McALESTER, Okla.—Oklahoma executed a man Thursday who was convicted of killing an elderly couple and committing other crimes 20 years ago before authorities caught up to him in Texas after a manhunt.
Scott James Eizember, 62, received a lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m., authorities said.
Eizember’s attorneys did not deny he killed A.J. Cantrell, 76, and his wife, Patsy Cantrell, 70, on Oct. 18, 2003. But they told the state’s Pardon and Parole Board last month that the killings were unplanned and spontaneous and his life still had value.
The board voted 3–2 to reject a clemency recommendation.
“He has felt remorse every day of his imprisonment. There is no reason to kill him next month other than revenge,” attorney Mark Henricksen told the board.
Eizember also spoke to the board via video from prison, accepting responsibility for his crimes and apologizing to his victims.
“I make no excuses. I belong in prison,” Eizember said. “I’ve said that right from the start, and I apologize profusely to all the victims and when I say all, I mean the entire Creek County community.”
Prosecutors allege Eizember broke into the Cantrells’ home in Depew, Oklahoma, after he saw them leave so he could lie in wait for his ex-girlfriend, Kathryn Smith, who lived across the street. When the couple came home unexpectedly, prosecutors say Eizember shot and killed Patsy Cantrell with a shotgun he found inside the home and then bludgeoned A.J. Cantrell to death with the weapon.
Eizember was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing A.J. Cantrell and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 150 years in prison for killing Patsy Cantrell. Eizember’s attorneys had argued that Patsy Cantrell was shot and killed while he and A.J. Cantrell struggled over the shotgun.
After killing the couple, Eizember walked across the street and entered Smith’s home, shot her son in the back, and attacked her mother, prosecutors say. Both survived and authorities say Eizember ultimately sped out of town in a stolen vehicle.
Police believe Eizember hid out in wooded areas around the towns of Depew and Bristow for more than 30 days while law enforcement agencies launched a large manhunt to track him down.
“He wasn’t afraid to kill again,” Assistant Attorney General Tessa Henry told the pardon board.
Eizember eventually made his way to Arkansas in a stolen car and kidnapped a physician and his wife at gunpoint, prosecutors said. After driving with the couple to Texas, he finally was captured near the town of Lufkin after the physician pulled out a pistol stashed in the couple’s van and shot Eizember four times, authorities said.
A federal jury in Arkansas convicted Eizember in December 2005 on two counts of kidnapping and one count each of carjacking and using a firearm in a crime of violence. He was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in that case.
Eizember filed a last-minute lawsuit seeking to have his spiritual adviser with him inside the death chamber during his execution after the Department of Corrections rejected the minister, the Rev. Jeff Hood of Arkansas, because of Hood’s history of anti-death penalty activism, including arrests. The DOC reversed course on that decision Wednesday, citing concerns from the Cantrell family that the decision could lead to Thursday’s execution being called off.
Oklahoma uses a three-drug lethal injection method starting with the sedative midazolam, rendering the person unconscious, followed by a paralytic vecuronium bromide, and finally potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
Eizember’s execution was the eighth in Oklahoma since the state resumed executions in 2021.
By Sean Murphy