Stephen Hugueley was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for a prison murder. According to court documents Stephen Hugueley was serving a life sentence for the murder of his mother and would murder another prison inmate a few years later. Stephen Hugueley would stab to death a prison counselor in order to get the death penalty. Stephen Hugueley would be sentenced to death. Stephen Hugueley would take his own life in July 2021
Stephen Hugueley 2021 Information
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The evidence adduced at Defendant’s trial established that, on January 17, 2002, Stephen Hugueley was an inmate at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility, where he was housed in the “F” pod. That day, correctional counselor Delbert Steed entered the “F” pod in order to counsel inmates. Mr. Steed was sitting at a table when Defendant approached from behind and began stabbing Mr. Steed with a homemade weapon. Defendant stabbed Mr. Steed a total of thirty-six times. Defendant did not cease stabbing the victim until the handle of his homemade weapon broke off. Once Defendant was unable to continue using his weapon, he lay down on the floor of the pod and permitted other correctional officers to restrain and remove him. The victim was recovered with the sharpened portion of the weapon still embedded in his back, and he was transported to the infirmary.
Mary Harris testified that she was working in the control room from which she could view the activity occurring in the pod. She observed Stephen Hugueley approach the victim from behind and begin stabbing him. Upon witnessing Defendant’s attack on Mr. Steed, she called for assistance. Another female officer opened the door to the pod and told Defendant to stop. At that, Defendant rose and started toward the officer “with the knife drawn back like he was going to stab her.” The officer closed the door, and Defendant returned to the victim, recommencing his attack. Ms. Harris testified further that Officer Donald Watkins entered the pod and told Defendant to stop. According to Ms. Harris, Defendant stabbed the victim once or twice more and then stopped when the handle on the weapon broke. At that point, Defendant allowed himself to be taken into custody.
Donald Watkins testified that he is a Senior Correctional Officer at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility. He responded to Ms. Harris’ call for assistance. As he looked through the door into the pod, he saw Defendant kneeling down next to the victim. When he saw Stephen Hugueley stab the victim with a homemade weapon, he entered the pod shouting, “Drop your weapon! Drop your weapon!” Mr. Watkins stated that Defendant complied immediately and lay face down on the floor. Mr. Watkins called for medical assistance, and when he heard the victim making a groaning noise “like he was in pain,” Mr. Watkins tried to reassure the victim that help was coming.
Pursuant to his employment by the Tennessee Department of Correction as an Internal Affairs Investigator, Mr. Joseph Vernon reported to the crime scene where he collected evidence and took photographs. Mr. Vernon was present when the murder weapon was removed from Mr. Steed’s body. He described the weapon as a “quarter inch rod that ha[d] been sharpened to a very fine point” on one end. Mr. Vernon stated that the point was “razor sharp.” The weapon measured approximately eleven inches long. The handle of the weapon was a “Magic Marker” pen.
Mr. Don Dunaway, also an Internal Affairs Investigator with the Tennessee Department of Correction, interviewed Stephen Hugueley after the killing. After being informed of his rights and agreeing to waive them, Defendant gave Mr. Dunaway a lengthy statement in which he described his intense dislike of the victim. Mr. Dunaway testified about the statement. Additionally, an audio tape of Defendant’s statement was played for the jury, and a transcript of the tape was provided. Defendant described numerous conflicts and confrontations that he had had with Mr. Steed in his capacity as a correctional officer. Defendant claimed that Mr. Steed had threatened to write him up and told Defendant that he was “friends with these gangs around here! They like me! They love me! ․ you ain’t nothing!”
Stephen Hugueley killed the victim on a Thursday. Defendant told Mr. Dunaway that he began thinking about killing the victim on the previous Monday. On that day, he got his weapon but then decided to “just ․ leave it alone.” Defendant described to Mr. Dunaway what then occurred on Thursday, while Mr. Steed was in the pod:
I started to walk up and say something to him, and one of the little gang members that he talked to a lot there, run up and set down at the table and started talkin’ to him. And I stood over to the side for a few minutes, and he looked at me, and he just shook his head ․ just turned around and faced the other direction. And I said, “F[-]k this!” And I went to the house, and got my damn knife and packed my property up real quick ․ throwed my s[-]t in a box and un-done my TV, and set it over to the side, and went and killed his ass! It was that plain and simple.
Stephen Hugueley admitted to Mr. Dunaway that he intended to kill the victim by stabbing “the most vital organs first ․ the heart and the lung.”
Mr. Dunaway testified that in May of 2003, Defendant wrote a letter to the district attorney. Mr. Dunaway obtained this letter and subsequently verified with Defendant that he had written and signed it. This letter was admitted into evidence and states, in pertinent part, the following: “I did with malicious intent premeditatedly murder Delbert Steed, and as indicated in my statement to Internal Affairs, I have no regret or remorse for this crime and I fully intended to kill others that day but was unable to do so because the handle on my weapon broke.”
