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Ohio Man Who Claimed 'Homosexual Panic' As Defense For Gruesome Murder To Be Executed

Robert Van Hook confessed to strangling David Self to death in 1985, trying to cut his head off and then slicing his  torso open and shoving the knife and a cigarette butt inside. 

By Stefan Lembo-Stolba
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An Ohio killer charged decades ago in the brutal death and mutilation of a man whose head he tried to cut off will be executed on Wednesday.

Convicted murderer Robert Van Hook was sentenced to death for his role in the gruesome 1985 killing of David Self.

Self, 25, was found strangled to death with multiple stab wounds and a gaping hole in his torso that exposed his organs, according to court records. The paring knife used to slice Self open was stuffed inside his wound along with a cigarette butt.

“I stuck the knife in the back of his head an' I started twistin' it(sic),” Van Hook confessed to police at the time. “Then I tried to stab 'im(sic) in the neck an' I tried to cut his head off but it didn't, it wasn't working too well.”

Self had met Van Hook the night of his death at a Cincinnati bar that was popular in the gay community. Van Hook originally went to the bar looking for someone to rob, and spent several hours drinking with Self before returning to the victim’s apartment.

After luring Self into a vulnerable position, Van Hook strangled him to death, stabbed him repeatedly and tried to cut his head off, he told police.

Van Hook, 58, was found guilty of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in Aug. 1985 and was sentenced to death. Van Hook appealed several times, and in one of his recent attempts garnered notoriety when his defense tried to use “homosexual panic” as an excuse for the killing.

Prosecutors have refuted his claims saying Van Hook admitted to making a habit of luring and robbing homosexual men, the Associated Press reported.  They also note that Van Hook has continued to be violent while incarcerated, stabbing a fellow inmate to death in November.

Despite the defense’s continued appeals and evidence arguing Van Hook’s mental state was a result of years of abuse and an expert claiming he could have been in a state of “homosexual panic,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2009 to uphold his death sentence.

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