Steve Edward Roach

Executed January 13, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Virginia

6th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
604th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
2nd murderer executed in Virginia in 2000
75th murderer executed in Virginia since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Steve Edward Roach

W / M / 17 - 23

Mary Ann Hughes
W / F / 70


70 year old Mary Ann Hughes was found dead December 3, 1993, in the doorway of her home outside Stanardsville. Roach was a friend of Hughes' sister, Mamie Estes, and frequently helped the elderly woman by chopping wood and cutting the grass. He even visited Hughes to play Yahtzee. She was a sweet old lady whose door was open to everyone. But that didn't stop Roach from killing her. Hughes was standing in the front door of her home, and was killed by a single shotgun blast to the cheek. Her body was discovered the next day. Several weeks before the murder, Roach and two of his friends had been firing a shotgun at his home. When Hughes was shot, Roach took her car, a 1981 Buick Regal, and fled the state, traveling to North and South Carolina. Police say that on Dec. 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use the dead woman's bank card at an automated teller machine in North Carolina. A videotape taken at the ATM was introduced as evidence. On Dec. 5, 1993, South Carolina highway patrolmen spotted the Buick speeding and attempted to stop the car, but the driver escaped into the woods. After turning himself in on Dec. 6, 1993, Roach gave an audiotaped confession in which he stated that he shot Hughes and took her car and purse. Roach, who was 17 at the time, said he didn't know why he killed Hughes.

Roach v. Com., 468 S.E.2d 98 (Va. 1996) (Direct Appeal).
Roach v. Director, Dept. of Corrections, 522 S.E.2d 869 (Va. 1999) (State Habeas).
Roach v. Angelone, 176 F.3d 210 (4th Cir. 1999( (Habeas).

Internet Sources:

Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Steve Roach

In April 1993, Steve Roach was convicted of the capital murder of Mary Ann Hughes. He was 17 at the time of the crime. He had been raised by both of his parents, however during his childhood they separated and got back together on four distinct occasions. Roach's father had many health problems while Roach was growing up, and often his father took medication which would cause him to experience mood swings. During the occasions that he and his wife were separated, Roach's father would drink and have numerous affairs, often bringing women home with him. Roach and his siblings were often home to witness their father's actions. Roach's parents took him out of school at 14 so he could work around the house doing odd jobs while looking after his brothers.

Other people who testified for Roach stated that he had always helped people out, often doing different jobs for his neighbors and relatives, including the victim Mrs. Hughes. In addition, Roach also was active in the church, volunteering to paint it and work at a children's camp. Roach's probation officer testified that his family had undergone counseling sessions and that Roach was going to get his G.E.D.

A forensic psychologist, Dr. Hawk, who interviewed Roach on several occasions testified that Roach was "particularly immature" for his age. Hawk concluded that Roach had poor impulse control and "did not show very good ability in many situations to control his emotions or behavior like seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old individuals should do." Dr. Hawk attributed this immaturity to the lack of supervision and guidance in the Roach household. He believed that Roach had acted out of emotion and had displaced his anger on his close friend, Mrs. Hughes. He also testified that Roach had never committed any violent behavior previous to this act.

Roach testified that his intent upon going over to Mrs. Hughes' house was not to kill her, but to rob her. He expressed remorse for his actions, stating, "I wish I could bring her back."

During the trial Roach admitted into evidence that he had no gunshot residue on his hands, nor did his clothes have any blood on them. An expert in forensic science testified that "the fatal wound perforated one of Hughes' arteries and the pattern of blood splatters indicated that the person who had fired the gun was standing within five feet of Hughes." He also presented the fact that the shoes he was wearing on December 3 did not match the footprints at the scene of the crime. However, the trial court found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.

Currently Steve Roach is in the Federal Habeas stage and has filed in the United States District Court. He has been on death row since May 10, 1995.


Steve Roach was sentenced to die for the December 1993 death of Mary Ann Hughes. Hughes, a 70-year-old neighbor of Roach's along U.S. 33 in Greene County, was slain with a sawed-off shotgun. Although Roach confessed to the killing after the verdict, he since has claimed that he admitted to the slaying only to have his life spared. His appeals to state and federal courts failed and the Supreme Court of Virginia in April dismissed his petition to have his trial and sentence thrown out on constitutional grounds. Hughes was found dead Dec. 3, 1993, in the doorway of her home outside Stanardsville. After Hughes was killed, Roach, then 17 years old, fled south in her Buick Regal. Two days after the slaying, a trooper in the South Carolina Highway Patrol pulled Roach over for speeding. Roach eluded arrest by running into nearby woods. He later talked to his aunt, who persuaded him to turn himself in. A day later, he returned to Virginia and confessed to Greene County Sheriff William Morris. A Greene County jury sentenced Roach to death based, in part, on his threat to society. That threat was partially based on his criminal record of 2 auto thefts and a burglary. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Roach's appeal.

APBNews Online

"The Execution of Inmate 225822"

At 9:04 p.m. Jan. 13, Steven Edward Roach became the 604th person executed in the United States since 1976, the year the death penalty was reinstated. Executions have become so routine that many escape public notice or widespread media coverage. This execution was controversial because Roach was 17 years old when he murdered an elderly neighbor during a robbery. Anti-death penalty groups have questioned whether people who commit murder when they are juveniles should pay the ultimate price for their crime -- their lives. decided to focus on the Roach execution to give readers a frontline look at the process. Hear Roach's last thoughts 36 hours before his death. Read an overview of the murder that took him from a small town in Virginia to the death chamber in Jarrett. Learn of the other 14 people who were convicted of murder at the ages of 16 and 17 and executed. And finally, go into the execution chamber with's reporter to witness the execution.

"Watching Steven Roach Die; Report From the Virginia Death Chamber," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(January 14, 2000) JARRATT, Va. ( ) --- Convicted murderer Steven Edward Roach had nine minutes to live. It was 8:55 p.m. Thursday night. The side door to the death chamber at Greenville Corrections Center's L Unit opened. Roach, who had confessed to the shotgun slaying of an elderly woman, moved through the doorway, escorted by guards into the death chamber. An hour earlier, Gov. James Gilmore announced he would not intervene to stop the proceeding. Roach knew then it was over.

Now, a dead man walking, he wore a light blue shirt and dark blue pants. His hair was short. He appeared calm; his lawyer would later say that he had been given Valium. Before night fell, Roach visited with his wife, brother and father, corrections officials said. Afterward, he talked with his lawyer and his spiritual adviser before walking down the short hallway from the holding cells to the death chamber. There, a dozen state lawyers, corrections officials and execution team members stood erect, waiting to witness the event.

The viewing room

The viewing room is about 30 feet wide, with a blue curtain running across its entire length. There are four large windows in front. Witnesses and reporters sit behind the windows in a separate booth to view the execution. Watching from a separate room, the family of the murder victim is never seen. The first thing condemned men see when they enter the execution room is the gurney. It is stainless steel, has a thin pad and is covered with a white sheet. Douglas Thomas, who had murdered his girlfriend's parents, died on the gurney Monday. Roach, who was Thomas' friend, had said he cried. Douglas Buchanan, who killed his father, stepmother and two half brothers, died on it in 1998. Carl Chichester, Jason Joseph, Dennis Eaton, Johnile DuBoise, Arthur Jenkins and dozens of others were strapped to it for the last minutes of their lives. Steven Roach, who at 17 murdered an elderly woman who lived next door, would join them.

