Steven Brian Pennell


Steven Brian Pennell

A.K.A.: "The Corridor Killer" - "The I-40 Killer"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Torture - Mutilation
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: 1987 - 1988
Date of arrest: November 29, 1988
Date of birth: 1957
Victims profile: Kathleen Meyer, 26 / Michelle Gordon, 22 / Catherine DiMauro / Shirley Ellis / ???
Method of murder: Beating - Stabbing with knife - Strangulation
Location: New Castle County, Delaware, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Delaware on March 14, 1992

Steven Brian Pennell (1957 or 1958 — March 14, 1992), aka The I-40 Killer and The Corridor Killer, was convicted of the murders of two New Castle County, Delaware women and suspected of three more. He also plead no contest to the murder of Kathleen Meyer once DNA evidence linked him to the case. He was executed at age 34 in 1992 by the State of Delaware by lethal injection. He became the first person to be executed in Delaware since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated.

Steven Brian Pennell

The violent murder of Shirley Ellis on November 29, 1987, marked the beginning of the strange and terrible tale of Steven Bryan Pennell's reign as the state of Delaware's first convicted serial killer. Three more bodies followed the first victim, and all had been brutally beaten and sadistically tortured. The body of a fifth woman has never been found.

State and county police collaborated with the FBI to identify and hunt down their suspect, forming a task force of over 100 officers and spending about one million dollars. Through their knowledge and experience with other serial killers, the FBI was able to make an amazingly accurate psychological profile of Delaware's serial killer.

After months of around-the-clock surveillance, Steven Pennell was arrested on November 29, 1988, one year to the day after the first victim was found. Pennell was found guilty in the deaths of the first two victims on November 29, 1989, and plead no contest to the murder of two others on October 30, 1991.

Still maintaining his innocence, he asked for the death penalty so that he could spare his family further agony. Steven Pennell was executed by lethal injection on March 15, 1992.

Delaware Carries Out First Execution Since '46

The New York Times

March 15, 1992

Delaware conducted an execution today for the first time in almost half a century, putting to death a man who had tortured and killed at least four women.

The execution, performed by injection, was carried out inside a trailer on the grounds of the Delaware Correctional Center near this town 15 miles north of Dover. The condemned prisoner was Steven Brian Pennell, 34 years old.

There had been no executions in Delaware since 1946, but the state had rarely had a prisoner like Mr. Pennell. Although he maintained innocence to the end, he fought his wife's efforts to appeal his sentence, saying he wanted to die because his continued imprisonment was causing his family anguish.

In the last two days, Mr. Pennell's wife, Kathy, made desperate efforts to obtain a stay, arguing that her husband's outlook proved that he was mentally incompetent. But Friday night and early today, state and Federal courts turned her down. At 9 o'clock this morning, the United States Supreme Court issued the final rejection of her petition.

Minutes later, inside the prison trailer, which was divided into a glass-enclosed death chamber and an adjoining room for witnesses, Mr. Pennell was strapped down on a vinyl-covered gurney. Asked by the acting warden, Robert Snyder, whether he had any last words, he briefly opened his eyes and shook his head. Serial Killer

Technicians then began injecting him with lethal drugs. After a few moments, Mr. Snyder closed a curtain to the death chamber and, over an intercom, announced that Mr. Pennell was dead. He reopened the curtain, and a Roman Catholic priest standing next to the body was administering last rites.

Marlene Simm, the mother of one of Mr. Pennell's victims, Michelle Gordon, was among a crowd of 40 death-penalty supporters and opponents gathered on the prison grounds. She said she was pleased by the execution.

Mr. Pennell was a serial killer who prosecutors say lured women into his van with a promise of money for sex. Once inside, they were bound with tape, tortured and mutilated.

He was already serving a lifetime prison term for the murder of two women when he was indicted last year on charges of killing two others before his capture. One was Ms. Gordon, 22, whose body was found on Sept. 20, 1988, and the other was Kathleen Meyer, 26, who had disappeared 10 days earlier but whose body was never found. In addition, Mr. Pennell was the chief suspect in the murder of a fifth woman, whose body was found so decomposed that the police could not retrieve any evidence.

