The state of Ohio is preparing for its first execution in many years of convicted murderer Robert Van Hook on Wednesday more than 30 years after he viciously stabbed a gay man to death and mutilated his body in his Hyde Park apartment.
David Self was 25, when he was found stabbed to death and disemboweled by his neighbor in Feb. 1985.
Authorities say Van Hook met Self at the Subway Bar in downtown Cincinnati on Feb. 18, 1985. After a couple of hours, they went to Self’s apartment where Van Hook strangled the 25-year-old Self to unconsciousness, stabbed him multiple times in the neck and then cut his abdomen open and stabbed his internal organs, according to court records. Van Hook stole a leather jacket and necklaces before fleeing, and smeared his own bloody fingerprints to hide his identity from police,
Previous attorneys representing Van Hook attempted a “homosexual panic” claim in his defense, or the idea that self-revulsion over sexual identity confusion contributed to a violent outburst. Van Hook’s current lawyers say that was misguided, and overlooked his diagnoses of borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from his childhood..
Prosecutors dismissed the idea as nonsense, saying Van Hook made a practice of luring gay men to apartments to rob them and made note to mention that Van Hook has an extensive history of violence while incarcerated, including stabbing a fellow death row inmate in November.
Self’s family support the execution, telling the parole board last month that their slain loved one is missed every day. Self’s sister, Janet Self, said her brother had been reduced over the years to “a gay man in a bar,” when he in fact he was so much more.
While separate federal courts have ruled in favor of a retrial for Van Hook, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in 2009.
In May, the Ohio Parole Board voted against clemency for Van Hook, now 58.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also rejected his request for clemency without comment.