In 2014, Ronald Haskell disguised himself as a FedEx delivery man, forced his way into the home of his ex-wife’s sister with a semi-automatic pistol, and shot each family member, one by one — including five children — in a massacre prosecutors said was motivated by revenge.
On Friday, a Texas jury handed down the 39-year-old’s punishment: death by lethal injection.
“The jury decided that you are going to die by lethal injection, and I respect that decision,” Cassidy Stay, the shooting’s sole survivor, told Haskell during a statement in court last week.
Stay’s parents, Karen and Stephen, along with four of their children, were gunned down by Haskell in their family home in summer 2014. Her siblings — Bryan, 13; Emily, 9; Rebecca, 7, and Zach, 4 — died in the attack.
Cassidy was shot in the head, but “played dead” and managed to survive, according to court documents obtained by Oxygen.com. She suffered a fractured skull, KHOU reported.
The court had rejected Haskell’s insanity defense, and he was found guilty of the mass killing on Sept. 26.
“Do I think the punishment fits the crime?” Cassidy asked. “No. I hope that when you die, you get the punishment you deserve from God. Only God can help you now.”
Roughly a year after his ex-wife, Melanie Lyon, left him, Haskell allegedly purchased a gun and more than 200 rounds of ammunition, and drove from Texas to California to carry out the slayings of the woman's sister's family. Before he was caught, prosecutors said, Haskell had planned to execute the remainder of Lyon’s family, which included 22 more people.
“The death penalty is only for the worst of the worst,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Haskell meticulously planned and carried out the slaughter of the Stay family, and the death sentence handed down by a jury of his peers is appropriate.”
However, Haskell's attorney, Neal Davis III, said the ruling will be appealed. Davis, who had fought for a life sentence without parole for Haskell, argued that his client, who suffered from psychological issues and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in prison, would not pose a danger behind bars. Haskell had previously claimed voices in his head ordered him to execute the Stay family.
“The jury was wrong,” Davis told Oxygen.com. “There’s no way they could have found beyond a reasonable doubt he was a future danger, which they’re supposed to determine right off the bat. There’s no way.”
During the trial, however, prosecutors repeatedly dismissed Haskell’s insanity defense, labeling the 39-year-old an abusive husband, who carried out the murder of his ex-wife’s family in cold blood. Harris County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Knecht said Haskell had “revenge in his heart” when executed the Stay family.
Haskell "is a manipulator, he is a liar, he won’t change, and quite frankly, he doesn’t want to change,” Knecht told the court during Haskell’s sentencing on Friday, the Daily Beast reported.
In the end, Haskell’s attorney said, the jury was swayed by the graphic details of the shooting.
“What this jury did was look at four dead children,” Davis said. “I don’t blame them. It’s hard to fathom.”
Prosecutors also told the court that Haskell had once threatened a prison guard — further evidence, they said, that indicated the convicted killer was a danger, even if incarcerated. Davis, though, played that accusation down.
“He was in jail for five years and did nothing but threaten a guard,” he said.
Nonetheless, the Stay’s daughter, Cassidy, also appeared unsympathetic to Haskell’s supposed psychological condition. She addressed her family’s killer directly in her victim impact statement at the sentencing.
"I’m going to continue to live my life with happiness, and I’m going to move forward and I’m going to forget about this,” said Cassidy, now 20.
“And I’m going to forget about you. You’ve been in control long enough and now your game is up. You’re not in control anymore. You’ve lost and this is it for you. God will be there for you when you need him. And that time is going to come quickly for you, whether you like it or not."
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