The High Price of Crack

In the room overlooking the chamber where the State of Ohio executes condemned criminals, the witnesses for the victim and for the inmate are separated by an accordion door; they enter from different doors and never see each other face to face for obvious reasons.
 
On July 20, 2004, officials with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction had no need to close the door to separate the witnesses. In fact, they couldn’t make a distinction between family members of the victim and the killer — they were one in the same.
 
The story of Scott A. Mink is a tragic tale that demonstrates the extremes to which drug abuse drives some people who cannot or will not kick the habit.
 
In September 2000, Mink, then 36 years old, resided with his parents, 79-year-old William and 72-year-old Sheila Mink, in their second-floor duplex apartment in Union, Ohio, about 15 miles north of Dayton. He was addicted to crack and his parents were forced to assign some rules if he was to continue living in their home. They set a curfew and restrictions on his use of his truck. However, nothing compares to the willpower a junkie has when he wants to get high, and Mink repeatedly flouted the rules. As a result, Mink’s parents informed him that they were planning to move to a smaller apartment and that he would not be welcome there.
 
On September 18, Shiela Mink’s 72nd birthday, William G. Mink, asked his brother about his moving plans, and Mink replied, according to his brother “kind of nasty like, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve got a plan.’”
 
The next night, Mink and and a buddy were drinking and smoking crack cocaine at the friend’s apartment in West Milton. Around 9:30 p.m., Mink’s parents called him to return home. Mink left, telling his friend that “he had to get home or he wasn’t going to have a place to stay.”
 
Mink arrived home about a half-hour later, but he had no intention of staying there. He waited until his parents retired for the night and began looking for his truck keys so he could leave the apartment and get more drugs. Mink was unable to find the keys, and after realizing that his parents had hidden them, he had a “fit of uncontrollable rage.”
 
“Something in me did snap, and that’s when I proceeded to get the hammer,” he said in his confession to police. “When I found that the keys were gone, something took over that wasn’t me. I went to the porch in a fit of rage and got a hammer and went into the bedroom and started to pummel.”
 
According to his subsequent confession, Mink went into his parents’ bedroom sometime after 11:20 p.m. They were sleeping on adjacent twin beds, and he repeatedly hit them with a ball-peen hammer until the hammer broke. The hammer broke while he was striking them. He left the darkened bedroom and returned with two kitchen knives and an extension cord. Mink then stabbed each of them several times. One knife broke during the attack. Mink left the other knife in his mother’s chest and proceeded to strangle her with the extension cord. Finally, he repeatedly struck both parents with two cutting boards that he had taken from the kitchen. After one cutting board broke, Mink reassembled it and put it back on the kitchen counter.
 
William was stabbed 13 times, suffered at least 13 blunt-force impacts to the head, and endured four blunt-force impacts on the rest of his body. Other injuries on William’s hand, wrist, and lower leg were defensive injuries and showed that William had been alive and defended against the attacks. William died from “multiple trauma, which consisted of blunt force trauma and multiple stab wounds.”
 
Sheila suffered nine blunt-force impacts to the head, four stab wounds to her chest and back, and 33 superficial stab wounds. The knife protruding into her chest extended four to four-and-one-half inches into her right lung. Sheila’s blunt-force injuries were consistent with blows caused by the cutting board and hammer found at the scene. Sheila also suffered fractured bones in her neck due to strangulation and “was alive when all those injuries were inflicted,” concluded Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Deputy Coroner for Montgomery County. He concluded that Sheila died from “multiple traumatic injuries, which include blunt force injuries, stab wounds and strangulation.”
 
After his parents were dead, he washed up in the kitchen sink and put on fresh clothes.
 
“I eventually found my truck keys, and I removed $7 from my father’s wallet,” Mink said.
 
Using his mother’s ATM card, he withdrew $10 from their checking account and bought a $20 rock of crack. Mink went home, tried to smoke the crack and found out he had been ripped off and sold fugazi crack. Mink then took five or six of his mother’s tranquilizers and went to sleep.
 
“I wanted to call it quits,” Mink told detectives. “I wound up taking some of my mom’s prescription pills. It wasn’t enough. I wanted to end it. I didn’t have alcohol to help.”
 
Mink woke up in the late afternoon of September 20; he moved his father’s body off his bed and laid him on top of his mother’s body, which was lying between the room’s twin beds. He then covered the bodies with blankets to keep them out of view. Shortly after, having decided not to end it all and in the thrall of his addiction, Mink traded his father’s Ford Escort to a drug dealer for $50 to $100 worth of rock cocaine.
 
