Clemency bid rejected for double murderer

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Gov. Bob Holden on Tuesday declined clemency requests unwanted by an inmate sentenced to death in the 1997 killings of his ex-girlfriend and her stepfather, clearing a hurdle for the prisoner who was seeking to be executed as planned hours later.

The clemency bids filed with Holden were without the blessings of John Clayton Smith, who said he was forgoing his remaining appeals in hopes of dying by injection as scheduled at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the Potosi Correctional Center.

Should he change his mind, Smith, 42, still had ready access to forms for 11th-hour federal appeals. He declined to be interviewed Tuesday.

Smith has said he preferred execution over prospects of life behind bars in the northeast Missouri stabbing deaths of Brandie Kearns and Wayne Hoewing.

In the wee hours of July 5, 1997, Smith entered the victims' Canton home and stabbed and cut Kearns eight times before attacking Hoewing, knifing him 11 times.

Kearns survived long enough to scrawl "It was Joh-" in her own blood on the kitchen floor and leave a dying farewell to her toddler daughter, later found unharmed at the feet of the dead 22-year-old mother. Kearns and Hoewing, 51, died at the scene.

"I'm just very glad he's going to burn in hell," said Bridie Brooks, a 31-year-old insurance claims examiner from Williamstown. She called Smith's potential demise "the ultimate justice."

Smith and Kearns dated about two years before Kearns broke off the relationship roughly a month before Smith sneaked into the family's home near Canton and knifed Kearns and her stepfather.

While clinging to life, Kearns used her blood to scrawl "It was Joh-" "I (heart) Tatu-" and "--and s-v- T-tum" on the floor. The last two messages referred to Tatum, Kearns' baby girl, now 7 and living with Kearns' mother.

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