Last October, already maintaining that he was determined to be executed, Mr. Pennell pleaded no contest to the Gordon and Meyer killings and was sentenced to death. State law requires that a death sentence be automatically appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court, where Mr. Pennell represented himself and urged the court to hasten his execution. 'A Foolish Suicide'

His wife then undertook her efforts to have him spared. The motions for a stay were filed for Mrs. Pennell by W. Michael Jacobs of the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Litigation Project, who argued that Mr. Pennell was committing "a foolish suicide" and an "irrational act and one which Mrs. Pennell wishes to do everything in her power to stop."

But a judge in New Castle County Superior Court ruled Friday that Mrs. Pennell had not shown that her husband was mentally impaired, and later in the day the State Supreme Court agreed, saying, "There is not a scintilla of evidence that Pennell is incompetent."

The death of Mr. Pennell leaves five prisoners awaiting execution in Delaware. He was the 166th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed resumption of capital punishment.

Steven Brian Pennell, aka "The I-40 Killer," aka "The Corridor Killer," was a monster. Plain and simple. His crimes shocked the liitle state of Delaware, not because it was the first and only case of serial murder in the state's history, but more so due to the twisted savagery of the crimes he committed. Most, if not all of Delaware was happy to get rid of Mr. Pennell when he executed for his crimes in 1992.

Not much is known of Pennell's childhood except that for the most apart, he appeared to come from a normal and stable upbringing. At some point he ended up in Delaware and applied for numerous positions in the state police department. Up until this point he had pursued a career in criminology, having completed several semesters at the University of Delaware.

In any event, all of his applications were rejected for various reasons and he ended up working as an electrician. He married and settled in New Castle. Life for Mrs. Pennell must not have been the most pleasant, since her husband took incredible pleasure in controlling her life and acting as the dominant presence in the household. Fortunately, the Pennells had no children.

In November of 1987, Steven Pennell began what was to become the most appalling case of murder in the history of Small Wonder (Delaware).

For the next eleven months, Pennell cruised Interstate 40 and 13 in search of women that he could torture and rape.

He found the perfect victim in form of a prostitute. Once engaging in a conversation with a local hooker, Pennell would coerce the unsuspecting woman into his van and then drive to an isolated spot where he would then procede to subject his new captive to unspeakable amounts of torture and rape.

Inside the van he carried a so-called "rape kit" that contained specially chosen devices used to torture his victims. Such items included pliers, a whip, handcuffs, needles, knives, and other types of restraints.

His modus operandi varied in every murder which through the police off track. Sometimes he would simply bind his victim by the hands and ankles while he raped them and beat their buttocks with his whip, other times he would hit them with a hammer until they were battered and bloody (and still alive), and in another case he used the pliers to squeeze the victim's breasts and cut off her nipples. Eventually he would show mercy by strangling them to death, then bashing in their skulls with a blunt object for good measure. Finally, the bodies would be dumped along wooded areas next to highways 40 and 13.

Pennell was finally caught when an undercover state police officer named Renee C. Lano posing as a prostitute on route 40, was able to gather fibers from Pennell's van and submit them to the FBI laboratory for testing (blue fibers from an automobile had been found on one of the victims). The results were a perfect match and Pennell was soon arrested. Due to the police's inexperience with serial murder, the FBI had agreed to help, mostly aided by the efforts of special agents John Douglas and Steve Mardigan (Douglas testified against Pennell at his 1989 trial).

On Halloween of 1991, Steven Brian Pennell was sentenced to die by lethal injection aftering have been convicted of two of the five murders he committed. On March 14, 1992, the sentence was carried out. Pennell was 34 years old. His execution cost the state a grand total of $47,085, a rather high figure for an execution. Pennell was the first man in more than 45 years to be executed in Delaware.


MO: Torture-slayer of female prostitutas

DISPOSITION: Executed Mar. 14,1992.