LUCASVILLE: Ohio death row inmate Brett Hartmann first discovered he was a father earlier this year.
This morning, he is set to be executed.
His daughter, a 20-year-old Akron woman, learned through DNA testing that Hartmann is her father. She is only now coming to grips that her newfound relationship is fleeting.
Her father wants a new round of DNA testing in the hopes of confirming his innocence. His pleas and possibly his life are at a crossroads. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday night declined to stop his execution scheduled for 10 a.m. today.
“I feel bad for her, finding out I’m her father and I might not be around much longer,” Hartmann, 38, said in a recent interview.
The woman did not want to be publicly identified.
“It’s just awful this has to happen so soon,” she said.
She said she grew up knowing her father was in prison. Her mother, who had a relationship with Hartmann in the early 1990s, spared her the details until this past summer.
The woman said the news left her shocked, happy and depressed. She said she read about Hartmann’s case and believes his pleas of innocence.
“I’m happy, [but] it hurt a little bit,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hartmann’s daughter and family gathered a week ago for a final visit at Ohio’s death row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. His daughter was among the 30 to 40 guests.
On Monday, Hartmann was driven 45 minutes south to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville to await either a stay or his death.
Hartmann was sentenced to death 15 years ago for the brutal slaying of Winda Snipes, 46. She was found dead in her South Highland Avenue apartment in September 1997. Her body was bound at the ankles, her torso stabbed more than 130 times, her neck slashed and her hands severed and missing.
Hartmann, who had a casual sexual relationship with Snipes, contends he had been with her about 14 hours earlier during a sexual encounter but did not kill her. His attorneys contend a number of items taken from the crime scene have never been tested against Hartmann’s DNA.
Prosecutors say the evidence against Hartmann, including his DNA found on Snipes’ body, is overwhelming proof of his guilt. He also anonymously called 911 that night to report the slaying and later told detectives he destroyed evidence out of fear of being charged in the killing.
This is the third time Hartmann has come close to execution.
In 2009, he received a stay one week prior to his death so a federal appeals court could review his case. Last year, there was an unofficial moratorium on Ohio death cases, which delayed his August execution.
“It’s a lot harder this time because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hartmann said in a phone call Saturday. “Three years ago, I thought it was going to happen and I accepted it. So when it didn’t happen, it was a relief.
“A year ago, I didn’t think it was going to happen. And it didn’t. This time, it’s just a lot tougher not knowing and everything.”
His attorneys, Michael Benza and David Stebbins, said Hartmann’s final appeals to the Supreme Court were denied Monday night.
A prison spokeswoman said Hartmann was “calm and cooperative” after arriving at Ohio’s so-called death house in Lucasville about 9:40 Monday morning. He was expected to be served a special meal consisting of steak with sauteed mushrooms, fried shrimp, baked potato with butter and sour cream, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Honeycomb cereal with milk.
He was to visit with family, spiritual advisers and his lawyers through the night. His daughter was expected to visit as well.
“He’s actually in pretty good spirits given everything that’s happening,” Benza said Monday.
Hartmann’s sister, Diane Morretti, is one of three inmate witnesses. A lawyer and a friend also will attend on his behalf.
Jacqueline Brown, a friend of Snipes, is the only witness on behalf of the victim. Snipes’ family, including a mother and sister, live outside Ohio and declined to witness the execution.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.