The final steps

Appearing in the doorway and surrounded by guards, Roach took the final four steps. A reporter asked why the condemned men always walk into the death chamber meekly and don't fight the guards. "I've attended 14 executions last year and nine of the 13 in 1998 and ... we never had problems," said Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections. "In my opinion, between the attorney, the clergy and the time it has taken to finally reach this point, he's usually pretty resigned to the fact. I've seen a range of emotions, everything from complete indifference ... to seeing them cry ... but normally they are relaxed."

Strapping in

As he was laid on the gurney, Roach was engulfed by guards who blocked the view of witnesses and reporters behind the glass. Each member of the execution team was in charge of a strap to put around the inmate's hands, arms and legs. The guards moved away, exposing Roach to full view again. His head faced the witness room, but he didn't not look at anyone. He said something, but the audience beyond the glass couldn't hear what it was.

Valley of Death

Pastor Wendell Lamb, who had known Roach since he was a 5-year-old in Sunday school, stood at his side. Lamb leaned down to Roach's face, gave him a pat on the cheek and kissed him. "I said I love you and he said, 'I love you,'" Lamb said later. "I said see you on the other side, and he said, 'I'll see you there.'" Lamb said as Roach was being strapped down, the condemned man recited verses of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ..."


Suddenly, the curtains closed, blocking the witnesses' view of the chamber. A corrections official said that this is done while the medical technicians inserted two intravenous tubes into the inmate's arms. One of the tubes will serve as a backup in case the other one doesn't work. The mute witnesses waited for the curtain to reopen. There were five reporters and six volunteers who had come to watch Roach die. The witnesses said they filled out applications with the state to volunteer to watch.

Her third execution

One witness, a woman, said this was her third execution. She said she keeps coming because they are "interesting." In a pre-execution briefing by a corrections official, she asked questions about Roach, including whether he married while he was on death row and what he had to eat for his last meal. Oddly, though Roach talked freely to the press during the last few weeks, he asked that the details of his last meal not be made public. Another witness said he came to watch Roach die as a way of avenging his own son's death. He said his son was beaten to death and nobody was ever convicted of the crime. He said he had no pity for Roach. He said he deserved to die, and it was a citizen's duty to watch. "He killed a 70-year-old woman who was like a grandmother to him," he said.

Shotgunned a neighbor

Roach confessed to murdering Mary Ann Hughes on Dec. 3, 1993. Hughes, a widow who lived next door, frequently paid him to do chores for her. Roach even said he played board games with the elderly woman to keep her company. In interviews days before his execution, he said he was ready to take responsibility for the crime, but he never explained why he walked to the kindly widow's house and blasted her in the chest with a shotgun. Roach said that after shooting Hughes, he took $60 from her purse, a credit card and her car. After fleeing to South and North Carolina, he returned three days later and surrendered to the Greene County lawmen. The curtain opens.

Waiting for the final nod Roach lies on the gurney, his arms outstretched in a crucifixionlike position, strapped to two wings attached to the sides of the gurney. The two-person medical team was now behind the curtain, hidden executioners waiting for Warden David Garraghty to give the final nod to kill Roach. Roach's eyes appeared closed. He had said in an interview 30 hours before his death that he would close his eyes while lying on the gurney and then open them in heaven.

The governor had not changed his mind. The nearby red phone was silent. The warden gave a small nod. Behind the curtain, after about a minute, witnesses watched as a intravenous tube jiggled. This was a signal that the medical technicians had chosen that tube to insert a syringe and start the flow of a chemical that will put Roach to sleep. Then, the medical technician will insert a syringe that stops his breathing. The last syringe carries a chemical that will stop his heart. Roach lay on the gurney, his eyes still closed. Those in the room stood silently and watched. A monitor hooked up to Roach's chest will tell a doctor in the room when the condemned man's heart stops beating.


Several minutes go by. Roach did not move. He lay still, as if he was in a deep, peaceful sleep. "9:04," a corrections official said. Steven Roach was dead. The curtains to the execution room were closed. The execution of inmate No 225822 was over. Roach was the 604th person in the United States executed since the death penalty was re-established in 1976. He was the 75th person executed in Virginia since 1976. He also became the 15th person who had committed murder at the age of 16 or 17 to be tried as an adult and executed since 1985.

Lawyer's statement Outside the prison after the execution, Steven M. Schneebaum, who had handled Roach's appeals, stood in the cold wind and read a statement saying that Roach did not want to be remembered as a murderer or "monster." "It was important to Steve Roach that he be remembered, not just as the boy who killed Mary Ann Hughes, but also as the man who married Elasa Roach; not just as the teenager who committed a horrible crime, but also as the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer; and not just as someone who ended a life for no reason, but also as someone whose own life was ended to no one's benefit."

"Dead Man Walking in Virginia; Admits Killing; Prepares for Own Death," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(January 13, 2000) JARRETT, Va. ( -- A convicted killer just hours from being executed has admitted to the shotgun slaying of a 70-year-old widow and says he is not frightened of death because he will "wake up in heaven." In a telephone interview with Wednesday from outside the death chamber at Greensville Correctional Center, Steven Roach, 23, also said he has forgiven himself for the murder, but is ready to accept death. "I will walk in that chamber with my eyes closed. And I will lay down with my eyes closed with my spiritual adviser which will walk in there with me. And I will ask him to say a prayer not for myself but for Mary's family and for my family. And when that hour comes, I will wake up in heaven."

Roach was convicted of the Dec. 3, 1993, robbery and murder of his elderly neighbor, Mary Hughes, in Stanardsville. The victim was a friend of Roach's, who played board games with her and even mowed her lawn. Roach was just 17 years old when the murder occurred. He is scheduled for execution at 9 p.m. Thursday, and if he is put to death, he will become the 15th person who committed a murder at 16 or 17 years of age to be executed in the United States since 1976.

Clock ticking

Roach was 30 hours away from death and had been placed in a holding cell outside the death chamber in L unit, Cell 2. During a half-hour interview, Roach also said he had cried when his friend and fellow death row inmate, Douglas Christopher Thomas, was executed by lethal injection Monday and that several members of the Hughes family had written letters to Gov. Jim Gilmore urging clemency. Thomas, 26, and Roach had been transported 10 feet apart in adjoining cells as they waited to die. Thomas had also committed his crime when he was just 17 years old, killing his girlfriend's parents. "His last words to me were, 'I love you Roach. Be strong.' I knew him for about four years, and he's like a big brother to me," Roach said.

Hopes for clemency

Roach, a former Baptist youth camp counselor, said his only hope to avoid execution rests with Gilmore granting clemency. He claimed that he had been told that his case has generated the most letters of any other clemency case in Virginia. A member of Gilmore's staff said late Wednesday that the Thomas case generated 935 letters from residents, with the majority urging clemency. She also reported that so far Gilmore has received 400 letters from people urging clemency for Roach, with seven members of the Hughes family also urging that his life be spared. She said the governor had not yet made a decision on the Roach case. Roach said he believes he had a good chance of clemency because he doesn't have a violent criminal history. Prior to his murder conviction and death sentence, Roach had been charged with several car thefts and a burglary. But Roach said that he is also ready for the alternative -- lethal injection. "I'm ready to accept the consequences. ... I'm ready for the worst, and I'm ready if I get life, " Roach said.

