Executed July 6, 2000 by Electric Chair in Virginia
W / M / 33 - 39
53rd murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
651st murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
4th murderer executed in Virginia in 2000
77th murderer executed in Virginia since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Michael David Clagett
Lam Van Son
A / M / 41
Wendell G. Parish Jr.
W / M / 32
Karen Sue Rounds
W / F / 31
A / M / 34
Denise R. Holsinger, the girlfriend of Clagett, was fired from her job as a waitress at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach. In revenge, she and Clagett planned to rob the Inn. On June 30, 1994 they carried out their plan, with Holsinger taking cash from the register while Clagett shot to death Lam Van Son (owner), Karen Sue Rounds (waitress), Wendel G. "J.R." Parrish Jr. (cook), and Abdelaziz Gren (patron). Each was shot once in the head. Holsinger named Clagett as a suspect to police, and upon arrest on other charges, Clagett confessed to the killings. Clagett chose the electric chair instead of lethal injection, and as of January 2002 was the last person executed in the United States by electric chair. Holsinger, 35, was also convicted and is serving five life terms plus 23 years.
W / M / 33 - 39
Clagett v. Commonwealth, 472 S.E.2d 263 (Va. 1996) (Direct Appeal).
Clagett v. Angelone, 209 F.3d 370 (4th Cir. 2000) (Habeas).
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death PenaltyMichael Clagett - In July, 1995 Michael Clagett was convicted of four separate counts of capital murder in the commission of a robbery and one count of multiple homicide murder. He received five death sentences. Clagett was 33 years old at the time of the crimes. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Virginia vacated the sentence and conviction for multiple homicide murder, finding that the conviction was derivative of the convictions for capital murder during the commission of a robbery. The court affirmed the remaining four capital murder convictions and death sentences.
Clagett and his girlfriend, Denise Holsinger, carried out the robbery and slayings of Lam Van Son, Wendell Parish, Karen Sue Rounds, and Abdelaziz Gren at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach on June 30, 1994. The evidence at trial showed that Holsinger engineered the crime about a month after she was fired from a job at the Inn and that she urged Clagett to fire the shots while she emptied the tavern's cash register. The events occurred after a two-day drug and alcohol binge. Holsinger received five life sentences plus 23 years for her role in the crimes.
On appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia, Clagett defaulted six of his claims because they were not addressed in his brief to the court. Virginia law requires that all assignments of error must be included in a brief that may not exceed 50 typed pages or they are waived. The court further rejected five assignments of error on issues (including the constitutionality of Virginia's death penalty statute) it had decided in previous cases. Additionally, the court held that the trial court properly denied Clagett's requests for disclosure of statements from a police officer and a potential witness, and that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to refuse to strike jurors for cause. In 1997, the United States Supreme Court denied Clagett's petition for a writ of certiorari.
Michael Clagett has been on death row since October 24, 1995.
On June 30, 1994, Michael Clagett and his girlfriend, Denise Holsinger, carried out the robbery and slayings of Lam Van Son, Wendell Parish, Karen Sue Rounds, and Abdelaziz Gren at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach. The owner's 5-year-old son, asleep in a back room, was unharmed. The evidence at trial showed that Holsinger engineered the crime about a month after she was fired from a job at the Inn and that she urged Clagett to fire the shots while she emptied the tavern's cash register of about $400. Holsinger received 5 life sentences plus 23 years for her role in the crimes. 7/8/00 - Shortly after landing on death row, executed Witchduck Inn killer Michael Clagett quietly married his 1st cousin in a jailhouse wedding ceremony, court records show. The marriage was a secret Karen Elaine Sparks desperately sought to keep from her family. Reached at her Columbus, Ohio, home Friday, hours after returning from her husband's execution, Sparks, 41, said she told only four people about the 1996 marriage for fear of reprisals from family members and co-workers. ``I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't true, if our love wasn't true,'' Sparks said when asked why she married Clagett, a quadruple murderer. ``I can't explain it. There's just no way to put it into words." Clagett and his then-girlfriend, Denise Holsinger, robbed the Virginia Beach bar of $400 on June 30, 1994. Clagett confessed to shooting 4 people in the head that night and died at age 39 in Virginia's electric chair Thursday. Holsinger, 35, is serving 5 life terms.
