The Killer Of Two Belmont County Men Is Executed

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The killer of two strangers in Belmont County was executed today.

Donald Palmer, 47, was given a lethal injection this morning at 10:35 for gun slayings of Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo on a rural Belmont County road on May 8, 1989.

Palmer was the second Ohioan executed this year.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the widows of Palmer’s victims, Tiffany Nameth and Valerie Vargo Jolliffe, watched his execution, along with two of Sponhaltz’s daughters, a niece and a friend of Vargo’s.

 “I want you to know I’ve carried you in my heart for years now,” Palmer said in his last statement, according to The Dispatch. “I am so sorry. I wish this could bring him back to you, but it can’t. I only hope you let the pain and hurt die with me today.”

No family members watched Palmer’s execution. His witnesses were two clergy members and a friend.

Palmer said he deserved the death penalty for his crimes.

“I killed two people. I've always accepted responsibility for the taking of their lives,” Palmer said in an interview last week. “I believe in justice and I believe that the victims, their hatred, their anger, they need to have justice.”

On May 8, 1989, Palmer was a passenger in his friend’s Dodge Charger, when the vehicle rear-ended Sponhaltz’s pickup truck because it was stopped in the middle of the road. Palmer admitted he was drunk and high on drugs and had been firing his gun out the window of the car prior to the accident.

Palmer shot Sponhaltz twice in the head without any provocation.

“When I turned around, I ran almost dead into him,” Palmer recalled. “He said, ‘What the hell?’… That's all he got to say and I shot him. I mean that could have been anyone. That could have been my own mother.”

Minutes later, Vargo drove by and pulled over to see if he could help.

“I didn't kill him because I thought he was a witness. I killed him because he was there,” Palmer said. He referred to the murders as his “postal moment.”

Palmer chose chipped ham, Velveeta cheese, wheat bread and mayonnaise, Ranch Doritos, peanut M&M's, hazelnut ice cream, a slice of cheesecake and a Coke for his last meal, The Columbus Dispatch says.