'Enjoying' rest of life

Roach said he plans to spend the remaining hours he might have visiting with family members and enjoying himself. "I believe in God, and I put my faith in him. ... If I die I'll be in heaven. ... I'm not letting myself get down. What do I have to gain by getting depressed when I know that I'm in Gods hands and in the best hands?" Roach, who married while on death row for nearly five years, said that his wife, Elasa, had visited with him every day and that he was being strong for her and the rest of his family.

Admits he lied

In an August interview with, Roach -- despite confessing to the local sheriff and again to a jury -- had claimed that another man was with him during the Hughes robbery and killed the woman. He even provided the man's name. "The reason I confessed to it is that the sheriff made some implied promises about me getting out sooner, and the death penalty was never mentioned," Roach had said. However, one of Roach's own trial lawyers called him a "pathological liar" and said that despite an extensive probe by a private investigator, no other person named by the then-teenaged killer had ever been located nor has anyone admitted to taking part in the Hughes robbery and slaying. But now Roach admits he lied and it was he alone who killed a woman who was like "a grandmother to me." He said he admitted his guilt to members of Hughes' family. "I told them the truth about the crime ... I killed Mary Hughes. I'm truly sorry. I had a difficult time with the remorse that I feel for doing this act. I asked for their forgiveness. I tried the best way ... I did not plan this ... I did not plan to kill a loved one. [If] I could see Mary today, I would ask for her forgiveness. "She was like a grandmother to me, and at first I could not forgive myself," Roach said.

'I don't know why this happened'

Roach said that he had been with two members of the Hughes family the night of the murder and then left to go to Mary Hughes' house to "check on her." Roach was a friend of the widow, frequently mowing her lawn and playing a board game with her. Sheriff William Morris said that Hughes was a beloved member of the community who used to pay the unemployed Roach money for helping her. "On the way over 200 yards away ... nothing was going through my mind that I would kill Mary," Roach told "There was a lot of stress on me. My family -- mother and father -- were going through a difficult divorce, and my father was blaming me for the difficult divorce. ... My father hated me. I'm not blaming it on my father, but myself. When I knocked on that door, I did not realize I was going to kill her. "She opened the door and I shot her," Roach said. "I don't know why this happened." Roach then stole $60 and a credit card from Hughes' purse and her car and headed to North and South Carolina. He returned to Virginia and surrendered three days later.

"I Killed Mary Hughes; Brutal Crime Put Teen on Death Row," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(January 12, 2000) JARRETT, Va. ( -- For murdering and robbing an elderly neighbor, Steve Roach got $60 and a credit card from her purse, an old Buick from her driveway and a date with the executioner from the state. He was just 17 years old when he confessed to pointing a shotgun at Mary Hughes, 70, a next-door neighbor in the small town of Stanardsville, and firing a blast into her chest. Several times he tried to lie his way out of the murder by claiming another person who was with him during the robbery had actually pulled the trigger, prosecutors said. But when the local sheriff questioned his story, Roach thought that by finally confessing, he would get a chance to get out of prison someday.

Less than five years later, Roach, once a counselor at a Baptist camp for youths, may get out of prison -- but not alive. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Greenville State Prison at 9 p.m. Thursday. I killed Mary Hughes," Roach told in a telephone interview 30 hours before his scheduled execution. "I did not plan this. I did not plan to kill a loved one. If I could see Mary today, I would ask her forgiveness." In a previous interview with last August, Roach claimed that he and another man had robbed Hughes and that it was this other man who had killed her with a shotgun blast. This led one of his lawyers to say that Roach was a "pathological liar."

No 'late-breaking evidence'

Last year, Roach had won a temporary court reprieve from that death warrant after his appeals lawyer, Steven Schneebaum, argued that his parents were not properly notified that he was to be tried as an adult. The courts later rejected all legal arguments, and Roach, barring clemency from Gov. Jim Gilmore, was to become the 15th person who had committed murder at the age of 17 or younger to be executed in the United States since 1976. Two of those executions took place in Virginia. Schneebaum said the fact it took less than five years to bring his client to the brink of execution was probably a combination of new laws that speed up death penalty appeals and legal issues that the courts had no trouble resolving. "We didn't ask for a new trial because there was no late-breaking evidence," Schneebaum said. "We didn't question his guilt. The legal issues were resolved quickly."

Does he deserve to die?

But Roach's lawyers argue that he does not deserve to be executed. The reason? Before he murdered Hughes, he had no history of violence and was "not dangerous." A jury had sentenced him to death on the basis of his future dangerousness. Schneebaum said that since capital punishment was reinstituted in Virginia in 1977, "no defendant sentenced to death on the basis of future dangerousness has had anywhere near as scanty a record of criminal violence as Steve Roach." In arguing for Roach's life to be spared, Schneebaum said that in all the cases where the Virginia Supreme Court had confirmed death sentences on the basis of future dangerousness, Roach had the least violent criminal record. Schneebaum said the other men sentenced to death had previous convictions for assault, armed robbery, threatening witnesses, illegal firearms possession, narcotics violations, abduction, attempted murder and assaulting police officers. Court records show that Roach had twice been convicted of grand larceny of automobile. One came in May 1993 and the second in August 1993. Schneebaum said that the thefts were mostly "joyriding" by Roach. Roach was also arrested in June 1993 for breaking and entering and grand larceny arising out of a burglary. He had ransacked a home and stole a .357 Magnum pistol. He was on probation at the time of his death sentence.

Teens on death row Anti-death penalty advocates argue that Roach was not old enough to vote when he murdered but old enough to be executed, thus making him one of the few killers put to death in the United States for crimes committed as a teenager. He is one of about 75 people across the United States who, at the time they committed murder, were under the age of 18 and are now on death rows. The so-called juvenile death penalty has sparked protests by Amnesty International, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association and the United Nations. They say that the United States is one of the few countries that executes offenders for crimes committed as juveniles. If Roach had committed the murder in New York, Ohio, Connecticut, California or 11 other states, he would not have been eligible for capital punishment. Those states and the federal government require the person who committed the murder to be at least 18 years old. But Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming will allow persons 16 years or older to be subject to the death penalty.

High court approves death for teens

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled in a Kentucky case that that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for crimes committed at age 16 or 17. In 1988, the high court had barred the execution of offenders age 15 or younger at the time of their crimes, saying it was unconstitutional. But in Florida, which traditionally ranks near the top in executions, the state Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that executing a person who committed murder at 16 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Florida constitution. The court said that in three other cases where 16 year olds had been sentenced to death, the sentences had been overturned. The ruling effectively upped the bar for a death sentence in that state to 17. With the Supreme Court upholding the right to execute 16 year olds, defense lawyers and civil rights advocates have attempted to use a United Nations treaty to pressure the United States into banning the execution of those who committed crimes as juveniles. These rights groups and lawyers are attempting to use a 1977 agreement in which the United signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that, among other things, prohibits executing 17-year-olds or those who committed capital crimes as juveniles. But the Senate, in ratifying the covenant, refused to agree to the ban. The courts have dismissed several cases seeking to overturn death penalty convictions based on the covenant.