Sparks downplayed the significance of marrying a first cousin by saying that Clagett's father and her mother "barely knew each other. They were born 14 years apart. She also said they never consummated the marriage. Prison policy forbids conjugal visits. Virginia law does not prohibit 1st cousins from marrying. The state prohibits marriages between brothers and sisters; aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews; and ``ancestors and descendants." Sparks, who said she has worked for Time-Warner for 22 years, had twice been married before, court records show. Sparks said she told only 2 close friends, a sister and Clagett's mother -- her aunt and mother-in-law -- about the marriage. ``When I first brought the subject up with my family, when I told them we were thinking about it,'' she said, "they just went off." Sparks' marriage came to light Thursday, when Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said Clagett had been visited by his mother, Iris M. Etter, and his wife. News of the marriage stunned Karen's father, Maurice Sparks Jr., who said he talked to his daughter just two weeks ago and was aware that she was accompanying Etter to the execution. He said he had no idea why she would marry Clagett. "That's a good question," he said, his voice trembling. ``I don't know what she's doing." Karen Sparks and Etter spent 2 hours with Clagett on Thursday before prison officials made them leave at 3 p.m. Reached at her Galloway, Ohio, home Friday, Etter declined to say whether she knew that Sparks was her son's 1st cousin. Etter said only that it was wrong for the state to kill her son and that his ashes had been returned to her after his autopsy. ``It was a very sad thing to me," Etter said. "I think they did a terrible thing. I think Michael would have made a really good person to go around to the prisons and talk to people."
Witnesses in the viewing room with the victims' families said they stood silently through the electrocution, except for one woman, who began to cry. Some family members were relieved. Others said the execution did nothing to ease their pain. Jim Garcia, brother-in-law of Abdelaziz "Aziz" Gren, a patron of the Witchduck Inn who was slain by Clagett, watched Clagett die. As soon as Clagett was pronounced dead, ``all the anger that built up all these years went away,'' Garcia said. "Suddenly I wasn't angry anymore." His wife, Gren's sister Fatna ``Fouzia'' Garcia, feels differently. "It doesn't bring Aziz back,'' she said. ``It doesn't bring any one of them back." Another sister of Gren's, Khadija Johnson, thought she was going to faint during the electrocution. She felt better later: "It helped me to be there. It helped me to see what I saw. For me it is a sense of relief. So much changed. I do not feel the way I did yesterday." Garcia and Johnson said Clagett's apologies just before his death fell on deaf ears. "It's not up to anybody to forgive him. If God forgives him then he's forgiven. It's not up to me or anybody else,'' Johnson said. They said the other witnesses in the room with them included Gren's nephew; Lanna Le Son, whose husband Lam Van ``L.V.'' Son owned the bar; Kevin Rounds, the husband of slain bartender Karen Sue Rounds; and two members from the family of Wendel G. ``J.R.'' Parrish Jr. Lanna Le Son forgave Clagett in a Thursday phone call approved by Gov. Jim Gilmore, according to news reports. But Friday, she told a television reporter, "I think the execution is a lot easier for him than for me. It's really sad to stand there and watch somebody dying and also feel that he deserve it." Garcia said that on the way back from Jarratt, the family stopped at the cemetery where Gren is buried to tell him that Clagett had been executed.
Michael D. Clagett, who killed 4 people in a Virginia Beach bar, was executed in the electric chair Thursday night. Clagett was put to death at the Greensville Correctional Center after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a final appeal and request for a stay. He did not ask Gov. Jim Gilmore for clemency. Clagett was pronounced dead at 9:08 p.m.
Clagett, 39, was the 2nd inmate to die in the state's electric chair since Virginia gave inmates a choice between electrocution and lethal injection in 1995. Kenneth Manual Stewart Jr. was electrocuted in 1998 for killing his estranged wife and infant son in Bedford County. Clagett watched expressionless as he was strapped into the electric chair by prison officers.
In a final statement, a weeping Clagett apologized to the victim's families. He was hit by 1,825 volts of electricity at 7 1/2 amps for 30 seconds, followed by 240 volts at 1.5 amps for 60 seconds. His body stiffened with the 1st burst. After a 5-second pause, the cycle was repeated. A Department of Corrections physician then put a stethoscope to Clagett's heart and pronounced him dead.
About 20 people conducted a candlelight vigil outside the prison, singing songs and reading Bible passages. "6 years ago, Clagett created a family of victims," said Tim Stanton of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "Tonight Virginia creates its own family of violence."
Clagett shot to death the Witchduck Inn's owner, 2 employees and a customer on June 30, 1994. Each was shot once in the head. Clagett's girlfriend, Denise R. Holsinger, 35, also was convicted and is serving five life terms plus 23 years. Holsinger had been a waitress at the tavern until she was fired before the killings. One of those killed was her replacement, Karen Sue Rounds, 31. Also killed were Lam Van Son, 41, the bar owner; Wendel G. "J.R." Parrish Jr., 32, a cook and handyman; and Abdelaziz Gren, 34, a patron.