Dr. O’Brian Clary Smith testified as an expert in the field of forensic pathology about the autopsy to the victim. Dr. Smith removed the murder weapon from the victim’s back. He stated that the victim’s cause of death was “[m]ultiple stab wounds, thirty-six.” Twelve of these wounds were lethal. Dr. Smith testified that there were ten wounds to the victim’s chest area, three of which were fatal. There were fourteen wounds to the victim’s back area, nine of which were fatal. Additionally, there was one wound to the victim’s abdomen and eleven wounds to the victim’s left arm.
Defendant testified at trial. He stated about his attack on the victim:
I was stabbing Counselor Steed. He was laying on the floor, stomach down. I was trying to drive it plumb through and hit the concrete below him. That was my intentions. I heard the door pop behind me. I turned around and it was the Watkins guy that testified yesterday, and a little girl named Perry. When I seen them, I took one and a half steps toward them. At that time, I still had the weapon in my hand. And they said, “He’s got a knife,” and slammed the door.
And they stood outside the door while I stabbed the man while he was laying on the floor, face down, I stabbed him about eight more times trying to run it plumb through him. They didn’t come in until when I drawed back going to hit him again, I didn’t see nothing but a piece of pen, Magic Marker sticking out of my hand․
At that point, Defendant threw the weapon handle away and lay down on the floor. Defendant also testified about a grievance he had filed in which he set forth various complaints about the victim and the victim’s supervisor. He explained that he had made numerous cell change requests and requests to be placed in the anger management program, “all in an effort to get away from Counselor Steed” and the unit manager. Defendant stated that the victim “had a smart ass mouth” which was the source of their “problem.” Defendant continued: “He had a habit of shooting his mouth off to inmates, threatening them, and I wasn’t going to stand for it in any way, shape or form.”
On cross-examination, Defendant stated, “In the world I live in, you die for disrespect. It should apply to both employee and inmate.” He explained that he had made the murder weapon from a piece of metal removed from a laundry cart. He used sandpaper from a belt sander to sharpen the point. He stated that he would not have quit stabbing the victim if the handle of the weapon had not broken off. He admitted that he aimed for the victim’s vital organs.
Defendant acknowledged that his actions in killing the victim were both intentional and premeditated. He also acknowledged that during his conversations with defense counsel he had consistently maintained that he wanted the death penalty.
Upon considering this proof, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on Defendant’s charge of first degree premeditated murder.
Stephen Hugueley Suicide
A man on Tennessee’s death row died Friday, three days after the state filed for a new execution date in his case.
This week, he once again pleaded with the courts to be let out of solitary confinement, where he’d been for 18 years.
Stephen L. Hugueley, 53, was pronounced dead at 2:35 a.m. Friday at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution where he was housed, a release from the Tennessee Department of Correction indicated.
He died of apparent natural causes, according to the agency.
“Years of this abuse took a tremendous physical and mental toll upon Stephen. That Stephen withstood this treatment for so long is a testament to the strength of his spirit,” his attorney, Federal Public Defender Amy Harwell, wrote Friday.
Hugueley was sentenced to death in 2003 after a conviction for first degree murder in the 2002 killing of prison counselor Delbert Steed at the Hardeman County Correctional Complex.
Steed was stabbed 36 times.
Hugueley was serving time on previous convictions at the time of Steed’s killing.
He received a life sentence in August 1986 after he was convicted of fatally shooting his mother, Rachel Waller of Dyer County, with a shotgun and dumping her body into the Forked Deer River. He was 18 at the time.
In 1991, Hugueley killed a fellow inmate while he was incarcerated at the West Tennessee High Security Prison.
Six years later, Hugueley stabbed another inmate at the state’s maximum security prison at the time, Brushy Mountain. He was convicted of attempted first degree murder.
Hugueley was later moved to the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
Harwell said his interactions with the prison system started very young.
Stephen Hugueley entered the Tennessee Department of Correction as a profoundly damaged individual who from his 12th birthday to today spent less than two years outside of an institutional setting,” she wrote. “He left that system today after nearly two decades in solitary confinement where he had severely limited interaction with other humans and was systematically denied access to treatment and basic health care.”
Hugueley sued TDOC leadership in federal court over his continued solitary confinement in July 2019.
In a letter filed Tuesday, he called living in solitary confinement for 18 years “psychological and physical torture,” and accused the department of trying to drive him to suicide, “like my father.”
“Every day that they can delay providing me any meaningful relief is a good day for the defendants and a psychologically and physically horrifying day for me, and it is a day closer to my death, a day which I can never reclaim, thereby, making it even more apparent that it is their intent to hold me in solitary confinement without any immediate and meaningful relief until I am dead,” he wrote.
The same day, the state moved to set his execution date. It was not scheduled before his death.
His exact cause of death was not immediately available, pending official determination by the medical examiner, TDOC said.
Tennessee resumed executions for capital crimes in 2018 and has since executed seven people, most recently in February 2020 before pandemic considerations delayed others scheduled. New dates have not been been set for any of the 47 people remaining on death row as of Friday morning