Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Saturday, July 6, 2013


            On this date, July 6, 2000, Michael Clagett was executed by the electric chair for the mass murder of 4 people at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach on June 30, 1994. He was executed six years after the murder and also, five years after being sentenced to death. Virginia is one of the States in America that executes the death row inmates at least, seven years after the murders. Let us hear from the victims’ families. 

Michael Clagett

CASE: On June 30, 1994, Michael Clagett and his girlfriend, Denise Holsinger, carried out the robbery and slayings of Lam Van Son, Wendell Parish, Karen Sue Rounds, and Abdelaziz Gren at the Witchduck Inn in Virginia Beach. The owner's 5-year-old son, asleep in a back room, was unharmed. The evidence at trial showed that Holsinger engineered the crime about a month after she was fired from a job at the Inn and that she urged Clagett to fire the shots while she emptied the tavern's cash register of about $400. Holsinger received 5 life sentences plus 23 years for her role in the crimes. 7/8/00 - Shortly after landing on death row, executed Witchduck Inn killer Michael Clagett quietly married his 1st cousin in a jailhouse wedding ceremony, court records show. The marriage was a secret Karen Elaine Sparks desperately sought to keep from her family. Reached at her Columbus, Ohio, home Friday, hours after returning from her husband's execution, Sparks, 41, said she told only four people about the 1996 marriage for fear of reprisals from family members and co-workers. ``I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't true, if our love wasn't true,'' Sparks said when asked why she married Clagett, a quadruple murderer. ``I can't explain it. There's just no way to put it into words." Clagett and his then-girlfriend, Denise Holsinger, robbed the Virginia Beach bar of $400 on June 30, 1994. Clagett confessed to shooting 4 people in the head that night and died at age 39 in Virginia's electric chair Thursday. Holsinger, 35, is serving 5 life terms.

Sparks downplayed the significance of marrying a first cousin by saying that Clagett's father and her mother "barely knew each other. They were born 14 years apart. She also said they never consummated the marriage. Prison policy forbids conjugal visits. Virginia law does not prohibit 1st cousins from marrying. The state prohibits marriages between brothers and sisters; aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews; and ``ancestors and descendants." Sparks, who said she has worked for Time-Warner for 22 years, had twice been married before, court records show. Sparks said she told only 2 close friends, a sister and Clagett's mother -- her aunt and mother-in-law -- about the marriage. ``When I first brought the subject up with my family, when I told them we were thinking about it,'' she said, "they just went off." Sparks' marriage came to light Thursday, when Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said Clagett had been visited by his mother, Iris M. Etter, and his wife. News of the marriage stunned Karen's father, Maurice Sparks Jr., who said he talked to his daughter just two weeks ago and was aware that she was accompanying Etter to the execution. He said he had no idea why she would marry Clagett. "That's a good question," he said, his voice trembling. ``I don't know what she's doing." Karen Sparks and Etter spent 2 hours with Clagett on Thursday before prison officials made them leave at 3 p.m. Reached at her Galloway, Ohio, home Friday, Etter declined to say whether she knew that Sparks was her son's 1st cousin. Etter said only that it was wrong for the state to kill her son and that his ashes had been returned to her after his autopsy. ``It was a very sad thing to me," Etter said. "I think they did a terrible thing. I think Michael would have made a really good person to go around to the prisons and talk to people." 

QUOTE 1: Witnesses in the viewing room with the victims' families said they stood silently through the electrocution, except for one woman, who began to cry. Some family members were relieved. Others said the execution did nothing to ease their pain. Jim Garcia, brother-in-law of Abdelaziz "Aziz" Gren, a patron of the Witchduck Inn who was slain by Clagett, watched Clagett die. As soon as Clagett was pronounced dead, ``all the anger that built up all these years went away,'' Garcia said. "Suddenly I wasn't angry anymore." His wife, Gren's sister Fatna ``Fouzia'' Garcia, feels differently. "It doesn't bring Aziz back,'' she said. ``It doesn't bring any one of them back." 

QUOTE 2: Another sister of Gren's, Khadija Johnson, thought she was going to faint during the electrocution. She felt better later: "It helped me to be there. It helped me to see what I saw. For me it is a sense of relief. So much changed. I do not feel the way I did yesterday."

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