ANDERSONVILLE, Tenn. — Update (8/15/19 8:31 p.m.): Stephen West, a Union County death row inmate convicted in an East Tennessee double-murder in the 1980s, has died after the State of Tennessee executed him at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
The Tennessee Department of Corrections confirmed West had died at 8:27 p.m. EDT by means of electrocution.
Update (8/15/19 10 a.m.): Stephen Michael West, known as Steve West, is scheduled to die in the electric chair on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, at a Nashville prison.
West made a last-minute decision to be executed by electrocution on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.
Original Story (7/25/19): Death row inmate Steve West's execution is scheduled for Aug. 15, 2019, at the prison in Nashville. He will die by lethal injection.
Because he was sentenced to die by the electric chair in 1987, West had the option to choose the electric chair as his execution method rather than lethal injection. West declined to choose either method. The state made the decision for him.
"When presented with the opportunity, West declined to select his method of execution. Per policy, the method of execution now defaults to lethal injection," said Robert Reburn with the Tennessee Department of Correction.
For the remaining relatives of West's victims, the execution is long overdue. Letters from state prosecutors fill a cardboard box at the home of Eddie Campbell in Anderson County.
"This box right here is pretty heavy. These are all the letters I've gotten over the years about appeals for Steve West. The most recent letter was paperwork when I attend his execution on August 15," said Campbell.
Campbell is filling in as a next-of-kin replacement for relative Jack Romines, a Union County man whose wife and daughter were tortured and murdered by Steve West and Ronnie Martin in 1986.
"Jack was like a brother. He would always say, 'If anything happens to me, you make sure everything goes through. He [West] is sentenced to the death penalty, and you need to make sure it is carried out.' We talked about that ever since 1986. When Jack died in 2008, I started getting all the letters that would normally go to him," said Campbell.
On the afternoon of March 17, 1986, Jack Romines returned home to find his wife, Wanda, and 15-year-old daughter Sheila stabbed to death. The mother and daughter were tortured and showed signs of sexual assault.
23-year-old Steve West and 17-year-old Ronnie Martin had been out all night and drove to the Romines' home. They waited for Jack Romines to leave for work before knocking on the door.
"After he left for work, that's when they made their move. It was just downhill from there. It was a truly heinous crime," said Campbell.
In 1987, a jury convicted West of murder and sentenced him to die in the electric chair. Martin was scheduled for trial when his codefendant was sent to death row. Martin then pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison as a 17-year-old rather than risk facing the death penalty if tried as an adult.
Since the 1980s, West's execution has been scheduled and postponed repeatedly. Now his execution is three weeks away and Campbell says he is prepared for closure.
"I really do feel like now it is going to happen. I think we're at the end of the road," said Campbell.
Campbell said although he will attend the execution, he will not be able to be an eye-witness. He said only immediate family members are allowed to witness the execution. Campbell will wait outside the witness room.
"We're going to be right next to the execution. I'm not able to witness and stand in for him [Jack Romines]. That's what sort of hurts," said Campbell. "One of Wanda's daughters from her previous marriage will be there to witness it, so there will be some immediate family able to attend."
Eye-witness or one room over, Campbell has followed through with his promise to Jack Romines. Campbell wants closure. He also does not want anyone else to have to fill a box with decades of details about death row.
"Waiting 30-something years is not right. Wanda and Sheila, they're not forgotten. And they should not be forgotten even after the execution happens," said Campbell. "I feel sorry for the West family. I really do because they're going to lose a loved one. And they're just going to start what we've been going through for 33 years."
There are currently 56 inmates on death row in Tennessee.
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