The next day he called a friend to ask whether he knew anyone interested in buying a television. Mink said his “parents were out of town and he was trying to get some money up for groceries.” Eventually he headed to Dayton where he exchanged the television for $30 worth of crack. Mink also used his father’s gas credit card to purchase cigarettes, beer, and a gallon of milk. Mink called the same friend again later on September 21 seeking his help in selling a recliner, a microwave, a couple of pictures, a clock, and a watch. Mink said his parents were on vacation and that they wanted him to clean out the garage.
 
Mink’s three sisters and his brother lived in the Dayton area and frequently visited and talked with their parents on the phone. The sisters became concerned about their parents after they were unable to contact them on September 20. Around noon on September 21, the sisters drove to their parents’ apartment to check on them. Mink’s behavior immediately alarmed them.
 
As they pulled into the driveway, they saw Mink entering the apartment. However, when they knocked, Mink would not acknowledge them. The women pounded on the front door and shouted for Mink to come out. When he finally answered the door, he would not let his sisters inside and said he did not know where their parents were. The sisters left to notify the police. As they arrived at the police station, which was a short distance from the apartment, the sisters saw Mink walking to his truck. They returned to the apartment and confronted their brother, demanding the keys to the apartment.
 
“Scott, did you hurt Mom and Dad?” one asked. “And he said ‘no.’” Mink then gave them the keys and drove away.
 
The sisters entered the apartment. They did not recognize that their parents’ bodies were under blankets between the beds. However, they knew something was wrong because William’s glasses and billfold were on the dresser even though the car was gone. The sisters left the apartment and called the police who discovered the bloody corpses in the bedroom.
 
Blood spatters were found on a roll of carpet padding underneath the bed, suggesting that the victims were also attacked while on the floor. Police found a bloody wood-cutting board on the kitchen counter that had been broken into three pieces and reassembled. An empty microwave stand in the kitchen and an open space near a loose TV cable in the living room suggested that property had been taken from the apartment. The police also found a pair of bloody sneakers and a bloody tee-shirt in Mink’s separate bedroom.
 
On September 22, police contacted the friend whom Mink had talked with about disposing of his parents’ property. Police then seized the television, recliner, microwave, two pictures, and a wall clock that Mink had given his buddy. Additionally, police learned that Mink had used or attempted to use his father’s gas card seven or eight times after the murders. The police also located and seized William Mink’s Ford Escort, which Mink had exchanged for drugs. Subsequent laboratory testing confirmed the presence of blood on the driver’s-side seat belt and the driver’s-side door.
 
After leaving his sisters at the apartment on September 21, Mink stayed on a farm near Tipp City. Around 8:00 p.m. on September 24, he turned himself in at the Tipp City Police Department.
 
“Take me to jail,” he said. “I think I may have done something awful, but I don’t remember.”
 
He apparently recovered from his blackout, because in a videotaped confession Mink provided detailed detailed accounts of the murders.
 
Mink was subsequently indicted for aggravated murder. At trial, Mink waived counsel and before a three-judge panel, Mink entered pleas of guilty, and the state presented evidence of his guilt. The panel found Mink guilty.
 
During the penalty phase, Mink waived the presentation of mitigating evidence and requested the death penalty.
 
“To be honest with you,” Mink told the panel, “I do not want to spend the rest of my life in prison. That is my number one reason. And the punishment does sort of fit the crime.”
 
After finding that Mink was competent to waive mitigation, the court sentenced him to death for the murders and to prison terms for the remaining offenses.
 
Ohio law contains a nonrevocable right to a single appeal of of a death penalty case and after the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence, Mink waived all further appeals, which his lawyer said was his way of atoning for his crime.
 
Mink’s 1,118 days between sentencing and execution was the shortest time an inmate has been on death row since the state resumed carrying out executions in 1999.
 
On July 20, 2004, after making peace with his brother and sisters, Mink was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber at Lucasville. His three sisters, a brother, and a niece stood behind a glass partition and watched for 23 minutes as prison staff struggled to find a useable vein in his arms.
 
“The veins were very brittle and kept collapsing,” said Tom Stickrath, spokesman for the prison system. Execution team members told him it was a “general medical brittleness, a hereditary thing” and not because of past IV drug use.
 
When the chemicals finally began to flow, Mink gave his family a smile and thumbs-up sign and his sisters began to weep. Afterward, one read a statement to the assembled media.
 
“Our sorrow comes with a sense of peace in our hearts that our brother’s decision was the right one for him and, we have made peace with him,” she said. “Our faith, our love that we have for each other is the legacy our parents left behind. We will remain steadfast in honoring them by carrying this legacy forward.”