DOC#: 13155 White Male
Lake County Superior Court
Judge James E. Letsinger
Prosecutor: Thomas W. Vanes
Defense: Herb Shaps
Date of Murder: March 20, 1983
Victim(s): Paul Komyatti, Sr.
W/M/62 (Father-In-Law of Vandiver)
Method of Murder: stabbed with
fish filet knife over 100 times
Summary: Paul Komyatti, Sr. on
occasion drank to excess and became loud and violent. He was
disliked by members of his immediate family, which included his wife,
Rosemary, his son Paul Jr., and his daughter , Mariann.
Paul Sr. had demanded that Mariann divorce
Vandiver because of his criminal past., and threatened to inform the
police on him.
Vandiver joined with the family in a conspiracy
to kill Paul Sr. Pursuant to their agreement, several attempts to
poison him were made without success.
Finally, they decided to put him under with ether
and inject air into his veins.
One evening, Vandiver and Mariann waited outside
the home for a signal from Paul Jr. that Paul Sr. was asleep. Upon
seeing the signal, they entered the house and changed the plan at
the last moment for lack of ether. Instead they entered the bedroom
intending to smother Paul Sr., and sprang on him in his bed. Paul
Sr. fought hard for his life and yet another attempt at murder was
Vandiver, however, terminated the resistance by
stabbing him in the back with a fish filet knife "at least 100
times." 34 deep knife wounds were later discovered on the body. He
hit him in the head 5 or 6 times with his gun, but he was still
breathing. By Vandiver's own admission, decapitation was the
immediate cause of death.
Vandiver and the other family members then
sectioned up the body while making jokes. Evidence was also
presented that Vandiver had gotten a "loan" of $5000 from Paul Jr.,
as well as $1700 and Paul Sr.'s truck from Rosemary.
At trial, Vandiver recanted his prior confessions
and placed the entire blame on Paul Jr. for the murder and
Sentencing: January 20, 1984 (Death
Aggravating Circumstances: b(3)
Lying in wait; b(4) Hired to kill
Mitigating Circumstances: None
VANDIVER WAIVED APPEALS AND WAS EXECUTED BY
ELECTRIC CHAIR ON 10-16-85 AT 12:20 AM EST. HE WAS THE 72ND
CONVICTED MURDERER EXECUTED IN INDIANA SINCE 1900, AND THE SECOND
SINCE THE DEATH PENALTY WAS REINSTATED IN 1977.
Paul Komyatti, Sr. on occasion drank to excess and became loud and
violent. He was disliked by members of his immediate family, which
included his wife, Rosemary, his son Paul Jr., and his daughter,
Paul Sr. had demanded that Mariann divorce Vandiver because of his
criminal past., and threatened to inform the police on him.
Vandiver joined with the family in a conspiracy to kill Paul Sr.
Pursuant to their agreement, several attempts to poison him were
made without success. Finally, they decided to put him under with
ether and inject air into his veins.
One evening, Vandiver and Mariann waited outside the home for a
signal from Paul Jr. that Paul Sr. was asleep. Upon seeing the
signal, they entered the house and changed the plan at the last
moment for lack of ether.
Instead they entered the bedroom intending to smother Paul Sr., and
sprang on him in his bed. Paul Sr. fought hard for his life and yet
another attempt at murder was bungled. Vandiver, however, terminated
the resistance by stabbing him in the back with a fish filet knife "at
least 100 times." 34 deep knife wounds were later discovered on the
body. He hit him in the head 5 or 6 times with his gun, but he was
By Vandiver's own admission, decapitation was the immediate cause of
death. Vandiver and the other family members then sectioned up the
body while making jokes.
Evidence was also presented that Vandiver had gotten a "loan" of
$5000 from Paul Jr., as well as $1700 and Paul Sr.'s truck from
At trial, Vandiver recanted his prior confessions and
placed the entire blame on Paul Jr. for the murder and dissection.
Vandiver waived all appeals.
Indiana. William E. Vandiver.
October 16, 1985.
He was still
breathing after the first administration of 2,300 volts, and the
current had to be applied three more times before he died.
Vandiver's attorney, Herbert Shaps, witnessed the killing and said
it was outrageous. The Department of Corrections admitted the
execution "did not go according to plan." Dr. Rodger Saylors of
Michigan City who examined the body said, "This is very rare."
Vandiver v. State, 480 N.E.2d 910 (Ind.
July 29, 1985) (Direct Appeal).
Defendant was convicted in the Lake County
Superior Court, Criminal Division, James E. Letsinger, J., of murder
and sentenced to death, and defendant expressed a desire not to
appeal sentence or conviction.
The Supreme Court, Pivarnik, J., held
that: (1) examination of defendant indicated he intelligently waived
appeal of conviction, although appeal of sentence could not be
waived; (2) record was sufficient to find that trial court did not
err in the way it imposed death sentence; and (3) record was
sufficient to support sentence of death. Affirmed.
