Horry County killer Stanko loses second death-penalty appeal

The Associated PressFebruary 27, 2013 

— Stephen Stanko, who prompted a nationwide manhunt after a pair of Horry County killings in 2005, has lost the appeal of the second of his two death sentences.

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence and conviction of Stanko in the death of Henry Turner.

Stanko’s attorneys argued a juror should have been disqualified from his second trial because she told the judge she knew the defendant already had one death sentence. They also said the trial should have been moved because of publicity.

The Supreme Court justices unanimously disagreed with Stanko’s attorneys, upholding an earlier death penalty ruling by circuit court Judge Steven John.

Authorities say Stanko killed his girlfriend, Laura Ling, in her Murrells Inlet home and assaulted her teenage daughter. He then drove 25 miles to Turner’s home and killed him with a shotgun.

Stanko has already lost the appeal of his death sentence for killing Ling.

Authorities say Stanko drove to the home of Turner because he knew him through Ling’s work at an Horry County library. They say Stanko killed Turner and then fled in Turner’s pickup truck.

In a manhunt that attracted national attention, Stanko eluded police for several days. Yet he made no attempt to hide, flirting with women in a downtown Columbia restaurant and claiming he was a millionaire visiting from New York.

When he was apprehended at a shopping center in Augusta, Ga., Stanko was clad in a suit and tie, still driving Turner’s truck.

He had tried to blend in with thousands of tourists in town for the Masters golf tournament, and authorities said Stanko had already persuaded another woman to let him move in with her.

Stanko was first tried for Ling’s death, with his attorneys arguing that his life should be spared because he has a brain defect and couldn’t tell right from wrong. In 2006, a jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to die.

Stanko appealed that verdict.

Attorneys had argued that he didn’t get a fair trial because the judge wouldn’t let lawyers ask potential jurors what they thought of an insanity defense. But state Supreme Court justices wrote that the jury selection process had been fair.

In 2009, jurors deliberated for just an hour before handing Stanko a second death sentence for killing Turner.

Before the deaths, Stanko received attention for a book he wrote about prison life. While serving more than eight years for kidnapping, he co-wrote “Living in Prison: A History of the Correctional System,” with the help of professors at East Tennessee State University.

Stanko was released in July 2004, less than a year before Ling and Turner were killed. Authorities said Stanko met Ling, a librarian, while finishing his book.

The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual assault, but in 2007 Ling’s daughter, Christina, asked to be identified. She told the AP then she hoped her story would help other assault victims.

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