His attorneys had argued that his life should be spared because he suffered from Huntington's chorea, a mentally debilitating condition, and because international accords prohibit the execution of those younger than 18 at the time of their offense.
Victims: Thomas Taylor (17) 10/29/1977
Carlotta Hartness (14) 10/29/1977
Codefendants: Joseph Carl Shaw – Executed 1/11/1985
Ronald Eugene Mahaffey – Sentenced to Life.
Roach pleaded guilty as a principal to two counts of murder, criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, and kidnapping. Roach also pleaded nolo contendre to two counts of conspiracy.
The record shows that Roach, Joseph Carl Shaw, and Ronald Eugene Mahaffey spent the morning of October 29, 1977 drinking beer and taking drugs.
In the early afternoon, Roach, Shaw and Mahaffey decided to, in the words of Mahaffey, "find a girl to rape." The three drove to a baseball park outside of Columbia, South Carolina, where they saw a parked car occupied by 17-year old Thomas Taylor and 14-year old Carlotta Hartness.
Shaw pulled up beside the parked car, and Roach, sitting in the front passenger seat of Shaw's car, aimed a .22 caliber rifle at Taylor and demanded money. Taylor gave them his wallet. Shaw and Mahaffey got out of Shaw's car. Mahaffey took the keys to Taylor's car, and Shaw forced Miss Hartness to get into the backseat of Shaw's car with Mahaffey. Shaw then got back into his car and said to Roach, "OK, Now." Roach then fired the rifle into the parked car and killed Taylor.
The three drove Miss Hartness to a dirt road a short distance away, and she was forced to disrobe. She was repeatedly raped by all three and was forced to perform oral sex with Shaw and Mahaffey. While Shaw was raping the girl, Roach and Mahaffey looked through Taylor's wallet. The stolen wallet was later buried in the area.
Shaw asked who would shoot the girl and Roach volunteered. Shaw ordered the girl to put her face to the ground but she refused. After pleading for her life several times, Miss Hartness finally complied and put her face to the ground. Roach then shot her in the head several times, causing her body to convulse. Shaw took the rifle from Roach and again shot the girl in the head. The three then disposed of the rifle and bullets and returned to Taylor's body to make sure he was dead.
Several days later, Roach, Shaw, and Mahaffey were arrested. The State of South Carolina elected to seek the death penalty against Roach and Shaw.
In considering Roach's sentence, the sentencing judge found beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of three statutory aggravating circumstances: murder committed while in the commission of rape; murder committed while in the commission of kidnapping; and murder committed while in the commission of armed robbery.
After considering the evidence in mitigation for Roach, the judge found the existence of several statutory mitigating circumstances: Roach had no significant history of prior criminal activity involving the use of violence against another person; the murder was committed while he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance; he acted under duress or under the domination of another person; his capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was substantially impaired.
Additionally, relating to mitigating circumstances, the sentencing judge considered that Roach was suffering from mental retardation and an antisocial personality disorder and was below the age of 18 at the time of the crime.
Considering the circumstances in mitigation as well as the existence of the three statutory aggravating circumstances, the sentencing judge found as an affirmative fact that the evidence in the case warranted imposition of the death penalty upon Roach and was not the result of prejudice, passion or any other arbitrary factor. The judge sentenced Roach to death on the two murder charges.
Last meal: Fried shrimp, hush puppies, French fries, tossed salad, cherry cheesecake and a soft drink.
Final Statement: "I leave you comfortable that I've been forgiven in my sins, just as I have forgiven those who have done this to me," Roach said in a final statement addressed to his family and fellow Death Row inmates. "To my family and friends, there is only three words to say: I love you. May God bless each and every one of you."