8 June 2004 – William G Zuern Jnr

William G Zuern Jnr You’ve heard the song ‘I shot the sheriff’. If you’ve ever wondered who did the deputy, it was William G Zuern Jnr, who was executed in Ohio for his crime, on this day in 2004.

Actually Zuern’s story is nothing to do with song and he didn’t actually shoot the deputy, but hopefully it hooked you into reading this. And that brings us neatly to the murder weapon – a sharpened bucket hook.

You see, Zuern was after revenge, pure and simple. He’d been hauled in for trial after he murdered a man named Gregory Earls and he was annoyed when the jailers kept cutting short his five minutes’ worth of phone calls.

Zero degrees of separation

However, it just so happened that the deputy in question – Philip Pence – was already linked to Zuern. He had testified against his dad and he chanced to be checking the inmate’s cell for weapons when Zuern lunged at him with the hook, which had been fashioned into a dagger, and stabbed him in the chest three times.

Pence died later of fatal puncture wounds to his heart and Zuern was suddenly up for double murder.

Yet, this was not the only show of defiance – according to the ‘Cincinnati Post’, he also took two wardens hostage, who he then threatened to kill. There appeared to be no sense of remorse for any of his actions, which motivated the Ohio parole board not to recommend clemency.

Only the lonely

With that he was finally given a scheduled date for his execution. Apparently Zuern was so wholly against communication that, on the morning of his death, he rammed loo paper in his ears to avoid hearing what the team tasked with preparing him for his execution said to him.

Indeed, he even had his two sisters turned away, so his last hours were lonely ones. He declined a priest, even declining to say any last words as he lay hooked up to the gurney and with that he was pumped full of toxins. Zuern died three minutes later, aged 45, having spent nearly half his life on death row.

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