This case comes directly to this Court since it involves the
imposition of a death sentence pursuant to Ind.Code § 35-50-2-9 (Burns
1985). Defendant-Appellant William Carl Vandiver was charged and
convicted of murder, Ind.Code § 35-42-1-1 (Burns 1985), by a jury in
the Lake Superior Court on December 19, 1983. The same jury
subsequently heard additional evidence presented by the State to
prove certain aggravating circumstances and, after additional
deliberation, recommended to the trial court that the death sentence
The trial court agreed and accordingly sentenced
Vandiver to death. Vandiver then was informed by the trial court of
his right to appeal and Attorney Martin Kinney was appointed to
represent him through the appellate process.
On November 5, 1984, Vandiver notified this Court
by letter that he desired to waive his appeal. This desire and
corresponding request was further substantiated by a verified "Motion
to Waive Appeal" apparently filed pro se by Vandiver on November 8,
1984. In said Motion, Vandiver stated: "4. attached hereto and
incorporated into this motion is a copy of the letter sent to his
attorney, Martin H. Kinney, terminating all defense for the
defendant. 5. that he (William Vandiver) does not want any other
attorneys or legal groups to interfere with this waiver motion."
Vandiver also sent a copy of his "Motion to Waive
Appeal" and a letter dated November 8, 1984, to Attorney Kinney
directing Kinney to cease representing him. We note that Kinney has
filed with this Court at least two sworn affidavits attesting to the
fact that he talked with Vandiver at length on several occasions
about his right to appeal and that each time Vandiver thoughtfully
stated his desire to waive his appeal and to have no one do anything
on his behalf in regard to the mandatory review of his death
This Court, of course, faced a similar situation
in 1981 in the case of Stephen Judy. See Judy v. State, (1981) 275
Ind. 145, 416 N.E.2d 95. In Judy, we held that Ind.Code §
35-50-2-9(h) precludes any waiver of a review of the sentencing in a
death penalty case but does not preclude waiver of a review of the
underlying murder conviction. Accordingly, this Court set a hearing
for Vandiver to appear in person before us and accompanied by
Attorney Kinney so that we might determine whether he did, in fact,
wish to waive appeal of his murder conviction and, if so, whether
his waiver was voluntarily and knowingly made.
On January 17, 1985, Vandiver, accompanied by
Attorney Kinney, appeared in person before this Court and was
thoroughly examined by us about his waiver request. At that hearing,
Vandiver very freely and openly discussed his situation. In
particular, he stated that he understood that he had a right to an
appeal with the assistance of counsel, that a review of his
conviction might result in an order for a new trial, and that if he
received a new trial, he would be entitled to a jury, a change of
judge and a change of venue from the county. He further expressed
his understanding that if he were granted a new trial, he would be
entitled to the assistance of counsel and to subpoena witnesses in
In addition, Vandiver stated that he was aware
that a new trial might result in his acquittal while our automatic
review of his death sentence might result in setting it aside and
the imposition of a term of years in prison. Moreover, Vandiver
acknowledged that he understood that a waiver at that time of any
review of his murder conviction would be considered a final decision
and would stand even if this Court were to decide to set aside his
death sentence. Finally, Vandiver freely admitted that he received a
"fair" trial and was guilty of the murder for which he was convicted.
To explain why he desired to waive his appeal, Vandiver stated:
"Well, I turned myself in. I admitted to the
crime. I see no sense in wasting everybody's time. At the best that
could happen, I would end up doing forty-five years, and I'm going
to die there anyway, so why--why prolong it. You know--you know,
there is no need. I'm going to die there regardless, so I don't see
no sense in setting there when it's going to happen anyway.... Well,
to me it [being executed] would be less than getting a tooth pulled.
It would be over with. My family wouldn't have to suffer no more, my
friends or the people that are concerned. It would be over with. I
see no sense in dragging them around for another ten or fifteen
years and have to depend on them. I see no sense in that either ...
I am a gambler; I was *912 taking a gamble. The gamble didn't pay
off. I see no sense to proceed any further with anything."
After observing Vandiver's demeanor in court and
noting his responsiveness to our very thorough questioning, this
Court decided to accept Vandiver's waiver of appeal. This is to say
that we found Vandiver competent to make a waiver and also found
that he knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived his right to
appeal his murder conviction. Although Vandiver's appeal was deemed
waived, a question arose regarding whether briefing was necessary to
facilitate our automatic review of Vandiver's death sentence
pursuant to Ind.Code § 35- 50-2-9(h).
