Convicted of the horrific murder of a Cincinnati man, Robert Van Hook died by lethal injection on Wednesday in Ohio’s first execution in more than 10 months, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Van Hook, 58, served a violence-plagued 32 years in prison after a death-penalty conviction for what now could be considered a hate crime. In 1985, Van Hook met David Self in a gay bar in downtown Cincinnati and went home with him. He lured Self into a vulnerable position and strangled him into unconsciousness. “He then took a paring knife from the kitchen and stabbed the victim behind the right ear, aiming the thrust upward toward the brain, accompanied by a blade-twisting movement,” said a report on possible clemency for Van Hook.
Van Hook raised the defense that he was in a “homosexual panic” when he committed the crime, but prosecutors rejected the notion. Illinois and California have outlawed the defense. In their unsuccessful bid for clemency, Van Hook’s attorneys cited his difficult childhood. “From the time of his birth until his arrest, Robert Van Hook lived in an environment that can only be described as chaos,” their report said. His mother, who had a history of mental illness, abused alcohol and drugs and became enmeshed in repeated, mutually abusive relationships. His father also drank heavily, beat Van Hook and was a virulent homophobe, the lawyers wrote. In decades in prison, Van Hook amassed a lengthy disciplinary record. It includes more than two dozen incidents, including stabbing another inmate in the face and chest and threatening to kill corrections officers. Van Hook’s execution was the first in Ohio in 2018. He was the 56th man to be executed in Ohio since 1999. Two more executions are scheduled for later this year. A total of 137 people remain under death sentences.