’91 killer’s execution brings some closure




It’s a picture of three brothers, standing by a tree, smiling.

John Ira Coleman, an Army soldier, had been home from the service for about six months. In the picture, he’s kneeling alongside his two brothers, Randy and Benny.

It was the last picture of the three together.

Shortly afterward, John Ira Coleman was shot to death as he worked at the Veterinary Co. of America in Warren one morning in June 1991. A secretary at the business, Tracey Jefferys, was beaten to death with a folding chair. And William John Everett, another employee, was shot, chased down with a truck and beaten with a stick — all at the hands of Roderick Davie, a disgruntled former employee who was fired from the company about two months earlier.

On Tuesday, Randy and Benny Coleman, holding a picture of their murdered brother, joined Everett and Jefferys’ mother and her husband in witnessing Davie’s execution.

For Randy Coleman, Davie’s death brings some closure but not any victory.

“We are a religious family,” he said afterward. “We believe that he’s somebody’s son, too. He was somebody’s father also. So we’re not cheering and high-fiving, nothing like that.”

He added, “There’s no animosity toward [Davie’s] family, not from our family anyway. There’s no hostile feelings toward one another. If anything, it should bring the families together and let us learn to love one another.”

Davie was executed by lethal injection Tuesday morning at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, the seventh inmate put to death by the state this year and the 40th since the state reinstituted capital punishment in the late 1990s.

Early Monday, Davie was transported from the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown to the Death House at the state prison.

He spent the most of the day in a holding cell just 17 steps from the death chamber, talking to family members on the phone, praying and singing.

Davie, who went by the name Abdul-Hakiym Zakiy, was allowed to have a Quran, a miswak (a twig used by Muslims for cleaning their teeth) and cap in his holding cell.

He declined lunch Monday, saying he was fasting. During the evening, he was allowed contact visits with his brother and sister-in-law.

Davie did not make a special evening-meal request, but he broke his fast Monday night with a prison-issued vegetarian meal, including vegetarian nuggets, sweet potato, cauliflower, pineapple, cookies and grape drink.

He slept briefly after 1 a.m. but spent most of the night on the phone with his mother, a daughter and a niece. He ate a snack cake and wrote a letter about 4:30 a.m., then showered and dressed in clean clothing before cell-front visits with his brother and sister-in-law.

A prison log of his activities while in the Death House noted that his visits with family went well, with Davie laughing at times. He became emotional closer to the time of his execution, however, holding hands and praying with prison chaplains.

The execution was completed without complication. Prison staff took about 10 minutes to insert shunts into veins in both arms, and Davie was pronounced dead about 10 minutes after the lethal injection was started.

For his last statement, Davie thanked his parents “for their unconditional love and support through all of this.” He thanked his daughter for “helping me become a man and change” and a niece “for holding my heart.”

He also asked family members of the victims for forgiveness, looking at each of them as he was strapped to the execution table and mentioning them by name.

“Miss Jefferys,” Davie said to the mother of one of his murder victims. “I’m sorry and don’t know if that means anything to you, but that’s from the bottom of my heart. I mean that. I’m sorry, Miss Jefferys.”

He added later, looking at Everett, “John, I hope you can let it go man and forgive me. You hear me, John?”

The victims’ witnesses watched quietly, holding hands at times. Davie turned his head and looked at them as he shut his eyes for the last time.

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