The murder of Mary Hughes

Roach's fast track to the Virginia death house began Dec. 3, 1993. It was in his hometown of Stanardsville, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, that Roach-- before that nothing more than a joyriding car thief and small-time burglar who had no history of violence or drug use-- turned killer. Hughes, a widow, had been a friend of Roach and lived next door to his family. Roach was born April 10, 1976. He was one of four children, but his parents, who are now divorced, had at least 12 children between them. In court testimony, Roach's lawyers said his family was poor and dysfunctional. He had witnessed his father's attempted suicide. He was permitted to drop out of school at 14. He was immature.

'She was a sweet old lady'

Schneebaum said Roach was a friend of Hughes' sister, Mamie Estes, and frequently helped the elderly woman by chopping wood and cutting the grass. He even visited Hughes to play Yahtzee, a board game, with her. "[Hughes] was one of the very few people in the world -- Donald and Mamie Estes were two others -- who Steve Roach felt cared for and about him," Schneebaum wrote in a clemency request to the governor. "She was a sweet old lady whose door was open to everyone," said Greene County Sheriff William Morris, who investigated the murder. "She was retired after having worked at a restaurant. She did a lot more good than she got." But that didn't stop Roach from killing her, prosecutors said. On Dec. 3, 1993, Hughes was standing in the front door of her home, about five miles outside of Stanardsville, and was killed by a single shotgun blast to the cheek. Her body was discovered the next day. Morris said that several weeks before the murder, Roach and two of his friends had been firing a shotgun at his home. He said a deputy went over and actually took the shotgun to make sure it was not stolen, and then gave it back to the Roach family. He said he did so because the gun belonged to Roach's father. Morris even said that to this day, he never found out why Roach killed the elderly woman who had been his friend.

Goes on run

When Hughes was shot, Roach took her car, a 1981 Buick Regal, and fled the state, traveling to North and South Carolina. Police say that on Dec. 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use the dead woman's bank card at an automated teller machine in North Carolina. A videotape taken at the ATM was introduced as evidence. On Dec. 5, 1993, South Carolina highway patrolmen spotted the Buick speeding and attempted to stop the car, but the driver escaped into the woods. A search of the car later turned up Hughes' purse and a shotgun shell. Roach's palm print was also found on a plastic grocery bag in the car, prosecutors charged. Morris said Roach, after turning himself in on Dec. 6, 1993, gave an audiotaped confession in which he stated that he shot Hughes and took her car and purse Roach told that he didn't know why he killed Hughes. He said she just opened the door and he shot her and then stole her purse and car. Roach said it could have had something to do with him having family problems, with his mother and father separated at the time, and fighting with his father.

A pattern of lies

But in first telling the story to Morris, Roach claimed that he and another man went to the woman's house to steal money and that the other man shot Hughes. During questioning, in which inconsistencies were spotted in his story, Roach confessed that he alone shot Hughes. Morris said he has no doubt that Roach acted alone. "He was a kid who wanted more than he had and didn't want to work to earn it," said Morris. "It was a tragedy. It a shame to have this woman's life snuffed out by somebody like Steven Roach. The whole thing was based on the robbery of a small mount of money, a credit card and a car." At the penalty phase of his trial, after a jury had found him guilty of murder and was considering whether to give him the death penalty, Roach took the stand and confessed again, hoping for mercy. In sobbing testimony, Roach admitted that when Hughes came to the door of her house, he shot her, stepped over her body and took her purse.

Defense points to inconsistencies

David Heilberg, who represented Roach at his trial, called Roach a "pathological liar." He believes that even Roach's confession was a lie and that nobody will ever knew what happened the day of the murder and why he shot Hughes. Heilberg said that blood splatter evidence indicated that the woman was shot at close range. If Roach had shot Hughes, he would have had blood all over his clothing. No blood was found on Roach's clothing, and police never searched the Roach family home, he said. Heilberg and Pete McCloud, who also represented Roach at his trial, said that their client changed his story several times about what happened at the Hughes home, giving different names of people who were allegedly with him. "We were given several different accounts by Mr. Roach, with different people involved," said McCloud. "We had a court-appointed private investigator who tried to run down all the leads and any other course. We were never able to see who that person was." Dan Bouton, the part-time commonwealth attorney for Greene County who prosecuted Roach, did not return a telephone call for comment.

Was it a fair trial? Heilberg also argues that it was impossible for Roach to get a fair trial in Stanardsville, which he described in court documents as "small and insular." He also said that it is a community where everyone knows one another and the judge refused a change of venue. In seeking a mistrial, Heilberg complained in court documents that three dozen members of the Hughes' family were present every day in court, emitting sounds, gasping noises and exclamations of exasperation when evidence was introduced. During jury selection, defense lawyers said they dismissed 31 potential jurors -- an unusually high number -- for possible prejudice. One prospective juror, in the presence of others, made an outburst saying the defendant was guilty. During the trial, one juror twice fell asleep, the lawyer said.

Heilberg also complained that Morris positioned himself in front of the jury and made "facial expressions" when evidence was introduced. The sheriff also positioned 10 deputies in the courtroom, making Roach appear to the jury as being more dangerous that he really was, Heilberg charged in court documents. Morris denied the allegations that "he used his badge to influence" the jury, and questioned the strategy of the defense lawyers in attacking his office. "They choose to attack the sheriff's office ... how incompetent we were and ... running the office down," Morris said. "They had no evidence. They had to try to belittle us. Then the jury turns around and convicts this kid and they put [Roach] on the stand and he confesses again to the same jury that he killed this woman. The defense lawyers messed up.

"Those Who Died for Juvenile Crimes," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(January 12, 2000) - 14 Killers Executed for Murders Committed as Young Teens - NEW YORK ( -- One raped and murdered a 76-year-old nun. Another came up behind a Louisiana State Trooper and pumped a bullet into his brain. And another turned on a woman who had raised him, waiting in the dark for her and stabbing her to death. They were 14 teenage killers, one as young as 16, convicted of capital crimes and executed in the United States since 1985. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) says that the first reported execution of a juvenile occurred in 1642, when Thomas Graunger, a resident of the Plymouth Colony, was hanged. He had committed the crime when he was 16 years old. Since then, the DPIC reports more than 356 persons have been executed for juvenile crimes, constituting 1.8 percent of the estimated 19,200 executions that have occurred in the United States since 1608. Fourteen of the executions for juvenile crimes have been imposed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Of those 14 people, seven have been executed in Texas and two in Virginia. The other executions have occurred in Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Eight of those put to death were white, five were black and one was Latino. The following are capsule summaries of the young men executed since 1985 for murders committed at the ages of 16 and 17.

Charles Rumbaugh, Texas - At 17, Charles Rumbaugh shot and killed the owner of a jewelry store in San Angelo, Texas, in 1975. He was executed by lethal injection Sept. 11, 1985, becoming the first person 18 years of age or younger at the time of the murder to be executed in the United States since 1964. Before his death, Rumbaugh took responsibility for the murder, but added that it was no excuse for society to put him to death. "Murder is murder!" Rumbaugh wrote in a last statement. "Just as society labels me a murderer for causing the death of a human being, so must it label itself for knowingly, intentionally, premeditatedly and hypocritically causing the deaths of each and every human being throughout this country whom it has put to death."

James Terry Roach, South Carolina - James Terry Roach, 25, was executed Jan. 10, 1986, for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend in Columbia, S.C. The murders occurred in 1977, when Roach was 17. Despite pleas to spare his life from Mother Teresa, former President Jimmy Carter and human rights groups, Roach was strapped into the electric chair after all his appeals were exhausted and Gov. Richard Riley refused clemency. "To my family and friends, there is only three words to say: I love you," he said. He then reportedly gave the thumbs-up sign that he was ready to die.

