COLUMBIA — South Carolina inmate Jeffrey Motts wished a happy Mother’s Day to his mother and grandmother, warned children to stay off drugs and apologized to his own family and the families of his victims before he was executed Friday for strangling his cellmate.
Motts, who turned 36 the day before he died, was the first inmate in South Carolina to be killed using a new combination of lethal drugs. It appeared to take him longer to die, but otherwise the execution was similar to several other lethal injections the state has carried out.
The state had to switch the sedative used as the first drug in the three drug combination from sodium thiopental to pentobarbital because federal agents seized the state’s supply as part of a nationwide investigation into whether prisons obtained the drugs legally from England. The remaining two drugs remained the same.
Motts was sentenced to death for killing his cellmate at a state prison in Greenville County in 2005. He was already serving a life sentence for killing two elderly people during a Spartanburg County robbery in 1995.
Motts, strapped to a gurney in a green jumpsuit, never looked at the witnesses and stared at the ceiling as his lawyer read his final statement: “To my mom and grandma, happy Mother’s Day. I know this is a sad one but let us remember the good times. I am finally free and at peace in heaven.”
After his lawyer left the room, the IV tubes twitched as it appeared the lethal drugs began to flow. He took several heavy breaths, blinked and his head jerked slightly for about a minute before his breaths became shallow and eventually stopped about 90 seconds later.
His eyes slowly closed, never to open again, but it would be 14 more minutes before a doctor officially declared him dead with a nod toward the warden at 6:17 p.m.
Motts abandoned all his appeals and volunteered for the death chamber
He confessed to strangling Charles “Chuck” Martin just hours after telling guards at Perry Correctional Institution in Greenville County where to find his body in a prison common area. During that confession, he also asked investigators to tell prosecutors he was serving two life sentences and a third wasn’t going to make a difference.
He told his attorneys he wanted to die, saying he only went to trial so his parents wouldn’t think he was giving up. His push to enter the death chamber wavered briefly when his lawyers suggested he might be able to donate a kidney to his ailing sister, but he reaffirmed his wish to die after the two turned out not to be a match.
Motts and Martin had ended up in the same cell together in November 2005 despite asking to be kept apart because of a dispute over a stolen radio and a shank found in another inmate’s cell.
After an early morning argument on Dec. 5, Motts said he went into a rage, knocked his cellmate unconscious and tied him up. When Martin came to, begging for his life, Motts said he choked him for five minutes. When the cell doors opened for breakfast, Motts smoked a cigarette, ate, then came back to his cell, dragged Martin’s body to a common area and kicked him in the head, saying “this is what snitches get.”
Motts was already serving a life sentence for a 1995 double murder in Spartanburg County in the northwest part of the state. He tied up 79-year-old Clyde Camby and shot him at close range in the cheek at a home in Pacolet, then shot his 73-year-old great-aunt Etta Osteen in the back as she tried to get away, investigators said.
Camby was found with his pockets turned inside out. Authorities said Motts killed the pair to get money to buy crack.
He mentioned his drug addiction in his last statement.
“I want to warn kids of the dangers of drugs. I was the child everyone wanted their children around until I got on drugs. Drugs will destroy your life.”
Motts ate a final meal of pizza, fried fish, popcorn shrimp, french fries, sweet tea and cherry cheesecake.