‘I love you all. Let’s go’: Death Row inmate issues bizarre statement before being executed by lethal injection

Samuel Osborne
Charles Rhines murdered 22-year-old Donnivan Schaefer in 1992 after Schaeffer surprised him while he was burgling a doughnut shop: South Dakota Department of Corrections via AP

A man who stabbed a former colleague at a doughnut shop to death used his last words to tell his victim’s parents he forgave them “for your anger and hatred towards me”.

Charles Rhines, 63, was executed by lethal injection at South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls on Monday night.

He was found guilty of murdering 22-year-old Donnivan Schaefer in 1992 after Schaefer surprised him while he was burgling the Rapid City doughnut shop where Schaefer worked and Rhines was had been fired from weeks earlier.

“Ed and Peggy Schaeffer, I forgive you for your anger and hatred toward me,” Rhines said, before thanking his defence team.

“I pray to God that he forgives you for your anger and hatred toward me. Thanks to my team. I love you all, goodbye. Let’s go. That’s all I have to say. Goodbye.”

When asked about Rhines final words, Peggy Schaeffer said she has no anger and had already forgiven him.

“If I started hating, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be who I am,” she said.

Witnesses to the execution said Rhines appeared calm and that it took around a minute for the pentobarbital used by the state to take effect.

He was pronounced dead around five minutes later.

Rhines had challenged the state’s use of pentobarbital, arguing it was not the ultra-fast-acting drug he was entitled to.

But a circuit judge ruled it was as fast or faster than other drugs when used in lethal doses and speculated Rhines wanted to delay his execution.

The US Supreme Court rejected his appeal, as well as his arguments he was sentenced to die by a jury with an anti-gay bias and he was not given access to experts who could have examined him for cognitive and psychiatric impairments.

“It is very sad and profoundly unjust that the state of South Dakota today executed Charles Rhines, a gay man, without any court ever hearing the evidence of gay bias that infected the jury’s decision to sentence him to death,” federal public defender Shawn Nolan said in a statement.

Schaeffer was delivering supplies to Dig ‘Em Donuts where he worked when Rhines ambushed him, stabbing him in the stomach.

Bleeding from his wound, Schaeffer begged to be taken to a hospital, vowing to keep silent about the crime but he was instead forced into a storeroom, tied up and stabbed to death.

Steve Allender, a Rapid City police detective at the time of the killing who is now the city’s mayor, said Rhines’ jury sentenced him to death partly because of Rhines’ “chilling laughter” as he described Schaeffer’s death spasms.

“I watched the jury as they listened to the confession of Charles Rhines on audiotape and their reaction to his confession was appropriate. Any human being would be repulsed by the things he said and the way he said them,” Mr Allender told KELO.

Rhines was the fifth South Dakota inmate put to death since the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionally of the capital punishment in 1976. He was one of only three inmates on the state’s death row.

Additional reporting by agencies

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