Jay Pinkerton, Texas - Jay Pinkerton, 24, was executed May 15, 1986, after being convicted of the rape and murders of two Amarillo women in 1979 and 1980. He was 17 years old when he committed the crimes. Pinkerton was a butcher by trade and mutilated his victims, prosecutors said. But Pinkerton had claimed he was innocent, saying that he received ineffective counsel and a witness had lied at his trial. Prosecutors said Pinkerton broke into one woman's house, raping and stabbing her more than 30 times. He also was convicted in the 1980 rape and slaying of an Amarillo beauty queen.

Dalton Prejean, Louisiana - Dalton Prejean, 30, was executed May 18, 1990, after being convicted of the murder of a state trooper. The lawman had stopped a car Prejean was riding in. Prosecutors charged that Prejean, a passenger in the vehicle, got out of the car, came up behind the trooper and shot him in the head. He had committed the crime when he was 17 years old. Defense lawyers said Prejean had an IQ of about 71 and that he had been abandoned by his mother when he was just 2 weeks old. As a teenager, he was institutionalized and suffered from schizophrenia. He had killed a taxi driver when he was just 14 years old, was institutionalized, and was let out three years later.

Johnny Garrett, Texas - Johnny Garrett, who raped and killed a 76-year old nun, is probably best known for his last statement before being executed Feb. 11, 1992: "I'd like to thank my family for loving me and taking care of me," he said. "The rest of the world can kiss my ass." Garrett reportedly suffered from brain damage and was insane, his lawyers had argued. Pleas for clemency were made by Pope John Paul II and even friends of the nun, Sister Tadea Benz, who was killed at an Amarillo convent in 1981. Then-Gov. Ann Richards, at the urging of the Pope, did delay Garrett's execution for 30 days, but the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 17-0 to carry out the sentence.

Curtis Harris, Texas - Curtis and Danny Harris had the distinction of being one of the few brother teams ever executed in the United States. Curtis Harris, 17 at the time, and Danny Harris, 18, were convicted of beating and robbing a motorist who had pulled off the road to help them with their disabled vehicle. The crime occurred in 1978 in Brazos County. Danny Harris, 32 when he was executed, had held the motorist down on the ground, while Curtis beat him to death with a tire iron, prosecutors charged. Curtis Harris was executed July 1, 1993, and his brother was put to death at the end of the month. Frederick Lashley, Missouri - Frederick Lashley, 29, was executed July 28, 1993, for stabbing to death the woman who raised him. He was 17 years old at the time of the crime. Lashley was convicted of murdering his foster mother while he was under the influence of drugs. Court testimony revealed that Lashley had been abandoned as a child, had started drinking alcohol at the age of 10 and had been suicidal, requiring psychiatric care from an early age. Lashley was the youngest person on Missouri's death row when he was sentenced to die for killing Janie Tracy, 55, in St. Louis in 1981. Tracy was Lashley's cousin, having raised him since he was just 2 years old. Lashley told police that he waited in a dark room to jump her, first smashing the victim over the head with a pan and then stabbing her. His lawyers attempted to save his life, arguing that he had suffered brain damage as a child and was high on PCP at the time of the murder.

Ruben Cantu, Texas - Ruben Cantu, 26, was executed Aug. 24, 1993. At the age of 17, Cantu, a ninth-grade dropout, shot two men who were guarding an empty house in San Antonio. One of the men died; the other survived and identified Cantu as his attacker. Cantu claimed he was not in San Antonio at the time of the Nov. 8, 1984, shootings. A 15-year-old accomplice was given 20 years in prison.

Chris Burger, Georgia - Chris Burger, 33, was executed Dec. 7, 1993, after being convicted of the 1978 murder of a Fort Stewart soldier who was moonlighting as a cabdriver. Burger became the first person who killed as a minor to be executed by the state in 36 years. Burger, then 17, got drunk and ran out of money. He and another soldier then robbed and sodomized the moonlighting cabbie, locked him in the taxi's trunk and rolled it into a water-filled pit, where the victim drowned. Burger's accomplice also was executed. Burger's supporters described him as a frightened, confused, lost man who had been abused as a child.

Joseph Cannon, Texas - At the time of his execution at the age of 38, Joseph Cannon had been on death row for more than half his life. He had been sentenced to die for shooting and attempting to rape Anne Walsh, a 45-year-old attorney and mother of eight in September 1977. The crime occurred in San Antonio. He was executed April 22, 1998, despite claims that he was diagnosed as brain-damaged and schizophrenic. He had never received medical treatment. Cannon, 17 at the time of the crime, was a juvenile criminal and runaway from Houston. Prosecutors said he was facing a prison sentence for burglary unless he found somewhere to live. Walsh, an attorney whose brother had represented Cannon, asked her to take the boy in. She did. Cannon later told police that he had been drinking and taking drugs on Sept. 30, 1977, when he shot the victim six times and then tried to rape her.

Robert Carter, Texas - Robert Carter was sentenced to death in 1982 for the fatal shooting of a cashier in a Houston gas station during a robbery. He was 17 years of age at the time and had no criminal record. Carter also had confessed to killing a man in another robbery five days earlier. His lawyers described him as being abused as a child and having suffered head injuries and being semiretarded. However, he was executed May 18, 1998.

Dwayne Allen Wright, Virginia - Dwayne Allen Wright, 26, was executed Oct. 14, 1998. In October 1989, he murdered a woman when he was 17 years old. Amnesty International, a human rights group, said Wright was mentally retarded because of the abuse he had suffered as a child.

Sean Sellers, Oklahoma - Sellers, who killed his mother, stepfather and a store clerk when he was 16, was executed Feb. 4, 1999. He was 29 at the time of his execution. Sellers said he became a Christian in prison and learned to paint and write. Sellers' case was highly publicized, as human rights and anti-death penalty groups pleaded for clemency.

Douglas Christopher Thomas, Virginia - At the age of 17, Thomas was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's parents in their Middlesex home. The crime occurred Nov. 10, 1990. Prosecutors said Thomas killed Kathy and J.B. Wiseman because they wanted their daughter, Jessica Wiseman, to break off her relationship with him. She was 14 years old at the time of the murders and was confined to a juvenile detention facility until she was 21 years old. He was executed by lethal injection Monday.

U.S. News & World

"Death Be Not Proud; The youngest inmates on death row prepare to die for their crimes," by Jeff Glasser.

(January 17, 2000) SUSSEX I STATE PRISON, VA.– Dressed in baby-blue coveralls, the eighth-youngest inmate on Virginia's death row says he is too young to die. Steve Roach, 23, was 17 years old when he killed Mary Ann Hughes, a 70-year-old grandmother, in rural Stanardsville, Va., with a shotgun blast to her chest. Since a jury sentenced him to death in 1995, the murderer claims he has dedicated his life to redemption. He has apologized to the victim's family and community, studied the Bible, married, and written letters to wayward juveniles. "I know what I did was wrong," Roach said in a jailhouse interview 14 days before his planned January 13 execution. "I put the blame on myself. But I am not the same person as I was then."

