State of Missouri v. John Clayton Smith

John Clayton Smith was executed at 12:05 a.m., October 29, 2003

Supreme Court Case Number SC82000

SmithJCase Facts: John Clayton smith started dating Brandie Kearnes in 1995. At that time, Kearnes lived with her mother, Yvonne Kurz, and her stepfather, Wayne Hoewing, near Canton, Missouri. Around June 1, 1997, Kearnes broke off the relationship with Smith. Kearnes continued to live at the Howewing residence with her daughter, mother and stepfather.

At 11:05 on the evening of July 4, 1997, Smith drove to the Hoewing residence and parked his truck some distance from the house. Smith entered the house through the basement door, took off his shoes, and went upstairs. Once inside, he went to Kearnes’ bedroom, and attacked her with a knife.

Kearnes got away from Smith and ran toward the living room area. As she ran, Smith grabbed the back of her shirt and tried to stab her in the back. Smith scuffled with Kearnes, stabbing and cutting her eight times. As Kearnes lay dying, she wrote, “It was John_.” on the kitchen floor in her own blood. At some point, Kearnes also tried to call her father, and she left a message that said, “Dad, come to the house and get Tatum.”

Smith then went toward Wayne Hoeweing’s bedroom and attacked Hoewing, who had been awakened by the sounds of the struggle. Smith pushed Hoewing onto the bed, got on top of him, and started stabbing him. Smith stabbed and cut Hoewing eleven times, but Hoewing did not die immediately. Kurz, who had also gotten out of bed when she heard the sounds of the struggle, tried to push Smith off of Hoewing, but Smith cut her on the forearm, and she rand into the bathroom. Smith followed Kurz to the bathroom and while he was at the bathroom door, Hoewing was able to pick up a gun that he kept in the house. As he tried to get into the bathroom, Smith saw Hoewing with the gun, and he said, “Shoot me. Go ahead and shoot me.” Hoewing did not fire the gun, however, and eventually, smith left the bedroom, went back downstairs, put on his shoes, and left the house through the basement door.
After Smith left the Hoewing residence, Kurz was able to leave the bathroom and call for help. When medical responders reached the scene, Kearnes was already dead. She had been partially stripped of her clothing during the attack, and she was lying face up on the kitchen floor. Kearnes had been stabbed or cut eight times in the neck, chest, abdomen, arm and thigh. Two stab wounds in her right breast punctured her lung. The first responders treated Hoewing briefly, but while still at the scene, he was pronounced dead. He had been cut and stabbed eleven times in the chest, arms, leg, and hand. He died from loss of blood.
Proposed Last Statement of John Clayton Smith: “First of all I want to tell the whole family of the victims just how truly sorry I am for all the pain and grief I have caused you by my actions. I sincerely have been praying for all of you. I only ask that somewhere down life’s road, you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. I know my death can never bring back your loved ones, but I pray my death may give you some sort of peace. Just as I have asked and received forgiveness from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for my awful crime, I ask now that you will please do the same and somehow forgiveĀ  me. Last but not least, I also pray that all of you will find that perfect peace as I have, in Christ Jesus alone.” — [signed] John Clayton Smith.

Legal Chronology
07/05 – John Smith kills his ex-girlfriend, Brandi Kearnes and her stepfather, Wayne Hoewing.
08/25 – Smith is charged by information with two counts of Murder First Degree in the Circuit Court of Audrain County
05/14 – Smith is found guilty in a jury trial on both counts of Murder First Degree.
05/15 – The jury recommends the death penalty on both counts of Murder First Degree
07/06 – Smith is sentenced to death on both counts of the murder convictions
07/15 – Smith files a notice of appeal.
12/05 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Smith’s convictions and sentences of death.
04/12 – Smith files a motion for post-conviction relief in circuit court.
07/25 – Smith asks the circuit court to dismiss his motion for post-conviction relief.
09/18 – The circuit court dismisses Smith’s motion for post-conviction relief.
10/25 – Smith’s attorney files a notice of appeal.
03/18 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirms the dismissal of post-conviction relief.
04/22 – The Missouri Supreme Court denies Smith’s attorney’s motion for rehearing and sets an execution date for May 14, 2003.
05/01 – The Missouri Supreme Court resets petitioner’s execution date for October 29, 2003.
10/23 – The United States Supreme Court denies certiorari review of the dismissal of Smith’s motion for post-conviction relief.