Robert Van Hook was executed by lethal injection at 10 a.m. this morning for the brutal murder of a gay man in 1985.
He is the 56th person to get the death penalty in Ohio since the state legalized it in 1999.
Van Hook was accused of killing David Self, who he met at a gay bar in Cincinnati. Prosecutors said they talked for a few hours and then went back to the victim’s apartment, where Van Hook strangled him, stabbed him several times in the neck, cut open his abdomen, and stabbed his internal organs.
Self was 25-years-old when he died. He was found by a neighbor, disemboweled and with a cigarette butt and a paring knife in his torso.
Van Hook argued for years that his lawyers were incompetent at his original trial. He did not say that he didn’t commit the murder, but that he had a difficult childhood which involved sexual abuse and undiagnosed mental illness.
He also claimed gay panic earlier this year when he asked the Ohio Parole Board for clemency. Van Hook said that he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when Self made sexual advances towards him.
The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office dismissed Van Hook’s claims as “cynical.”
“He posed as a gay; he frequented bars that were gay and he preyed on vulnerable victims who were gay,” the office wrote in a filing, referring to Van Hook’s admission that he had been robbing gay men since he was 15.
A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said that Van Hook didn’t get much sleep last night. He spent yesterday watching TV and talking with family.
Earlier today, he received communion and performed a Buddhist chant with a friend.
Ohioans to Stop Executions demonstrated in front of the prison where he was executed this morning.
“Our thoughts are with the family of David Self, the family of Robert Van Hook, and those tasked with carrying out another state-sanctioned execution,” said Kevin Werner, an anti-death penalty activist.