Roach is one of three teenage killers in Virginia and Texas scheduled to die this month, an unprecedented number of juvenile executions that has human rights groups howling and law-and-order enthusiasts applauding. The latest death penalty debate pits those who believe the four young men were terribly misguided youths from troubled families who deserve another chance against those who feel they are budding superpredators who must pay the ultimate penalty.

Americans find themselves in a strange–and lonely–position on the juvenile death penalty. The United States is the only nation in the world since 1997 known to have executed inmates who committed crimes while under the age of 18. Earlier in the decade, five other countries–Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen–killed juvenile criminals. The 23 states that allow the practice executed 10 juvenile offenders in the 1990s; outside the United States, the combined total was nine.

"It puts the U.S. in an embarrassing international position on human rights," says Victor Streib, dean of Ohio Northern University's law school and a death penalty expert. When the president assails the lack of individual liberties in other countries, "They say, 'But you executed your children.' " Death penalty proponents counter that a killer's age is irrelevant. "The word 'juvenile' is bantered about in an effort to create an illusion that a defenseless, helpless, innocent small child will be executed by the state. Nothing could be further from the truth," says Dianne Clements, president of Justice for All, a victims' rights group.

The United States has a long history of executing young murderers. The first known execution of a teenager took place in 1642, in Plymouth Colony, Mass., when 16-year-old Thomas Graunger was hanged for having sex with animals. The youngest to die for his crime within the past 100 years: 14-year-old George Stinney, a youth killed in 1944 for murdering two girls in South Carolina. In all, 357 Americans have died for murders they committed as kids–13 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Another 70 sit on death row.

Troubled beginnings. The three prisoners who face imminent death (a fourth, Anzel Jones in Texas, last week received a delay pending federal court appeals) all share troubled family backgrounds, struggled in school, and started out committing lesser crimes. In the most extreme case, Glen Charles McGinnis, who turns 27 this week, grew up in Houston, the son of a prostitute hooked on crack. His stepfather raped him, beat him with a baseball bat, and burned him with sausage grease. A school dropout and runaway at age 11, McGinnis was a chronic shoplifter and auto thief before he robbed and killed Leta Wilkerson, a 30-year-old laundry clerk, in Conroe, Texas, when he was 17.

At his trial, McGinnis's attorneys portrayed their client as a neglected, sexually molested boy who could be rehabilitated with a long prison stay. The jury didn't buy it. "Some kids have it tough, but a lot of kids still manage to come out on top, and they don't kill," says David Newsum,Wilkerson's then brother-in-law. It's unlikely McGinnis will get any sympathy from Texas Gov. George W. Bush, either. The GOP's top presidential contender supports the death penalty for murderers 17 and older but opposes proposals to lower the age.

In Virginia, Douglas Christopher Thomas was 17 when he fatally shot the parents of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Jessica Wiseman, after they forbade the young lovers to see each other. A federal judge wrote that "[T]he record strongly supports the conclusion that it was Jessica Wiseman who wanted her parents killed and who instigated Thomas to carry out her wishes." Yet, Thomas received the death sentence; Wiseman, because of her age, was sent to juvenile detention until her 21st birthday. She was freed in 1997. "Me being executed and her walking around, I don't see any fairness in it," Thomas told U.S. News 11 days before his January 10 execution date. Maybe not. But there's a reason. "He got the maximum under the law at that time. She got the maximum under the law," says prosecutor James H. Ward Jr. The Supreme Court effectively set 16 as the minimum age for a death sentence in 1988 in Thompson v. Oklahoma. "[I]t would offend civilized standards of decency to execute a person who was less than 16 years old at the time of his or her offense," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote. The court found that "inexperience, less education, and less intelligence makes the teenager less able to evaluate the consequences of his or her conduct."

Disturbing. Federal and state courts in Virginia and Texas have reviewed the Thomas, McGinnis, and Roach cases and found their death sentences within the boundaries of the law, if disturbing. Federal Judge Samuel Wilson, in an opinion rejecting one of Roach's appeals, mentioned four separate times that he was troubled by the finding. "[T]his court might not have reached the same conclusion" as the jury, Wilson wrote. But he refused to alter the sentence, noting that he could not substitute his reactions for those of the Greene County jurors.

Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, during the oral arguments of another appeal, said the penalty "pushes the envelope." But she, too, left Roach's sentence in place, supporting the jury's conclusion that he posed a future threat to society based on the murder, two auto thefts, and the burglary of a gun, all in a seven-month span. "To walk over and shoot this sweet lady in cold blood is a very savage crime," says Greene County Sheriff William Morris.

In the years since his trial, Roach has enlisted an unlikely supporter in John Whitehead, the director of the conservative Rutherford Institute (which footed the bill for much of presidential accuser Paula Jones's case). "If anyone's redeemable, it's him," says Whitehead. "Why kill someone who can be profitable to society?" But Roach's only hope now is a reprieve from Gov. James Gilmore. "I just can't understand how Virginia can execute two juveniles in one week," he says from prison as his date with death approaches. "How can they say we can't be rehabilitated?"

ABOLISH Archives (Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


A man who was sentenced to die for killing and robbing a neighbor when he was 17 was executed Thursday night, 3 days after Virginia executed another man for crimes committed as a juvenile. Steve Edward Roach, 23, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center. Roach was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m. Roach, asked if he had any final words, recited the 23rd Psalm.

After the execution, Steven M. Schneebaum, Roach's attorney, released a lengthy statement in which Roach asked to be remembered "not just as the teen-ager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer." Roach wrote that he was "unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing is wrong." Wendell Lamb, Roach's spiritual adviser, spoke briefly to the condemned man and kissed him on the cheek just before the execution. Roach, who met with his wife and 2 other relatives earlier Thursday, remained calm in the hours leading to his death, Lamb said.

An hour before the execution, Gov. Jim Gilmore rejected Roach's request for clemency. Gilmore noted that Roach had been convicted of 4 felonies in the 7 months before the December 1993 slaying of 70-year-old Mary Ann Hughes and was armed in violation of his probation terms.

Amnesty International had sent Gilmore a letter asking him to spare Roach, who shot Ms. Hughes in her Greene County home before fleeing with her purse and car. "We in no way seek to excuse that crime or belittle the suffering it has caused. We seek only Virginia's compliance with international law and global standards of justice," wrote Pierre Sane, secretary general of the human rights group. In an interview last week, Roach said he "put all my trust in God. It's in his hands. I am ready to accept whatever happens and I am praying for a miracle."

On Wednesday, about 50 people gathered in front of Charlottesville Circuit Court to protest the death penalty, especially when used to punish crimes committed by juveniles. Steve Ford, a longtime anti-capital punishment activist, said Roach's crime was "heinous, but putting him to death is way out there."

Douglas Christopher Thomas, 26, was executed Monday night for shooting his girlfriend's parents in Middlesex County in 1990, when he was 17. Last November, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the convictions of Roach and Thomas, who had argued their parents weren't properly notified of hearings before their trials. The 2 men had hoped to take advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June in which another Virginia youth was granted a new trial because only his mother was notified of a hearing to transfer his case from juvenile court to adult court. Virginia law at the time required notice of such hearings go "to the parents" of the juvenile.

Roach becomes the 2nd condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in Virginia and the 75th overall since the state resumed executions in 1982. Roach also becomes the 6th condemned prisoner to be put to death this year in the USA and the 604th overall since America resumed capita punishment on Jan. 17, 1977.


