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Will you have a fitful night of sleep if Dennis McGuire dies?

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POSTED January 16, 2014 1:30 a.m.

Joy Stewart was 22-years-old.

She along with her husband Kenny were expecting their first child.

Kenny had left for work as a truck driver on the morning of Feb. 11, 1989. It was the last time he saw his wife alive.

Joy went to a neighbor’s for breakfast in the Ohio community of West Alexandria and then over to a friend’s home. It was there that Dennis McGuire had been hired to clean ice from rain gutters.

The next day Joy was found in nearby woods by two hikers.

Authorities said she had been stabbed twice. First in the left collarbone and then in the throat. She was alive when the fatal thrust of the knife cut through her jugular.

Joy had also been raped.

McGuire had been arrested the next month in connection with another crime when he told deputies he knew who killed Joy. He implicated a friend with a number of specific details that authorities had never released.

As the investigation proceeded DNA evidence made it clear that the friend McGuire implicated did not rape Joy nor did it connect the sperm found on her with her husband. The only person the DNA implicated was McGuire.

McGuire’s guilt has never been in question.

Even the various appeals filed on his behalf have never tried to claim he was innocent.

McGuire, with any luck, will take his last breath today.

His attorneys have filed a last minute appeal in federal court.

One point was that his original lawyers were not allowed to present information about his chaotic childhood of abuse and neglect at his trial.

The filings contend McGuire was so malnourished as a child that his stomach was swollen and distended. He also allegedly had to frequently steal food for himself and his sister.

So how does malnourishment as a child become a precursor that essentially “dooms” an individual to rape and murder?

That argument is downright reasonable compared to the other point made in the appeal.

His attorneys said McGuire fears he would experience “agony and terror” from the state’s untried drug combo that will be used for his execution.

The reason? It’s because he suffers from sleep apnea. There is a real quick way the state could cure him of that problem.

His attorneys found an anesthesiologist who argued because of the sleep apnea Ohio’s planned use of the intravenous drug combo of a sedative (midazolam) and a painkiller (hyrdomorphone) he stands a chance of getting air hunger.

Supposedly air hunger will cause McGuire great terror as he strains to catch his breath, the anesthesiologist testified.

This would last for a matter of seconds and certainly not for a minute. The odds are one could hold their breath longer than the time McGuire would experience any possible discomfort.

The state had an anesthesiologist who countered McGuire’s anesthesiologist’s testimony. Even if experts cancel each other out, there’s one important thing that McGuire seems to forget.

Joy certainly experienced “air hunger”. One doesn’t get stabbed in the throat without having to spend your last seconds or minutes on earth fighting to breathe.

Perhaps some of the fear when McGuire is injected comes from the fact he knows he’s going to die. Imagine what Joy felt. The odds are it wasn’t a calm time for her.

As for putting someone to sleep and then injecting them with a lethal dose of painkiller compared to what an anesthesiologist does in surgery, there’s one question that should be asked: Does this mean that the anesthesiologist in question would never put anyone under for surgery who has sleep apnea? Of course that’s not the case.

A person going into surgery has apprehensions including some that rise to the level of whether they will wake up from the procedure. But it isn’t something they go into knowing they are going to die. The odds are they are a bit more relaxed than McGuire will be when he’s injected.

Remember, not only had Joy been stabbed first in the collarbone but her pre-death experience was being raped. She wasn’t served a last meal, walked down a corridor and strapped onto a gurney that has a pillow. She was brutally raped on the ground.

The only time that Joy got between being sentenced to death by McGuire was the time it took him to withdrawal the knife from her body after it struck her collarbone to the time he plunged it into her throat.

McGuire was convicted and sentenced to death back in 1994. He’s had 20 years of being able to interact with loved ones and having the luxury of breathing even if it included fitful breaths at night due to sleep apnea.

Joy and her unborn child deserved to live.

McGuire doesn’t.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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