I bolted out of my apartment at 4:20 A.M. the morning of January 16, exhausted and running on pure adrenaline. I got into my car and read the external thermometer at 19 degrees; my hair was wet and now frozen.
Having read the court documents from the Supreme Court of Ohio, the case from the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, as well as the articles my editor and boss, Eddie Mowen’s coverage on the matter, it’s safe to say I knew a sufficient amount about the case that took place the fateful day of February 11, 1989. Just two months over the age of 23, this case is nearly as old as I am.
I had taken various criminal justice classes in college and many included sections covering the death penalty. To be honest, I’ve never really developed an opinion on the matter. There are various complex factors that go into each individual case and it’s hard to have a blanket opinion over all of them.
I was guided through the maximum-security prison, the fences were adorned with barbed-wire. Secured doors with hefty locks brought me to my final destination in the Media Room where I was to remain until the execution was complete and we were released back to the public.
I took my seat promptly at 7 a.m. and was given a blue folder. When I opened it, my body froze as McGuire’s sharp, cold eyes were staring back at me. His mug shot photo was taken in 2006 and bore little resemblance to what he looked like on Jan. 16. In the folder were statistics about the facility, a map of the facility, a picture of the gurney that McGuire would later be strapped to, but most importantly, facts about the murder itself.
The cold-hard facts of the case were laid out on a sheet of paper, but what it didn’t describe were the effects this incident, the case, the trials, the testimonies, and other motions of this case had on the hearts of those affected.
Feb. 11, 1989, just one day after McGuire’s 29th birthday, Joy Stewart was brutally murdered. The life of her own and her unborn child ended at the hands of McGuire in Eaton.
As I sat in the media pool, other “big name” journalists showed up and I began to feel intimidated. But I had a sense of pride as I represented our small town in Ohio, who was also a victim. I knew that this case was much bigger than what was currently encapsulated in this small room.
During the morning briefing, we were told of McGuire’s schedule within a 24-hour time frame. He was brought to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF) from Chillicothe and received his “special” meal that evening. Throughout the night, McGuire didn’t sleep. He wrote letters to his family members which expressed love and affection as he wept in his cell. This one of many final moments that McGuire was given, ran parallel to the Stewart family. They would never be able to hear from their beloved daughter, sister, sister-in-law, wife, aunt, etc. again. They will forever cease to hear her affection and words of passion. Instead, they are left with a void in their hearts. A void that would never be filled with Joy’s laughter and carefree spirit as it once was.
The selected media personnel who were permitted to witness the execution were escorted out of the Media Room by guards and were taken to the “Death House” at approximately 10:05 a.m. and after nearly 25 minutes after the selected media had left, I began to grow agitated. I knew a lethal injection wasn’t supposed to last more than just a few minutes. Twenty-five minutes grew into 35 and I knew something must have gone wrong.
I had read the effects of the two-drug cocktail, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, and how painful it could be for McGuire if in fact the drug did not work. He would be lying on the table in excruciating pain unable to move. Immobile as Joy Stewart was on Feb. 11, 1989. Under the weight of McGuire, Stewart spent the last few moments of her life kidnapped, raped, sodomized, and eventually stabbed, attempting to fight for her life.
On the gurney, intravenous needles containing the concoction were inserted into the skin of both of McGuire’s arms to reach his veins, similar to the blade he drove through his victim’s carotid artery in the lethal and final blow he inflicted on Stewart; all to bring each of them to one final conclusion: death.
In the end, it wasn’t McGuire’s final words about how he thanked the victim’s family for their kind words in a letter which was allegedly given to him, that unsettled me. It was the final statement from Joy’s sister that was given in print to the media pool.
“My brothers, my husband, and I are Christians. We have forgiven him, but that does not negate the need for him to pay for his actions,” said Joy’s sister, “Ultimately, we must all face judgment — both here on Earth and in Heaven. It’s time for him to face his judgment.”