notinmyname (notinmyname) wrote,

#81 - Richard Lee Whitley - VA - 7/6/1987

I could have bought most of it.  If it weren't for the umbrellas.  Can't get past the umbrellas.

Victim:  Phebe Parsons (63)        7/25/1980

Richard Lee Whitley, convicted of strangling and slashing the throat of an elderly neighbor and sexually assaulting her corpse, was electrocuted in Virginia.

Mr. Whitley had no last words and was strapped into the electric chair by seven guards, witnesses said.  Earlier in the day, the United States Supreme Court voted 6 to 2 to deny a stay of execution. Gov. Gerald L. Baliles previously refused a plea for clemency.

In a telephone interview earlier with a Richmond television station, Whitley said he could hear prison workers test the electric chair just 35 feet from his cell.   ''It kind of makes you feel a little funny, you know,'' he said.

About 30 opponents of the death penalty waited outside the prison in downtown Richmond as the hour of Whitley's execution approached. They carried candles and occasionally sang songs.

''We are outraged at the resumption of the death penalty,'' said the Rev. Joe Ingle of Nashville, Tenn., representing the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons.

Mr. Whitley, 41 years old, was convicted of capital murder for the July 25, 1980 slaying of Phebe Parsons, 63.

In court appeals in the six years since Whitley's conviction, he was depicted as mentally and emotionally disturbed and the product of a troubled childhood.

Whitley was attended by a prison chaplain until his execution.

Whitley attorney Timothy Kaine based his appeals on arguments that his client, who had an IQ of 75, was "insane" or "feebleminded" and should have been committed to a state hospital. Kaine told reporters before the execution: "Murder is wrong in the gulag, in Afghanistan, in Soweto, in the mountains of Guatemala, in Fairfax County . . . and even the Spring Street Penitentiary" here.

At the trial, a signed statement was introduced in which Whitley admitted to strangling Parsons, cutting her throat and sexually assaulting her with two umbrellas.

Although expert witnesses testified on appeal that Whitley had "organic brain dysfunction," Circuit Court F. Bruce Bach, who presided at the trial, ruled that there were no legal grounds for finding Whitley to be feebleminded.

Whitley offered no reason for the attack other than that he went on a two-week drug and alcohol binge after his wife left him.

In the telephone interview with a Richmond television station, Whitley said he was "ready to die. I know they're going to kill me." He said he would have liked to have had the execution televised and to be put to death without a hood over his head to "let the people see exactly what facial expressions you have when they put the juice to you."


A jury convicted Richard Whitley of capital murder in the commission of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon and fixed his punishment at death. The trial court confirmed the conviction, considered the probation report, and imposed the sentence fixed by the jury. We have consolidated Whitley's statutory right of sentence review with his appeal from the conviction and accorded the case priority on our docket.

The evidence leaves no doubt that Whitley killed Phebe Parsons, his next-door neighbor. The 63 year-old widow lived alone, and the crime, committed the night of July 25, 1980, a Friday, was not discovered until the following Monday. The investigating officers found a mass of dried blood on the floor inside the front door and a trail of blood leading to Mrs. Parsons' nude body which was lying beneath a pile of clothes and other articles on the floor beside her bed. Her blood-soaked clothing and a link from a watchband (later identified as Whitley's) lay on the floor near the front door. The home was in disarray and the victim's wallet was missing from her purse which was hanging on a hook near the back door.

An autopsy revealed a neck laceration 4¾" long, gaping to 2", a ligature mark on the neck, a ½" cut on the forehead, and several abrasions and contusions on the upper back and right elbow. An umbrella of conventional design had been inserted into the vaginal cavity, puncturing the vaginal wall and bruising the small intestine. A collapsible umbrella had been forced into the rectal cavity, piercing the wall and damaging a major artery. The medical examiner testified that there was "very little evidence of hemorrhage" in either cavity, a circumstance which indicated that "the individual had little, if any, heartbeat at the time they were inserted or was dead." In his opinion, death was caused by the neck wound or strangulation.

According to several statements Whitley made to the police, all of which were admitted into evidence, Whitley had gone to Mrs. Parsons' home early in the evening of July 25 to use her telephone. He called his employer, Garry Monohan, who agreed to come to Whitley's home to repair his "broken down" car. When two hours had passed and Monohan had not arrived, the defendant returned to Mrs. Parsons' home and made a second call. As he approached the front door to leave, Mrs. Parsons stopped him and "we were talking about my wife and going to church and everything and the next thing I know she was dead." Whitley explained to the officers that "there had been some trouble" with his wife's 10 year-old daughter by a previous marriage and that both had left him.

Whitley admitted that he had choked Mrs. Parsons with his hands, strangled her with a rope, and cut her jugular vein with a Boy Scout pocketknife as she prayed for her life. He lifted her from the floor near the front door, dragged her to the bedroom, and attempted, without success, to place her on the bed. He did not remember removing her clothes or inserting the umbrellas in her body, and he denied that he had engaged in any sexual conduct. Abandoning his effort to get her body on the bed, he "ransacked" the house, "looking for a gun." Finding none, he took Mrs. Parsons' car keys and credit cards from her purse, replaced the purse on its hook, left by the back door, and fled in Mrs. Parsons' car. Arrested in Florida, Whitley confessed his guilt and waived extradition.

Mrs. Parsons' daughter testified that, during the month before the murder, Whitley had indicated an interest in buying a car she owned. Called as a defense witness, Whitley's employer testified that he had paid Whitley his wages, $112.45, on the day of the crime. Monohan was never asked to verify Whitley's statement that he had telephoned him that night.


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