Oregon trucker faces execution in 1991 Ohio murder

CINCINNATI (AP) — A Bible taken from an Ohio victim who was shot and robbed during a multistate killing spree helped tie an Oregon trucker to the crime and send him back to a death-penalty state.

Joseph Daron Jr. had the Bible with him when he picked up John Fautenberry, who was hitchhiking east of Cincinnati. Daron offered to drive 10 miles out of his way to leave Fautenberry at a spot on Interstate 71 where he’d be more likely to get a ride to Columbus.

Prosecutors said that fit a pattern in which Fautenberry took advantage of people’s kindness to him, killing four men and a woman in four states within five months.

Fautenberry, 45, has said he killed repeatedly because he had a rotten childhood, drank heavily for several years and suffered a brain injury in the Navy.

He faces execution Tuesday for murdering Daron, 46, of Milford, on Feb. 17, 1991.

Investigators said Fautenberry shot Daron twice with the same .22-caliber handgun he used to kill a man a few days earlier at a New Jersey truck stop as he traveled from Connecticut to Cincinnati.

Court records show that Daron pleaded for his life before Fautenberry shot him, took Daron’s vehicle, cash, credit cards and Bible and threw his body into a wooded area near the Ohio River.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to delay Fautenberry’s execution, upholding a lower court ruling that says Fautenberry is not entitled to a government-funded neuropsychologist to help prove that he killed because of brain damage.

Fautenberry’s court-appointed attorney, Dennis Sipe had asked the appeals court to appoint an expert in brain damage to present Gov. Ted Strickland with evidence that Fautenberry suffered brain damage as a child and in the Navy.

Sipe said Friday he planned to refile his request with the U.S. District in Columbus for money to hire a neuropsychologist to bolster another clemency petition.

As a truck driver, Fautenberry traveled widely and left victims on both coasts, as well as in the Heartland. He confessed slayings in Alaska, Oregon, Ohio and New Jersey.

Fautenberry gave up his right to a trial by jury in Cincinnati and pleaded no contest July 23, 1992, to two counts each of aggravated murder and grand theft and one count of aggravated robbery.

He was sentenced to death Sept. 16, 1992.

During a hearing to determine the sentence, Fautenberry made an unsworn statement in which he described physical and emotional abuse he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father and stepfathers.

He said he began abusing alcohol and drugs in high school, and that longtime abuse led to his discharge from the military and contributed to everything “falling apart” in November 1990, just before his killing spree. He said he was sorry for the person he had become, and he later asked the Ohio Supreme Court to spare his life so he could work with children who were abused.

In April, the Ohio Supreme Court set an execution date of July 14 for Fautenberry to die by lethal injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.

Fautenberry asked the Supreme Court in June to delay a clemency hearing for six days to allow his lawyer more time to prepare. The Ohio Board of Parole met anyway and voted unanimously to recommend that Strickland deny clemency, which he did on Wednesday. Fautenberry declined to be interviewed by the board.

Sipe, described Fautenberry’s demeanor Wednesday as subdued.

Family members of four of Fautenberry’s victims attended his clemency hearing. They declined to talk to reporters and there are no listed phone numbers for Daron’s relatives in the Cincinnati area.

Daron’s daughter, Rachel Daron, now 22, was 4 years old when he was murdered. She told the board she was denied every girl’s dream of having her father walk her down the aisle when she married, and that Fautenberry did not deserve to live.

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