- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

ABBEVILLE, S.C. (AP) - For the death penalty to mean anything in South Carolina, the killer who ambushed and killed two law officers in South Carolina in 2003 needs to be executed when his appeals run out, said the prosecutor whose office handled the case.

Solicitor David Stumbo said South Carolina’s lack of drugs to carry out executions is changing the way fellow prosecutors do their jobs, adding another hurdle as he and families consider whether to seek the death penalty in murder cases.

Stumbo spoke Friday at a ceremony marking 14 years since Abbeville County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Wilson and state constable Donnie Ouzts were killed by a family angry over a highway widening project outside their Abbeville home.

Steven Bixby and his parents were charged with murder. They have died, but Bixby, 50, remains on death row after being convicted.

“If we are to have the death penalty in South Carolina, which the vast majority of our citizens are in favor of, it has to mean something,” Stumbo said in a statement.

Executions in South Carolina are on hold because the state does not have the drugs needed for lethal injection. State prison officials want a law passed allowing the companies who provide the drugs to remain secret so they can sell the needed drugs without facing scrutiny.

Dozens of people packed a room at the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office on Friday to remember Wilson and Ouzts.

Wilson went to the Bixby home on Dec. 8, 2003, to speak to the family after they picked up survey stakes and threatened workers on the widening project for state Highway 72 that would have taken about 20 feet (6 meters) of their land.

Bixby shot Wilson through the door as he approached, dragged him inside, handcuffed him with his own handcuffs and left him to die, prosecutors said.

Ouzts was shot about 20 minutes later as he came to check on Wilson after dispatchers hadn’t heard from him.

Over the next 14 hours, Steven Bixby and his father hid in their home and fire hundreds of rounds at officers, including several who managed to drag a mortally wounded Ouzts to an ambulance. No other officers were injured, a result that then State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart called a miracle.

The Bixby house is still standing, decrepit and full of bullet holes. But a local businessman has bought the property and is talking to the county about clearing the land for a memorial, Abbeville County Sheriff Ray Watson said.

“We wanted to burn it. Like I wish we would have done that night when the propane tank caught on fire,” Watson said. “We’re going to tear it down … and we want to put some kind of memorial up.”

___

This story has corrected the spelling of the constable’s name to Ouzts.


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