USA /Virginia: Steve Edward Roach, aged 23 (December 13, 1999) Steve Edward Roach was executed in the state of Virginia on 13 January 2000 for a crime committed when he was 17 years old. International law bans the use of the death penalty against child offenders -- those who commit crimes when under 18 years old. Steve Roach was sentenced to death in 1995 for the murder of his neighbor, 70-year-old Mary Ann Hughes, on 3 December 1993. She was shot at her home in the small rural town of Stanardsville in Greene County.

The following is the full statement given by Steve Roach’s lawyer after he was executed on 13 January:

“Steve Edward Roach was put to death tonight by the Commonwealth of Virginia. He died at 9.04pm, Eastern Standard Time, on January 13, 2000. He was 17 years old when he committed the crime that led to his execution, and 23 when he died: the youngest person to be executed by the Commonwealth in modern times. As his lawyer, I witnessed his death. Steve asked me to make this public statement, which we discussed earlier this week at length, on his behalf.

As Steve faced death, his thoughts were first of his wife, now his widow. They were then of Mary Hughes, his neighbor and friend, and of her family and community. They were of other young people, very like Steve himself, who might have been saved from the consequences of broken youths by his participation and his example. He sincerely wished that James Gilmore, Governor of Virginia, had found it in his heart to spare his life, so that he might have been able to make some small effort to help to save the lives of others.

But the Governor chose not to intervene. So be it. Steve wanted to be certain that the reports of his death at the hands of the Commonwealth also reflected four of the beliefs that he carried with him to the very end: his love for and gratitude toward those who selflessly tried to prevent this from happening; his genuine remorse for the terrible act he committed; the confidence that in life he had secured the forgiveness of his God, even if he never quite persuaded himself that he was worthy of that forgiveness; and the certainty that the deliberate, methodical killing of children is inconsistent with the values of any civilized society. He knew that his apology, however heartfelt, would not fill the void left by Mary Hughes, but neither will his death.

Steve died without bitterness, but with a great deal of regret. He never understood what really happened in the instant in which he took the life of someone who loved him. And he was unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing people is wrong. The principal lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped. It is too late to save Steve Roach; it is not too late to save the life of the next young man or woman who, in a moment of bewildered rage or utter confusion, commits an act totally out of character in its violence and awful in its result, yet which does not place its perpetrator forever beyond the power of redemption in this life.

After the execution, his attorney released a statement on behalf of the 23-year-old:

“It was important to Steve Roach to be remembered not just as the teenager who committed a horrible crime, but also the adult who accepted responsibility for it and begged the forgiveness of those he caused to suffer. And not just as someone who ended a life for no reason, but also as someone whose own life was ended to no-one’s benefit. Steve Roach wanted us who live after his death to know that he was not a monster: He was a human being, a young man, with flaws and with promise who deserved to live. The principle lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped”.

Roach v. Com., 468 S.E.2d 98 (Va. 1996) (Direct Appeal).

Juvenile petitions were issued against Roach, who was 17 years old at the time of these offenses, charging him with capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of murder, and robbery. The Commonwealth gave notice of intent to try Roach as an adult and a transfer hearing was conducted in the Greene County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (the juvenile court). Finding probable cause to believe that Roach committed the crimes, the juvenile court advised the Commonwealth's Attorney that he could seek indictments against Roach before a grand jury. The circuit court then reviewed the transfer order and found probable cause to believe that Roach committed all three offenses.

Roach was tried as an adult on indictments charging (1) capital murder of Mary Ann Hughes in the commission of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon, in violation of Code § 18.2-31(4); (2) use of a firearm in the commission of murder, in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1; and (3) robbery by violence to the person of Mary Ann Hughes, in violation of Code § 18.2-58. At the first stage of a bifurcated jury trial conducted pursuant to Code §§ 19.2- 264.3 and -264.4(A), Roach was found guilty as charged in all three indictments. Since Roach was a juvenile at the time these offenses were committed, the jury did not fix punishment on the noncapital charges. See Code § 16.1-272.

At the penalty phase of the capital murder trial, the court struck the evidence as to the "vileness" predicate of a capital sentence, but submitted the case to the jury upon the "future dangerousness" predicate. The jury found that the "future dangerousness" predicate was satisfied and unanimously fixed Roach's punishment at death. Upon review of victim impact statements and a probation officer's report, and after conducting a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Roach in accord with the jury verdict on the capital murder conviction. Further, the court sentenced Roach to three years imprisonment for the use of a firearm in the commission of a murder and to life imprisonment for robbery.

II. THE EVIDENCE - Guilt Phase

On the evening of December 3, 1993, Mary Ann Hughes was shot and killed in her home about five miles west of Stanardsville. Hughes was standing at her open front door when she was shot. Her body was discovered the next day. The cause of death was a single shotgun wound to the chest, which caused injury to an artery, the chest wall, and the right lung. Dr. Deborah Kay, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Hughes, recovered shotgun pellets and wadding from Hughes's chest. The pellets and wadding were identified as number eight shot from a 12 gauge Remington shot shell case. The day before the killing, Roach brought a 12 gauge shotgun to a neighbor's house, and he and two friends engaged in shooting the gun in the back yard using number eight shot. The police later recovered from the neighbor's back yard number eight shot that was consistent with a 12 gauge Remington shell case.

Roach and Hughes were also neighbors. Roach helped Hughes with household chores and also spent a great deal of time visiting her. The evidence showed that Roach was familiar with Hughes's habits, and that Hughes customarily deposited her social security check in the bank within the first few days of each month. On the night she was killed, Hughes's purse, containing a Discover credit card and approximately sixty dollars in cash, was taken from her home. Hughes owned a 1981 Buick Regal, which also was taken.

In the early morning hours of December 4, 1993, Gregory Lee Giuriceo, Jr., a deputy sheriff for Nottoway County, noticed a Buick Regal parked in a parking lot of a shopping center in Blackstone. Roach was identified by Giuriceo as the operator of the car. After leaving the parking lot, Giuriceo determined that the automobile was registered to Hughes. Later in the morning of December 4, 1993, Roach attempted to use Hughes's Discover bank card at an automated teller machine in Louisburg, North Carolina. A video tape from the machine showed Roach attempting to withdraw cash from Hughes's account.

On December 5, 1993, Trooper David F. Chavis of the South Carolina Highway Patrol observed a 1981 Buick Regal automobile with Virginia plates which was being driven at 69 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. He activated the lights on his patrol car and proceeded behind the Buick. The driver of the Buick drove the automobile over to the left shoulder of the road, got out of the car, ran into the woods at the side of the road, and escaped. The driver was wearing clothes which matched the description of the clothes Roach had been seen wearing for the previous two days. Trooper Chavis impounded the vehicle and traced its ownership to Hughes. Items retrieved from the automobile included Hughes's purse, a blue jacket, a number eight load shotgun shell, and a plastic bag from a Winn-Dixie grocery store. Mahlon Jones, a fingerprint expert employed by the Commonwealth's Division of Forensic Science, identified a latent palm print from the plastic bag as matching Roach's left palm print. In addition, latent fingerprints were recovered from the automobile which matched Roach's fingerprints.

