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A South Carolina woman was sentenced to 25 years for fatally poisoning her husband with eye drops after prosecutors detailed how she watched as he suffered for days before finally dying in July 2018.
Lana Clayton, 53, was handed down the sentence Thursday after she pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and tampering with a food or drug in the death of her husband Steven Clayton.
“We felt like a significant sentence was in order given the magnitude of what she did (and) the fact that we did not buy into her story about why she did it,” Kevin Brackett, the 16th Circuit solicitor, told Oxygen.com.
Lana Clayton admitted in court last week to lacing her husband’s drink with Visine, but said she had done it only to make him “uncomfortable” and had not meant to kill him.
“I did impulsively put the Visine in Steven’s drink, but I just did it to make him uncomfortable … I never thought it would kill him,” she said in court, according to the Associated Press.
She claimed her husband had been abusive.
However, prosecutors believe Lana Clayton repeatedly dosed her husband over several days and “disposed” of his cell phone to prevent him from getting help.
Brackett told Oxygen.com that investigators also found his mattress, clothing and floor soaked with urine indicating “that he had been in that bed for an extended period of time without any kind of relief or anybody helping him.”
Brackett said that as a nurse, Lana Clayton should have been able to determine her husband was in distress and summon help.
“This all should have not been lost on her,” he said.
Prosecutors also believe that Lana Clayton may have disposed of her husband’s will—which authorities believe had been in the house at some point but was never recovered after his death, Brackett said.
“We suspected that it was destroyed in the burn pile in the back because there was clear indication that a lot of papers had been burned back there,” he said.
He also questioned Lana Clayton’s claim that she had only given her husband one dose of the eye drops on Thursday—noting that Steven Clayton did not die until a few days later on Saturday.
“She had indicated that she had only given him one dose of Visine and that she did it on the Thursday before he died. You know that simply couldn’t be true,” he said. “According to the pathologist and the toxicologist, the amount of tetrahydrozoline in his system was such that if she had dosed him with that amount on Thursday, he would have been dead on Thursday and not on Saturday. It wouldn’t have taken that long to kill him.”
Prosecutors argued that Lana Clayton took her husband’s life by “consistently” dosing him over multiple days, before delivering the fatal dose on Saturday.
The alleged motivation, Brackett told Oxygen.com, was greed.
“All of that added up to one natural and reasonable conclusion that she killed him and then destroyed any evidence that he had left his property to anybody else so she would inherit it all under South Carolina law,” he said.
Steven Clayton had been a retired Florida businessman at the time of his death and had lived with his wife in a South Carolina home valued at more than $1 million dollars, the AP reported, citing court records. The 64-year-old is also believed to have had more than $1 million in other assets.
In court last week, Judge Paul Burch told Lana Clayton he believed she had “ignored” her dying husband for days.
“How can you maintain you did this to teach him a lesson, when it is obvious from the facts that you let him suffer for three days,” he asked.
Lana Clayton had initially been facing a first-degree murder charge, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea deal.
Brackett told Oxygen.com he was pleased with the 25-year sentence and said under South Carolina law she’ll be required to serve at least 85% of the sentence before she would be considered for release due to the severity of the crime.
He also believes Steven Clayton’s family was pleased by the sentence.
“I think they feel like justice was served and she’s going to spend the bulk, if not all, of the rest of her life behind bars,” he said.
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