Donald Palmer is scheduled to be executed at 10 am EDT, on September 20, 2012, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. Palmer is convicted of killing Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo along the side of County Road 2 in Belmont County, Ohio, on May 8, 1989. Palmer, now 47, has spent the past 23 years on death row.
On May 7, 1989, Palmer, along with his sister Mildred “Angle” Patterson and Edward Hill, drove from Columbus, Ohio to Belmont County, Ohio in Hill’s brown Dodge Charger. On May 8, Hill and Palmer drove out past the residence of George Goolie who had dated Palmer’s ex-wife, Cammy. Cammy was Hill’s sister. Allegedly, Hill and Palmer were going to rob George or burglarize his residence. In February 1989, George’s house had been robbed and George had asked his friend, Charles Sponhaltz to check on the house when he drove by.
Around 5 pm on May 8, Hill’s vehicle collided with the back of Charles’ white pick up. There was no damage to either vehicle. However, Palmer got out of the vehicle he was a passenger in and shot Charles twice in the head. Steven Vargo was a passing motorist who stopped to see if he could help. When Steven got out of his vehicle, Palmer shot him twice in the head as well.
Palmer and Hill placed Charles in the back of his truck and abandoned it in a field near the scene of the crime. Steven and his vehicle were left at the scene of the crime. Matthew Rutter saw Charles’ white pick up driving quickly in the opposite direction of the crime scene, followed closely by a brown Dodge Charger. Matthew then came upon Steven’s body and his abandoned car. Matthew tried to help Steven and when he did not respond, Matthew called the police. Charles’ body and truck was discovered seven tenths of a mile away. Both bodies had also been robbed.
Prior to the murders, Palmer and Hill had been stopped by a police officer who verified that Hill was the owner of the truck. After the murders a description was given of the truck and the police officer recognized it as likely being the same vehicle.
Police found Palmer and Hill on May 16, 1989, and brought them in for questioning. At first, Palmer denied knowing anything about the murders. Police then told Palmer that they had evidence linking him to the crime. Palmer confessed to the murders and gave the police a detailed account of what happened.
Palmer claimed to have accidently shot Charles as he attempted to break up a fight between Charles and Hill. Palmer then claimed to have shot him again to make sure he was dead. Palmer then admitted to shooting Steve because he was afraid Steven might have witnessed something. While in police custody, Palmer admitted numerous times to killing Charles and Steven, telling the story many times.
During his trial, Palmer testified that he never meant to kill Charles or Steven. The murders occurred in such a short period of time that he never had time to stop and think about what he was doing. However, Palmer denied telling police he shot Charles a second time to make sure he was dead. He also denied telling police he shot Steven because he thought he was a witness.
Edward Hill was also tried and found guilty on two counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of aggravated murder. He is serving a sentence of 35 years to life in prison.
The Forgiveness Foundation has recently received a letter from Donald Palmer. We have learned that while Donald was raised in a Protestant Church, he never had a relationship with his Lord and Savior until he entered death row. Donald has accepted his punishment; “I am guilty of murdering two men, destroying two families, and failing my own. My punishment is just.” Donald does not know why he committed the murders.
Donald also has several prayer requests, which we would like to pass along. Donald has requested prayer for Valerie Vargo, Shirley Vargo, Kathryn Vargo, Charles Vargo, Crystal McNamara, Tammy Morelli, Shirley and Russell Westling, Ricky Westfall, Frank Sponhaltz, Tiffany Nameth, Charles Sponhaltz, Jr., Sharon Pratti, and Marjorie Sponhaltz. These are all family members of the two men he murdered. Donald is filled with remorse and sorrow for the crimes he has committed.
Additionally, Donald asks to pray for a friend of his, Fred Mundt. Fred was a childhood friend of Donald’s brother. Fred had an abusive step-father and would often hide out at the Palmer house. Donald was surprised and saddened to learn that Fred is also on death row and has been since 2004. Donald has also informed The Forgiveness Foundation of some special needs for Fred, which, with your help, we will meet.
Please pray for Valerie Vargo, Shirley Vargo, Kathryn Vargo, Charles Vargo, Crystal McNamara, Tammy Morelli, Shirley and Russell Westling, Ricky Westfall, Frank Sponhaltz, Tiffany Nameth, Charles Sponhaltz, Jr., Sharon Pratti, and Marjorie Sponhaltz. The next weeks will be especially hard on the families of Charles Sponhaltz and Steven Vargo. Please pray for Fred Mundt, a non-believer, as we minister to him. Donald suggests that we shower him with Christian love. Please also remember Donald and his family in your prayers as they deal with their own hardships.