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State says killer's remorse not enough to halt execution

DEATH-PENALTY-FOX

Fox: He is scheduled to die Feb. 12

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COLUMBUS - Despite his words of remorse, murderer Richard E. Fox should be put to death as scheduled on Feb. 12, the state argued yesterday.

In papers filed before the Ohio Parole Board, the Wood County prosecutor and Ohio attorney general discount a handwritten letter submitted by Fox earlier this week. Fox, 46, formerly of Tontogany, apologized to his victim's family and said he is prepared to die, if necessary, for his crime.

The board will preside over a clemency hearing today that will lead to a recommendation as to whether Gov. Bob Taft should commute Fox's sentence to life in prison. Fox was convicted of aggravated murder for the Sept. 26, 1989, killing of an 18-year-old Owens Technical College student.

“Fox's remorse rings hollow in view of his less than forthright admissions,” reads the state's brief. “Fox has at least eight versions of the events surrounding his kidnapping and murder of Leslie Keckler.”

Ms. Keckler of Bowling Green was lured to what she thought was an interview for a restaurant-supply sales job and was convinced to get into Fox's car under the ruse that he would show her the sales route. When she rejected his advances and tried to get out of the car, he stabbed and strangled her.

Police were led to Fox when they remembered a similar incident involving a Bowling Green State University student who had escaped from a man who had lured her into his car under a similar pretext.

In Fox's application for clemency filed Tuesday, his lawyers say he has been “tortured by guilt.”

“Richard cannot stand the fact he committed such a horrible crime, and he cannot stand being what he is - a murderer ...,” the petition reads. “Richard is sorry, and he wants Ms. Keckler's family to know that - whether he dies on Feb. 12 or dies after serving a life sentence in prison.”

Conceding guilt, the application contends that Fox's clean record prior to the murder, good behavior behind bars, and devotion to his daughter, now a young adult, make his death sentence inappropriate.

But the state attempts to turn those arguments against him.

“Fox argues that he has behaved himself in prison and been a model inmate,” reads the brief. “Robert Buell [executed Sept. 25 for the 1982 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl] and Alton Coleman [a serial killer executed April 26] had fewer rules infractions than Fox does, despite spending far longer time on death row.”

Like Fox, the state notes, Jay D. Scott expressed remorse. He was executed June 14 for a 1983 robbery shooting.

The parole board has not recommended nor has Mr. Taft granted clemency in any of the five death penalty cases that have come before him since Ohio resumed carrying out the death penalty in 1999.

- JIM PROVANCE

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