Clagett wrote to Son's widow, Lanna Son, the couple's child, Joshua Lee Son, 11, and other relatives of the victims asking for forgiveness. Joshua Lee Son was asleep in a back room at the inn when the killings occurred. Lanna Son said the letters only convinced her that execution was just, adding that she would pull the switch to electrocute Clagett if she could.
The Rev. Charles Crismier of Richmond, who interviewed Clagett for a radio program last week, said he believes Clagett has repented. He compared him to Karla Faye Tucker, who claimed to have found God before her 1998 execution for 2 pickax slayings in Texas. Crismier said he believes the reason Clagett picked the electric chair "is more of a statement that he understands profoundly the heinous nature" of his crimes. Clagett's mother, Iris M. Etter, said she has spoken frequently with her son from her home in Galloway, Ohio, and understands the contempt people have for him. "I'd like for people to know that he is not the murderer they think he is," said Etter, 73. "Michael has found peace and he knows what he's done."
In his appeal, Clagett said jurors were not told that he would have been ineligible for parole if they had opted to sentence him to life in prison. He also said his confession should have been thrown out because it was taken by Virginia Beach police when his mind was fogged by alcohol and lack of sleep.
(Source: The Virginian-Pilot)
Fight the Death Penalty in the USA
Michael D. Clagett, 39, 2000-07-06, Virgina
A man who killed 4 people in a Virginia Beach bar in 1994 died in the state's electric chair Thursday. Michael D. Clagett, 39, was the 2nd inmate sent to the electric chair since Virginia gave death row inmates a choice between electrocution and lethal injection in 1995.
Clagett was convicted of shooting the owner of the Witchduck Inn, 2 employees and a customer. Each was shot once in the head. Clagett's girlfriend, who had been fired from her job as a waitress at the tavern before the killings, also was convicted and is serving 5 life sentences. Among those killed was her replacement, Karen Sue Rounds, 31. Also killed were Lam Van Son, 41, the bar owner; Wendel G. "J.R." Parrish Jr., 32, a cook; and Abdelaziz Gren, 34, a patron.
In a final statement before his execution, a weeping Clagett apologized to the victim's families. He had written to Son's widow, the couple's 11-year-old son and other victims' relatives asking for forgiveness. The boy had been asleep in a room at the inn when the killings occurred. Son's widow said the letters only convinced her that execution was just.
Clagett's mother, Iris Etter, said she understands the contempt people have for her son, but she said: "I'd like for people to know that he is not the murderer they think he is. Michael has found peace and he knows what he's done." Clagett becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 77th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1982. Only Texas, with 223 executions, also since 1982, has executed more condemned prisoners than Virginia. Clagett becomes the 52rd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the USA and the 651st overall since America resumed executions on Jan. 17, 1977.
(Sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)
Clagett v. Angelone, 209 F.3d 370 (4th Cir. 2000) (Habeas).
A Virginia jury convicted Michael D. Clagett of five counts of capital murder. The Virginia Supreme Court outlined the facts of the discovery of the crime as follows:
Richard T. Reed, a regular patron, arrived at the Witchduck Inn (the Inn), a tavern and restaurant in Virginia Beach, about midnight on June 30, 1994. He discovered the bodies of Lam Van Son, the Inn's owner, Inn employees Wendell Parish and Karen Sue Rounds, and Abdelaziz Gren, an Inn patron. Each victim had been shot once in the head. The Inn's cash register was open and empty. Based upon information supplied by Denise Holsinger, Clagett's girlfriend, Clagett was identified as a suspect in the killings.
On July 1, 1994, Police Officer Donna Malcolm, responding to a citizen call reporting that a man was "sleeping in the bushes," arrested Clagett for public intoxication, he was taken into custody, and he was read his Miranda rights. At the police station, Clagett was turned over to Detective Paul C. Yoakum. Clagett initially denied that he had been at the Witchduck Inn on the night of the killings. Detective Yoakum then, in a ruse, told Clagett that the Inn had security cameras and that the police could place him at the Inn on the night of the murders. Clagett then confessed to the killings: "You can fry me. Thats (sic) what I'm going to ask for when we go to court. Fry me, I'm not gonna live. I don't want the tax payers supporting me. I did it. Yeah I did it. I did it all. All by my f* * *ing self. Let that little c* * * go free. I did it all. I did it all buddy. And the worst thing was . . . Lam[, the bar owner,] was my buddy . . . . "
Clagett then explained to Detective Yoakum that he planned the robbery at the request of Holsinger, and that while Holsinger took $400 from the cash register, he used a .357 Magnum to murder the four individuals. He also described how and where he shot each of the victims, explaining that he shot one victim in the forehead and the other three victims in the back of the head. The same day that Clagett confessed to Detective Yoakum and while he was still in police custody, he confessed a second time to the killings, but this time to a television news reporter. A reporter from WTKR Channel 3 asked Clagett "Are you guilty of these charges?" And Clagett replied: "Yes. I shot every one of them."
