Death penalty for convicted teen killer & rapist

Published: May. 15, 2007 at 9:33 PM CDT|Updated: May. 24, 2007 at 1:29 PM CDT
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Roy Lee Ward
Roy Lee Ward

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Rachel Beavin

Update, FRI 5:10 pm: Roy Lee Ward has been sentenced to death a second time for 2001 rape and murder of Spencer County teenager, Stacy Payne.

The Indiana Supreme Court overturned his first conviction and sentence due to pre-trial publicity. This time around, a jury was brought in from Clay County to decide his fate.

They took little time to make a recommendation.

Roy Lee Ward had already pleaded guilty to rape and murder, so the jury wasn't deciding his guilt or innocence, they were deciding his punishment.

The three men and nine women from Clay County spent the entire week listening to very graphic testimony and apparently found it so overwhelming, there was only one thing to do.

Much has been made of Roy Lee Ward's cold, vacant stare. Defense attorneys argued it's because he has no conscience, no empathy and no feelings. They asked the jury to spare his life because Ward couldn't help it, he was born this way.

Stacy's sister, Melissa, says it's an act and she saw right through it every time the jury was out of the room, "He gets to smile and laugh and show emotion whenever he gets to talk to his family. So, that's very tough."

Ward turned off the emotions again when prosecutor Jon Dartt reminded jurors of Stacy's final moments; an attack that lasted ten minutes, where she was beaten, raped and butchered but remained conscious, crying and unable to speak because her throat was slashed.

The image was a powerful one, and it moved three female jurors to tears.

Dartt says, "The evidence in this case is overwhelming and any mitigation is so far outweighed by the mitigating circumstances, this type of murder."

It didn't take long for the jury to agree. In 45 minutes, they came back with the recommendation that Roy Lee Ward be sentenced to death.

The Payne family had heard those words once before and they were just as bittersweet. Melissa says, "Nothing will bring Stacy back, nothing. But as long as we know that he is where he should be, needs to be and won't get out, that's good. That's what we needed to know."

Stacy's aunt, Dianne Litkenhus, says her family owes this victory to a talented counsler, "We wouldn't be here today if we didn't have a prosecutor who is not only brilliant and talented but also caring." Stacy's mom, Julie Payne, couldn't agree more, "I have the same sentiments. Thank god for family because we couldn't have done it without them and we will as a family stay strong for Stacy."

The prosecution successfully argued three aggravating circumstances: that Ward tortured and mutilated Stacy while she was still alive, that he intentionally killed her after raping her and that he did so while on probation for another felony.

Just one of those factors would have been enough to make this a death penalty case. Here, there were three, so the prosecution had a very strong case. The judge is required to follow the recommendation. Final sentencing is next month.

Update, 12pm Fri: A jury deliberated for less than 45 minutes Friday before sentencing Roy Lee Ward to death for the rape and murder of Stacy Payne of Dale six years ago.

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Rachel Beavin

Testimony continues in the Roy Lee Ward sentencing hearing.

The Leopold, IN man pleaded guilty to raping and murdering 15-year-old Stacy Payne 6-years-ago.

He was facing a second trial, after the Indiana Supreme Court overturned his first conviction, due to pre-trial publicity.

Ward could have had a new trial, but decided to plead guilty to rape and murder instead. So a jury isn't deciding if he's guilty or innocent. They're determining his sentence and the death penalty is still an option.

Because of the pre-trial publicity, three men and nine women from Clay County, who likely have never heard of Ward until now, are deciding his fate.

About a dozen friends and relatives of the Payne family sat through the graphic testimony in judge Robert Pigman's courtroom.

Since Stacy died in a Louisville hospital, it was a Kentucky Deputy State Medical Examiner who performed her autopsy.

Donna Hunsaker drew diagrams and showed pictures of the various injuries Stacy suffered in her Spencer County home on July 11, 2001.

Hunsaker showsed vaginal cuts and bruises from sexual assault, a gaping wound to her neck so deep it slashed her windpipe and jugular vein and a cut that went from her abdomen all the way around to her back that nearly cut the 15-year-old in half.

It was that image that visibly shook a few of the female jurors, and caused Stacy's Aunt Dianne Litkenhus to lower her eyes.

She said during the first trial, she and her relatives avoided as much of the physical evidence as possible. This time, they're seeing much more of it which makes these proceedings tougher to deal with in some ways.

Litkenhus didn't want to talk on camera for fear of the kind of publicity that landed them all back in court a second time.

For his part, Roy Lee Ward sat expressionless in the courtroom and smiled weakly when we asked him if he thought the jury would spare his life.

Spencer County Prosecutor, Jon Dart, has put on a quite a compelling case. Wednesday, defense attorneys will try to convince the jury to show mercy on Ward.

They're expected to call his mom and previous employers to testify about his rotten childhood and mental illness.

The sentence hearing is expected to wrap up Friday, when the case will be handed over to the jury.

New Media Producer: Amanda Lents

Testimony's underway in the sentencing of a Leopold, Indiana man who admits killing a 15-year old girl.

Roy Lee Ward was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to death for killing Stacy Payne in her Dale home. That conviction was overturned because of pre-trial publicity.

Then, a week before his second trial was set to begin, Ward pleaded guilty. A jury's hearing testimony and will determine if Ward gets sentenced to death a second time.

Testimony is expected to last most of the week.