The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever
Couples usually look for romance on Valentine’s Day. Romantic dinners, flowers, jewelry – that sort of thing. The last thing on anyone’s mind is murder. But it turned out a bit different for Dr. John Hamilton and his wife Susan. Instead of a night of romance, she was strangled and had her skull bashed in.
John and Susan met in 1985. They were both divorced and each had four kids. Susan was the type of person that people just wanted to be around. John was a successful OB/GYN in Oklahoma City. They were married in 1987. By all accounts, they were a happy couple living a great life. John seemed madly in love and showered Susan with expensive gifts.
Susan started working at John’s clinic. Besides gynecological exams and delivering babies, John also performed abortions. Unfortunately, as with all abortion clinics, there were protests out front and threatening phone calls.
On February 14, 2002, John was scheduled to perform two surgeries. He and Susan had plans to meet at home between the surgeries to exchange cards and gifts. He had even ordered a bunch of red orchids to give her later that day. But when he got home he found Susan’s bloody lifeless body, strangled and beaten on the bathroom floor. Or so he said…
He dialed 911 saying “Please send police. Please send an ambulance, please. I think my wife is dead. Please send somebody quick”. Emergency services found John covered in blood trying to resuscitate Susan. She had been strangled using two neckties. Her head had been beaten so hard that part of her brain was visible. She was lying in a pool of blood.
Police searched the home, but there was no sign of forced entry and nothing was stolen. There was also no evidence of anyone being there. Police noticed that although John said he gave her mouth-to-mouth, there was no blood on his face, even though she had bloody facial injuries. They were immediately suspicious.
The police found the card that Susan gave John for Valentine’s Day. She wrote, “I bought this two weeks ago, so I guess maybe it doesn’t seem so appropriate. But I do love you. Have a good day. Susan”. The message enhanced the police’s suspicions.
According to one of Susan’s friends, Susan thought John was having an affair. She found out that John had frequently been making calls to a topless dancer. He claimed that she was a patient he was trying to help. Friends claimed that Susan was thinking of divorcing John.
John was taken into custody. There were initial questions about John being the killer because of the close timing between his two scheduled surgeries. Then, police learned that John had been late for his second surgery. Investigators found Susan’s blood and skin on his car’s steering wheel. He claimed to have moved his car so the ambulance had room to park. Blood was also found on one of John’s shoes. A blood expert said that it was consistent with splatter that comes from someone who was alive.
When the trial started the community rallied around John. They all saw the Hamiltons’ perfect life and how much they loved each other. No one could believe that John was capable of murdering the woman he loved. And both John and the dancer he had been speaking to denied the affair. District Attorney Wes Lane said that the prospect of Susan divorcing John had driven him to murder. He said John was obsessed with Susan.
The defense team said that investigators didn’t spend enough time investigating threats made by anti-abortionists. John said that a militant anti-abortionist group called the “Army of God” had faxed a wanted poster with his face on it to his office. The Army of God group were supporters of a sniper that killed a New York abortion provider in 1998.
At trial, the defense’s blood expert, Tom Bevel, said the blood on John’s shoe could have happened when he was trying to help her. The Prosecution asked Bevel if there was any other blood that was missed. Bevel admitted that blood was found in the cuff of John’s shirt. Bevel was forced to admit that it could have been from John beating Susan. This was the turning point at the trial.
The jury deliberated for only two hours and found him guilty of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced John to life without the possibility of parole. The judge told John “The majority of jurors were very disappointed they didn’t have the sentence of death as an option. You should consider yourself very lucky”. He will be spending every Valentine’s Day for the rest of his life in the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, OK.