John On Deathrow In SC

My cousin, John Plath, saved on the way to Death Row

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        Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In July of 1998 I sent out a prayer request for my cousin on death row. I also sent out a request in March for another cousin, also on death row, these two cousins were on death row for the same murder.

Both of my cousins have now been executed and I have been able to piece together the events that transpired as they went to their deaths. They were both executed in the summer of 1998, Butch in March of 98, John in July of 98.

First of all, I want to thank all of those who prayed for my cousins and this family as all of this played out, and to thank you for sending the prayer requests to those you knew would pray.

Second, I would like to ask you to forward this accounting of events to those you forwarded the prayer requests to in the first place, so that all whom prayed may know the outcome of these events.

Third, I suppose what you are about to read here will become a chapter in my forthcoming book, "Who Cares", and what you are reading will be the basis, the rough draft if you will, of that chapter. Many of you prayed deeply for this situation and you deserve to know the outcome of those prayers. This may get a tad long, but I feel you deserve to know, and know in detail, and so, I will endeavor to bring to you the facts as I now understand them to have taken place.

First and foremost, no matter what else happened with my cousins on death row, it was the Bible, sent to me by my cousin John from death row, (see bible), the fact that they were there and set to die, and a letter and a tape, sent with the Bible, that brought me to my knees to accept Jesus as my Savior. On my end, that was a real conversion, and one I made for life. That was in 1980. Though I backslid after the breakup of my marriage in 1982, I began my return to the ways of the Lord in 1984 and by 1987, was ready to come back to Jesus fully, this time knowing and understanding just what it meant to be a Christian, the trials, the wars, the testing, and understanding what it meant to stand in faith, and since that day in 1987, when I again went to my knees and returned to the family, I have remained firmly and steadfastly obedient to the Lord!

For this, I will always be grateful to my cousin, John Plath, who sent me the Bible, signed by him and Butch and 10 other death row inmates, and other things from death row in SC.

As I began to get more in tune with God's leading in my life and began to understand the many things the Lord wanted to remove from my life, and as I continued to correspond with John, I began to realize that his "conversion" may have been a ploy to manipulate the courts in SC. There were so many things that he wrote in his letters that were not consistent with one whom would be growing in the Lord. Over the years this became ever more evident to me, and as I would confront John with facts from his own letters in an effort to make his conversion real, or I should say, to return him to his first love, he would become very angry, and at times, even threaten me.

I am firmly convinced that John's original conversion was real and that his letter, tape and the Bible he sent to me from death row in SC were sent with a sincere heart. However, as the years went by, and the hours, days and months of confinement grew, and as one appeal after another was denied by the courts, his faith began to waiver and continued to erode in the coming years.

This went on for many years until he finally got so angry at me, that he just stopped writing, and on my end, I gave up, (to a point), and placed him in the hands of the Lord.

John never told me why he was so angry at me, and I did write to him from time to time, usually at least twice a year, over a 10 year period, and continued to ask just why he was so angry at me. He would then write back and begin to open the lines of communication for a month or so, only to close them again with no explanation other than to tell me I should know what I did and why he was angry at me. I would continue to write only to receive no reply, so I would wait awhile, then write again. This was a burden that was hard to bear, since this was the man whom had taken the time to lead me to Jesus, and it hurt deeply.

Finally, after all those years, and only after they had set the date for Butch's execution, (my other cousin on death row was also named John, but we all called him Butch. For purposes of identification in this letter they are John Plath, the cousin who sent me the Bible, and John {Butch} Arnold, the other cousin), John told me why he had been so angry at me.

It seems that some of the people he used to deal drugs to were still writing to him (and still doing drugs) and he claimed that two of them had written to him and told him I had slept with his girlfriend, this being the girl who was with him when they committed the murder, the same girl who turned states evidence against him and testified that he and Butch were the ones who committed the murder, and the same girl he and Butch had tried to build their defense strategy around by saying that "their girlfriends became jealous because the lady that was murdered was flirting with the guys and that was why the girls killed the lady". Butch also had a girl with him too at the time of the murder. I tracked down these two sources and ask them point blank why they had written to John and told him these things, both of them told me they never told him this. When I wrote back to him and pointed out that I had talked to his sources he again got angry and shut down communications.

Knowing my two cousins as I did, and having partied with them on many, many occasions over the years as we were growing up, I knew how out of control they could be when they got together and how they influenced each other when they were together. They were both volatile chemicals separately, and when you placed them together, and added in booze and drugs, I realized it was only a matter of time until someone, one of us, or someone else, would end up dead.

So I began to stay away from Butch because he was getting totally insane in his behavior patterns, and hung out with my other cousin John, the dealer. I must make note here of the fact that Butch was already in trouble with the authorities and had spent most of his life, from age 9 or 10 on through until he committed this murder, in state correctional facilities. It was during the times when he would be released or would come home on weekend furloughs that our paths would cross, and I learned very quickly that if I wanted to remain on the streets and not in a state facility for correction, it was a good idea to stay away from Butch. I must also add here, that by the time I was 15, I had found my own way of ending up in a state correctional facility for juveniles, and remained there until I was 17.

