Convicted killer Ronald Ray Post, who was spared a January date with the executioner’s needle when his death sentence was commuted to life in prison by Gov. John Kasich last year, died in a prison hospital Thursday.
Post, 53, died at Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, Ricky Seyfang, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said. Post had been serving time for the Dec. 15, 1983, murder of Elyria motel clerk Helen Vantz, who was shot in the head during Post’s robbery of the Slumber Inn.
Seyfang said a cause of death wasn’t available Thursday. She also said she couldn’t comment on Post’s medical condition because of health care privacy laws, but court documents filed during Post’s bid to avoid lethal injection last year indicated that he had been in failing health.
Among the medical issues plaguing Post, according to the documents, were a history of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, including varicose veins. He also reportedly suffered from depression and joint problems and had scarring on his body from a previous suicide attempt.
Post’s attorneys argued that his weight of more than 480 pounds in 2012 should spare him from death because the execution team would have difficulty placing shunts into the veins necessary to deliver the lethal overdose of sedative used in Ohio to kill condemned inmates. The state had argued that Post had lost weight and could be executed safely and humanely.
But it wasn’t Post’s weight that led Kasich to spare him. Rather it was concern over the legal representation he received prior to his no-contest plea in the case. Despite his plea, a three-judge panel handed down a death sentence.
The controversial plea was the result of a belief by Post’s trial attorneys, Mike Duff and now-retired Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Lynett McGough, that one of the judges, the late Adrian Betleski, wouldn’t impose the death penalty because he was Roman Catholic, Post’s current lawyers had argued.
The Ohio Parole Board concluded that while McGough wanted Post to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, Duff wanted his client to enter the no-contest plea to preserve an appeals issue.
Duff said Thursday that he was surprised to learn of Post’s death.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m glad he died not on death row,” Duff said. “He died in general population. He finally received the benefit of the plea deal he was promised.”
Duff added that the entire case had been tragic for all involved.
“It’s a sad case all the way around, for the Vantz family and the Post family,” he said.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will and William Vantz, one of Helen Vantz’s sons, declined to comment Thursday on Post’s death.
After Kasich’s decision to spare Post in December, William Vantz called it a “theft of justice.”
“I will take some solace in the fact that he will die in prison and he is already dead to me,” Vantz said in December.
Other members of the Vantz family pressed for a face-to-face meeting with Kasich, which they got in May. That meeting led to Kasich promising to call the families of the victims of killers whose death sentences he decided to commute.
Despite his life prison sentence, Post’s lawyers continued to argue that he had been wrongfully convicted of killing Vantz. They contended in court filings that Post was instead the getaway driver for the robbery in which Vantz was shot as she worked on the motel’s receipts. Prosecutors, police and the Vantz family have rejected those arguments.
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