The Georgia Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the 2005 death sentence for Dorian Frank O'Kelley, but returned the case to Chatham County to adjust his arson convictions.
Mr. O'Kelley was convicted in Chatham County Superior Court in November 2005 for murder and related charges in the 2002 slayings of Susan Pittman, 41, and her 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly. They were slain in their house, which was burned to the ground in an attempt to conceal the crimes.
"Considering the crimes and the defendant, we find the sentences of death are not excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases,'' Justice George Carley wrote in the 29-page opinion.
According to Mr. O'Kelley's statement to police, he beat Pittman with a cane "while her young daughter, guarded by co-defendant Darryl Stinsky, listened, terrified in the next room," Justice Carley's opinion stated.
He then stabbed Ms. Pittman repeatedly, later telling police there was " (a) lot of stabbing, cutting, hitting and fighting for about an hour'' before he finally slit Ms. Pittman's throat to make her die.
He and Stinsky then beat the child with a baseball bat, stabbed her, threw bricks at her "and slit her throat a the child clad only in a shirt, kneeled helplessly on her knees,'' Justice Carley wrote.
Knowing the child was still alive, but unable to move, they set the house on fire, ԧleaving her to burn alive,'' Justice Carley wrote.
The jury recommended two death sentences for Mr. O'Kelley, one for each victim.
But the high court ruled Mr. O'Kelley should only have been convicted on one count of arson and returned it to the court for correction.
Mr. Stisky was later convicted and sentenced to death in the case. His conviction and sentence remain on appeal.