidence locked him away for the murder of the 1st victim. He was charged with 1st degree murder. 5 years later he was charged of the murder of the 2nd victim. After he was charged with another count of 1st degree murder. His punishment was death by lethal injection. He was executed March 14th 1992 when he was just 34.


Pennell, an electrician by trade, picked up his victims in his van along U.S. 40 near Bear, Delaware. He was a 1976 graduate of St Mark's High School, Wilmington, DE


Pennell was arrested November 29, 1988 for the murders of two Newark, Delaware women, Shirley A. Ellis, 23, in November 1987, and Catherine A. DiMauro, 32, in June 1988. Pennell was identified as the suspect by carpet fibers found on a victim's body; the fibers were from a carpet located on the floor of his van.


Prosecutors were preparing to try Pennell for the murders of Michele A. Gordon, 22, of New Castle County, and Kathleen Anne Meyer, 26, of Newark, in September 1988. Pennell suddenly pleaded no contest, on the condition that he receive the death penalty.[1] His plea of no contest to the murder of Kathleen Meyer in 1991 arose once DNA evidence linked him to the case. Pennell was also suspected of the August 1988 murder of Margaret Lynn Finner, 27, but the decomposition of the body hampered their ability to develop sufficient evidence.[1]


Pennell was the first condemned man to argue his own case before the Delaware Supreme Court.[1] Pennell argued to affirm the death penalty. Although he never admitted guilt, his rationale was "to spare his wife and two children the prolonged pain of his spending the rest of his life in prison." The court affirmed the sentence.[2]


Pennell was executed on 14 March 1992 by the State of Delaware by lethal injection. He became the first person to be executed in Delaware since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated, and the first person executed in Delaware since Forest Sturdivant, a murderer, was hanged in 1946.[3] He was the state's first and to date only confirmed serial killer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kanaley, Reid (12 February 1992). "Serial Killer Pleads - For Execution: The Grisly Delaware Killings Deserve A Swift Punishment, The Killer Calmly Told The Justices.". The Inquirer. 
  2. ^ Pennell v. Delaware (Supreme Court of Delaware 18 February 1992).
  3. ^ Thompson, William (15 March 1992). "Delaware killer gets last wish -- death". Baltimore Sun.