Roach made several telephone calls to his aunt, Annie Betty Dean, while he was in North Carolina and South Carolina. During those telephone conversations, she asked him to "come home and give [himself] up." On December 6, 1993, Roach contacted Sheriff William L. Morris and arranged to come that day with his father to the Sheriff's Department for questioning. At the Sheriff's Department, Morris advised Roach of his Miranda rights in the presence of Roach's father. Roach waived his rights, and both he and his father signed the waiver form. Sheriff Morris then questioned Roach out of his father's presence. Clarence Roberts, an acquaintance of the Roach family and an employee of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, was present with Morris during the interview.

At first, Roach told Morris that he and a friend, Scott Shifflett, went to Hughes's house on the evening of December 3, 1993. Roach said that Shifflett left the 12 gauge shotgun at the door, and that they entered the house and played Yahtzee with Hughes. Roach recounted that Shifflett then took the keys to the Buick Regal and the two began to leave the house. Roach said that, after he left, Shifflett ran back to the front door, fired one shot, and ran back to the Buick with Hughes's purse. According to Roach, Shifflett said that he had "fired through the roof to scare her."

Roach stated that Shifflett then jumped into the driver's seat of the Buick and they drove to North Carolina. He said that Shifflett must have tried to use Hughes's Discover credit card while Roach was in a Winn-Dixie store making some purchases. Roach also stated that he and Shifflett abandoned Hughes's vehicle in North Carolina. During the questioning, Morris related to Roach certain evidence that had already been discovered, stating, "[W]ith all these discrepancies in the story, ... I'm finding it really a little difficult to believe some of the things you're telling me." Roberts then told Roach that he knew Roach was lying and that "this is a heavy burden to carry on your shoulders for the rest of your life, if you committed this act you need to tell Sheriff Morris and you need to unburden yourself." Roach then told Morris,

I went over there and saw her counting the money and as I was leaving, I had the shotgun laying at the door and I shot her, took the money, the car and left, went to North Carolina. And I cashed--I tried to use--use the credit card but--about four times[,] but it wouldn't work. When asked where he shot Hughes, he answered, "In the chest." At trial, Roach offered evidence that there was no gunshot residue on his hands or clothes when he was arrested. He also presented evidence that no footprints at the scene of the crime matched the shoes he was wearing on December 3, 1993. In addition, Barbara Llewellyn, an expert employed by the Division of Forensic Science in the analysis of blood and body fluid, testified that, when Roach was arrested, he had no blood on his clothing, except a "very light stain" on his shirt, despite the fact that the fatal wound perforated one of Hughes's arteries and the pattern of blood splatters indicated that the person who had fired the gun was standing within five feet of Hughes.

Penalty Phase - During the penalty phase of the trial, the Commonwealth put on evidence of Roach's prior juvenile convictions. Roach had been convicted twice of grand larceny of an automobile. He committed the first larceny in May 1993 and the second in August 1993. In connection with the first automobile larceny, Roach was convicted of reckless driving and failure to stop for a police officer.

In June 1993, Roach was convicted of breaking and entering a residential dwelling and of grand larceny arising out of the burglary. Roach gained entry to the home by breaking a window. He then ransacked the house and stole a . 357 magnum pistol. In August 1993, Roach was sentenced to supervised probation and house arrest under the supervision of his parents at all times. He violated the conditions of this probation when he left the family home and carried a weapon. When Roach was placed on probation in August 1993, a psychological evaluation was ordered. The psychologist recommended that Roach and his family attend family counseling and that Roach increase his level of academic attainment. Roach had stopped attending school in 1991 when he was 14 years old.

According to John T. Frey, Roach's probation officer, Roach and his family attended counseling sessions at the regional counseling center prior to December 1993. Roach also enrolled in G.E.D. classes in the adult education program offered by Greene County. Shirley Ann Roach, Roach's mother, testified that she and Roach's father had separated and reconciled their marriage four times during Roach's childhood. She testified that she and her husband requested that Roach be released from compulsory education at age 14 because he was needed around the house to do chores and to care for his brothers. She also stated that she did not realize that possessing a weapon violated the terms of Roach's probation because the probation papers did not explicitly state this fact.

John Roach, Roach's father, testified that he was frequently absent from home. He also suffered from significant health problems. When Steve Roach was six years old, John Roach sustained a shotgun injury which required him to remain in the hospital for six months. While being treated for the gunshot wound, he contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion. The medication he received for this condition caused mood changes.

John Roach testified that, when his wife left him, life "got worse" for his children. He began drinking heavily and brought young girls into the home in order to make his wife jealous. He stated that the children were present when this occurred and that they did not receive parental supervision. He also stated that Steve Roach had free access to all the guns in the house. Several family friends and relatives testified on Steve Roach's behalf. Clarence Roberts testified that Roach had performed numerous "odd jobs" for him, and that Roach was "an excellent employee." Tammy Estes, Roach's half sister, stated that Roach often helped his neighbors, including Hughes, cut firewood, cook, and clean their laundry. Wendell Lamb, the pastor of Roach's church, testified that Roach volunteered his time to help paint and remodel the church and to work at a camp for children in the George Washington National Forest. Lamb conceded that, while Roach was doing volunteer work for the church, he was accused of stealing a watch. Roach and the owner of the watch resolved the dispute privately.

Roach testified on his own behalf. He stated that, shortly after 9:00 p.m. on December 3, 1993, he walked to Hughes's house with his shotgun. When she opened the door, he fired once, walked past her body, and took her purse and the keys to her car. He stated that he then drove to North Carolina and attempted to use her Discover credit card to get cash. Roach testified that he did not know Hughes had died until he spoke by telephone with his aunt. Roach also testified that, when he went to Hughes's house, he knew she had just received her social security check, knew the location of her purse, and intended to steal both items. However, he stated that he did not intend to hurt her, and that he could not explain "what went ... through [his] mind." He also testified that he was sorry he had killed Hughes, stating, "I wish I could bring her back."

Dr. Gary Lee Hawk, a forensic psychologist appointed by the court, testified concerning his evaluation of Roach. Hawk met with Roach on six different occasions and spoke with Roach's parents and other family members. Hawk determined that Roach was of average intelligence and had mild depressive symptoms. Hawk found no indication that Roach had suffered any brain injury. He also found no evidence that Roach suffered from any serious mental illness. Hawk testified that Roach lied to him about a number of things and gave him four different versions of what happened on December 3, 1993. He also stated that Roach was "particularly immature" for his age. Hawk concluded that Roach had poor "impulse control" and "did not show very good ability in many situations to control his emotions or behavior like seventeen-year-old or eighteen-year-old individuals should do."

Hawk related Roach's immaturity to the fact that he did not get the guidance and the structure that children need to mature. Hawk further stated that Roach's probation violation for carrying a weapon was a result of this lack of structure and supervision. He also testified that there was no pattern of violent behavior in Roach's life. Hawk stated that, in psychological terms, Roach's act of killing a friend arose from the fact that "[a]dolescents in conflict, adolescents in turmoil frequently express extremely strong and angry emotions with very little provocation ... If it's an immature adolescent, that sort of reaction is more extreme." Hawk stated that "displacement of emotion" occurs when one person or situation makes a person angry, but the feelings and anger are expressed toward someone else. Hawk stated, "Knowing that this was a woman that [Roach] was close to, and knowing that there was not an existing pattern of this sort of violent offending, and considering what he told me, it's dynamics like that [which] would explain [the murder] in psychological terms." In addition, Hawk testified that, "[i]n terms of normal development," impulsiveness diminishes and "doesn't cause problems for the person."