A grand jury returned two indictments against Clagett on October 3, 1994: one charging him with robbery, use of a firearm in the commission of a robbery, four counts of capital murder during the commission of a robbery, and four counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a murder; and the other indictment charging him with one count of multiple homicide capital murder for killing all four individuals as part of the same act or transaction.
During the jury trial which spanned ten days, the prosecution presented, in addition to the two videotaped confessions, the following evidence. Clagett and Holsinger were seen with a gun on the day of the killings. Police found a .357 Magnum in Clagett's home on the morning of July 2, but a crime laboratory analyst was unable to match bullet fragments from the Inn with the gun found in Clagett's home. A medical examiner testified that only one victim was not shot in the back of the head. After the killings, the cash register at the Inn was empty. And when Clagett was arrested, he had $137.00 on his person. Holsinger did not testify at trial.
The jury convicted Clagett of all charges in the two indictments. A sentencing hearing was held on July 12 and 13, 1995. During the hearing, the jury heard evidence that Clagett had a history of brutal domestic violence against his former wife and of drug use, but that he showed great remorse for the murders during his confession to Detective Yoakum.
The Virginia Pilot Online
Opinion / Kerry Dougherty
"Pension Grab by Murderer is a Reminder We Don't Need" (January 29, 2002)
Denise R. Holsinger. Name ring a bell? No? Have a hint: Spider Woman. The ``Do-It'' Dame. The Witchduck Inn. Remember now? Holsinger was that creepy ex-waitress responsible for the bloody 1994 killing spree at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach. Four innocent people were murdered in cold blood on the night of June 30, 1994 because Denise Holsinger was angry about being fired from her waitressing job.
According to police and court records, during a two-day drug and alcohol bender Holsinger enlisted her lowlife boyfriend in a plot to seek revenge. While they were having sex, Holsinger convinced Michael Clagett that they should go to the bar, kill her ex-boss and rob the joint. They'd be the next ``Bonnie and Clyde,'' she cooed. During the hideous killings that netted the demented duo $400, Holsinger urged her scummy boyfriend on, telling him to ``do it'' while she cleaned out the cash register. Do it. Shoot the four folks -- her former boss, two employees and a patron -- in the head, execution-style.
It could have been worse. Clagett told police that Holsinger also ordered him to shoot a 4-year-old boy who was sleeping in a back room. Perhaps Clagett possessed one single shred of decency. Perhaps he was out of ammo. Perhaps he was tired of Holsinger telling him what to do. Whatever the reason, the boy's life was spared. Clagett's wasn't. He died in the electric chair in July 2000.
Holsinger pleaded guilty to murder and robbery in 1995, and was sentenced to five life terms plus 23 years in prison. Until recently Denise Holsinger was nothing more than an awful memory. Now she's back in the news. Holsinger is attempting to grab a piece of her ex-husband's Navy retirement pay. She may want mad money for the prison canteen. A lawyer for Denise Holsinger filed papers last week seeking a cut of her ex-hubby's $1,177 monthly retirement check.
Under ordinary circumstances -- if she happened to be a decent Navy wife who'd simply gotten divorced -- she'd be entitled to about $250 a month. The Holsingers married in 1984, had three children and separated in 1993. They were divorced in 1996 and Randall Holsinger retired as a petty officer first class on Aug. 1, 2000. The case has been referred to a Virginia Beach divorce commissioner for an April 2 hearing. Denise Holsinger could prevail.
That thought outrages Lanna Son, whose husband was murdered that terrible night. ``If she gets any part of that pension I'm going to consult a lawyer,'' Mrs. Son vowed. ``Not for me, I don't want her money, but to help her husband. ``Denise Holsinger will be eligible for parole on July 19, 2011.'' Mrs. Son added, ''I promise that I will meet her there at the parole board.'' In a just world, Holsinger wouldn't get a dime. It's inconceivable that a convicted murderer should be entitled to any part of a government pension.
If she is granted part of Randall Holsinger's hard-earned benefits , he should immediately sue her for child support. After all, he's raising their three children, ages 12 to 16, alone. Mike Mather, an investigative reporter for WTKR who covered the Witchduck Inn murders, says Denise Holsinger has written to him numerous times. A recurring theme in her letters is a need for money to spend in the prison canteen.
As distasteful as it may be, we've all been reminded this week of one of Virginia's most cold-blooded criminals. So let's pause for a moment to remember four innocent people. The Witchduck Inn victims: Lam Van Son, Karen S. Rounds, Wendel G. Parrish Jr. and Abdelaziz Gren. Thanks to Denise Holsinger and the late Michael Clagett, they didn't live long enough to worry about things like retirement pay.