Anthony Juniper is escaping execution despite four gruesome murders. Photo / Supplied
Warning: Graphic content
One of America’s most gruesome crimes has resurfaced as the man guilty of committing it prepares to escape an equally gruesome fate — capital execution.
Anthony Juniper has been on death row in the state of Virginia since he was sentenced in 2011 over the 2004 murders of his on-again, off-again girlfriend Keshia Stephens; Keshia’s younger brother Rueben; and her two daughters, Nykia, 4, and Shearyia, 2.
One of the little girls was in her mother’s arms when Juniper, then in his early 30s, stormed into her home and carried out the jealousy-fuelled murders.
Now 49, Juniper is one of just two men on Virginia’s death row. That matters because state politicians just today gave final approval to a bill that will end capital punishment there.
Virginia has used the death penalty more than any other state. It has executed almost 1400 people since colonial times and 113 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Only Texas has executed more inmates in the past 45 years.
Thomas Porter, who killed a police officer in 2005, will also escape lethal injection.
Juniper’s crimes, carried out on the evening of January 16, 2004, in the city of Norfolk, shocked Virginians at the time.
According to court documents seen by news.com.au, Keshia was at home with her family when Juniper arrived. The pair had a brief argument before Juniper killed his girlfriend and the three young children. Their bodies were all found in a master bedroom.
“Keshia was stabbed through her abdomen, shot three times, and grazed by a fourth bullet. One bullet went through her intestine, kidney and spine, causing spinal shock and leg paralysis,” Virginia District Court documents tabled in 2013 state.
“Another bullet also passed through her intestines and then proceeded to her abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava, causing extensive bleeding.”
The stab wound did not fatally wound Keshia, but tore through the muscle of her abdominal wall, according to the documents. There was “a great deal of blood”, which led the medical examiner to conclude that the stab wound was probably the first injury inflicted on her.
“Two-year-old Shearyia was shot four times while in her mother’s arms,” the documents stated. “Two bullets entered Shearyia’s body in the shin of her left leg, fractured the bone, and exited through her calf. A third bullet entered and exited Shearyia’s body through her thigh. The fourth bullet entered the crown of her head and passed through her brain, causing bone fragments to chip off.
“Rueben was shot three times. One bullet struck his pelvic bone, and ricocheted through his body into his abdomen, liver, heart and lung, finally coming to rest in his armpit. A second bullet hit his hip bone, and exited through the front of his leg. A third bullet broke his femur bone, and exited his body at his front thigh. The medical examiner testified that the broken bones would have caused excruciating pain and immediately disabled Rueben.”
Four-year-old Nykia was shot once behind her left ear, with the bullet exiting her chest. The medical examiner testified that the bullet’s path was consistent with Nykia ducking her head and body toward the shooter prior to being shot.
The presence of blood in her lungs indicated that she had taken one or two breaths between being shot and dying, the documents said.
During Juniper’s trial, the relationship between him and his girlfriend was explored in depth.
It was revealed that before he flew into a murderous rage, Juniper had put Keshia through years of physical and verbal abuse. Friends, family members and co-workers gave evidence citing numerous examples of the killer’s temper.
On the day of the crimes, he asked a friend, Renee Rashid, to drive him to Keshia’s home. When there, he was overheard by Rashid arguing with Keshia.
“There’s nobody but you,” she told him. “I told you I’m not seeing nobody but you.”
Within moments, she would be dead.
Rashid told police she was leaving the apartment down a staircase when she heard a loud bang. She ran to the car and from there heard four gunshots.
A psychiatrist who treated Juniper diagnosed him with depression, alcohol, cocaine and marijuana dependence and anti-social personality disorder.
He told the court the killer had “difficulties with impulsivity, reliance on the more primitive defence mechanisms of denial and blame, an easily compromised conscience, problems with anger, mood instability, alcohol and drug abuse, and chronic difficulties with the legal system”.
On Monday, Virginia politicians gave final approval to two bills to abolish the death penalty and Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, is set to sign them into law, making Virginia the 23rd state to end the death penalty.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you’re in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you. • Run outside and head for where there are other people. • Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you. • Take the children with you. • Don’t stop to get anything else. • If you are being abused, remember it’s not your fault. Violence is never okay
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