State board weighs mercy for MF man

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A Martins Ferry man will soon learn his fate as the Ohio Parole Board is preparing to announce its clemency ruling for a condemned double killer who declined to ask for mercy from the board.

Donald Palmer is scheduled for execution Sept. 20. He was convicted of fatally shooting two men in the head along Deep Run Road just north of Martins Ferry on May 8, 1989.

Palmer’s attorney David Stebbins says it’s rare for inmates to decline the chance to seek mercy but it’s a decision that must be honored if the offender is competent.

The board still could recommend clemency for Palmer to Gov. John Kasich when it issues its decision this morning.

But Stebbins says he expects the execution to proceed and doesn’t plan to file any additional appeals in the matter.

Edward Hill, drove from Columbus to Belmont County to go to the home of a man who had dated Palmer’s ex-wife, who was also Hill’s sister.

While they were driving along a road near the home, a man who had been keeping an eye on the home, Charles Sponhaltz, lightly hit the back of the pickup that Palmer and Hill were driving with his own truck and yelled at them: “What in the hell are you trying to prove?” according to Palmer’s confession to police.

Palmer then shot Sponhaltz twice in the head.

Steven Vargo, a passing motorist, stopped at the scene and asked, “What the hell did you guys do?” Palmer told police.

Palmer also shot him twice in the head.

Palmer and Hill dumped Sponhaltz’s body in a field near the scene of the killings and fled, leaving Vargo’s body in the road.

Hill was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison. The 46-year-old has a parole hearing in September 2049, when he’ll be 83 years old.