As John became older, he became more unbalanced in his thinking and assessment of human life. Women to him became something to be used for his pleasure, and only for his pleasure. This was due to the fact that he had become addicted to pornography and viewed all women in the same way, as they were portrayed in the triple X magazines he had begun to collect.

Butch, on the other hand, had become institutionalized due to his many years of being in homes and prisons, and as soon as he would get out, he would commit some crime and go right back in. It is important to note that at the time of this murder, Butch had been home on leave from prison and had not returned at the proper time, thus he was already an escapee from a state prison when he and John decided to leave Pennsylvania and go to South Carolina for a "holiday" outing.

It is also important to note here that Butch, being only 9 or 10 years old, and being placed in a juvenile detention center with guys almost twice his age, had been raped at that early age by blacks in the facility in which he had been placed. Something he never admitted to anyone, nor ever sought counseling for. As a result of this, he became very bitter towards blacks and would constantly use the N word when referring to them. He not only disliked them, he hated them, all of them. The thing I could never understand was this, if Butch hated blacks so much, and didn't even want to talk to them or make an effort to know any, why did he keep committing crimes that place him back in prison where he would be in close contact with blacks? To this day, I do not have an answer for that question. The only person I know that Butch ever revealed the fact to that he had been raped was John, and that was after they were already guilty of murder.

In case you haven't guessed yet, it was a black lady from SC who had been murdered by my two cousins. And it was years of sin, on top of sin, on top of sin that all built up inside two very disturbed minds culminating in a drunken drug induced orgy of sex and murder which would be the sin that would one day claim the lives of my cousins in SC by execution.

Having shared all that, let me now continue.

As John wrote to me over the years he told me when he got out he would probably deal drugs again, that he would have more than one wife, that God said marijuana was okay to use because it grows wild, and that other Bible guys had more than one wife, his words. He also made threats to me and others in this town, including a newspaper reporter, who would from time to time write about his case in SC when another appeal had been turned down.

All of this I took in stride knowing what it was like to sit in a prison cell, and knowing that John had been there many years and that he was not understanding what he was reading and was twisting it out of context, and praying and sending him bible study letters to point out the errors in his thinking. I took it in stride, but it still hurt.

As John had written to me all those many years, he never once expressed any sorrow or remorse for the lady that he helped to murder. And I think that was the thing that bothered me most.

It was a violent end for her as the sex got out of hand and Butch, in his mind, drunk and high, justified the taking of this lady's life for all the abuse he had suffered from blacks.

This lady was picked up hitchhiking, partied with my cousins, then was dropped off at her brothers, then picked up again, this time with Butch having set in his mind that she would die, and John thinking he was kidding and just wanting sex.

But John never lifted a finger to help this lady as Butch began to take her life, and from court testimony, actually participated in the murder.

It has not been easy being related to two murderers who committed a very violent and sick crime, it has been even harder when people ask me how I came to know Jesus and I tell them a murderer who committed a very sick and disgusting crime sent me a bible that got me to my knees. And many look at me in disgust when I share with them that I used to deal drugs with John. John was well known in our town and over his many years on death row had written many angry letters to many, many people.

Nevertheless, because of that Bible, I will arrive in Heaven one day.

Butch went to his death never admitting he had committed the murder. He did not pray before he died that I know of and fully expected to come back to this earth as another life form, which he stated in his last statement to the world.

Butch and John had built a trap for themselves by lying for so many years to the authorities. They actually thought they would never die on death row and that they would someday win in appeal. Butch went to his grave with lies issuing forth from his mouth in some sick effort to save himself and John. Butch was convinced there would be a last minute appeal to save his life, and even as he was strapped onto that table to take the lethal injection, he continued to lie, and I am convinced, knowing both of them as I did, that John convinced Butch to continue the lie selfishly hoping to save his own life with a last minute appeal.

John also denied participating in the murder until after Butch was executed, then he came forth and admitted that Butch had indeed committed the murder, but that he was in the car when it happened, this he shared with the authorities and with me in the final weeks of his life. In the last two weeks he had left on this earth he wrote to me several times and confessed that he had been there when Butch began the murder, but still would not accept responsibility for his part and when I wrote to him and showed him some of the discrepancies in his version of what happened as he was telling me now, and the court testimony and earlier letters to me over the years, and told him he must get this right before men and God, he again became angry and threatened me.

At that point I had to let go and place him in Gods hands, (it seemed all I was doing was to anger him more), and that is what I did, as hard as it was to do, I did not call, I did not write, all I did was pray.

As he was led to the chamber in which he was about to die, and before they strapped him onto the table, the games ended, the lies ceased, and he nervously prayed for salvation and forgiveness of his sins. As the drugs began to flow into his body that would end his life, he turned to the family of the lady he had killed and mouthed something, no one knows for sure what he said. I believe what he said was, "I am sorry!".

I believe now I will see one of my cousins in Heaven, the other, only God knows what his last thoughts were as he faded from this life to what awaits those of us who die.

As I awake each day now I thank God that my conversion was real, and I am ever so aware of just how quickly my life may have ended differently.

For each of you whom prayed, I send you my sincere and heartfelt thanks and have prayed for the Lord to bless you for your prayers!

In His Name,
And for His Glory,



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