This question originally was taken under
advisement but on January 22, 1985, this Court issued an "Order
Setting Briefing." By said Order, we directed the Public Defender of
Indiana to assist us in our consideration of Vandiver's sentencing
in this case. Specifically, the Public Defender was ordered to: "brief
the question of imposition of the death sentence in light of the
statutory requirements of IC 35-50-2-9. Argument shall be confined
to the issue of the death sentence in light of IC 35-50-2-9
Potential errors in connection with the conviction which have been
waived shall not be argued."
We note that Vandiver never requested to be
represented by the Public Defender and, in fact, desired that no one
promote any kind of defense on his behalf. Accordingly, the Public
Defender was engaged by us to insure our best possible review of
Vandiver's death sentence by briefing the narrow question of whether
Vandiver's death sentence comports with the statutory requirements
of Ind.Code § 35-50-2-9.
The Public Defender was to do no more and we
accordingly will disregard those issues and arguments raised by the
Public Defender which are beyond the scope of our specific
assignment to the Public Defender. In this regard, the State's "Motion
To Strike In Part Appellant's 'Death Sentence Review Brief' " is
granted. We note that the Public Defender is now discharged from any
further involvement in this case having completed the briefing
assignment we gave by our Order of January 22, 1985. The Public
Defender is thanked for its service to this Court.
We also note that Martin Kinney was effectively
terminated as Vandiver's attorney by Vandiver's letter to Kinney of
November 8, 1984. Having already decided that Vandiver could and did
waive appeal of his murder conviction, we now find that only two
issues need be considered which are as follows: 1. whether the
procedure by which the death penalty was imposed on Vandiver fully
comports with the dictates of Ind.Code § 35-50-2-9; and 2. whether
death is an appropriate penalty in Vandiver's case according to our
Indiana Rules for the Appellate Review of Sentences.
* * * *
The trial judge presiding over Vandiver's
bifurcated proceeding made very detailed findings to demonstrate his
reasons for making the judgment he did after receiving the jury's
recommendation of death. In particular, the trial court made the
"The Court now enters its findings pursuant to
I.C. 35-50-2-9 as follows: For several months prior to the death of
Paul Komyatti, Sr., members of his immediate family: his wife,
Rosemary Komyatti; his son, Paul Komyatti, Jr.; his daughter,
Mariann Vandiver and his son-in-law, [Defendant-Appellant] William
Vandiver, entered into an agreement each with the other with the
criminal objective of killing Paul Komyatti, Sr., an elderly man,
retired because of physical disability with heart trouble.
Motives of each family member were varied.
Rosemary, the wife, was constantly belittled, verbally abused and
made to beg for what money she needed. Paul, Jr., viewed his father
as too strict, not enabling him to spend his money as he wanted and
not enabling him to date socially. He, likewise, was subjected to
periodic loud verbal abuse. Paul, Sr., on occasion drank to excess
and was loud and violent as a result making all present
Mariann, the daughter, whose testimony is the
source of much of this family background information, also disliked
her father for the same reasons. Additionally, he demanded she
divorce the defendant because of his prior criminal activity. The
defendant was supposedly wanted by Chicago police for questioning
about another killing. Paul, Sr. had threatened to inform the police
as to their whereabouts.
Their mutual decision to kill Paul, Sr. was
implemented by several attempts to poison his medicine, his coffee,
his food, all of which failed to kill and were aborted because they
were afraid he would consult a doctor to cure his frequent illnesses.
The final decision on the method of his death came on the 19th of
March, 1983, to put him under with ether and inject air into his
During the late night hours of the 19th and the
early morning darkness of the 20th, the defendant in the company of
Mariann and, unknown to Paul, Sr., waited in concealment outside the
house for the signal from Paul, Jr. that Paul, Sr. was asleep.
Defendant and Mariann, upon seeing the signal flashed,
surrepticiously (sic) entered the house, altered the plan at the
last moment because of the lack of ether and decided to smother him.
The defendant and Paul, Jr. entered the bedroom,
sprang upon Paul, Sr. as he lay sleeping and bungled yet another
execution. The victim fought hard for life, making it impossible to
follow through with asphixiation (sic). The defendant had difficulty
holding Paul, Sr. down even with the help of Paul, Jr. holding his
legs. Paul, Sr. pleaded for his life, saying: 'Son, Son, can't we
work something out?' Calls also went out to his wife to summon the
police and to his grandson for aid, so loud that Mariann closed the
bedroom door lest the grandchild be awakened.
The defendant terminated the resistance by
stabbing Paul, Sr. in the back, in the words of the defendant, 'at
least one hundred times' with a fish filet knife he always carried
in his pocket. Hitting Paul, Sr. over the head five or six times
with his gun, which he also always carried, had little effect. At
this point Paul, Sr. was not yet dead. Certainly a fatal blow had
been struck from which Paul, Sr. would have died but for immediate
The actual count of knife wounds was 34 of the
deep penetrating variety. However, he was still breathing as the
defendant began his grisly preparations to dispose of the body. By
the defendant's admission, the decapitation was the immediate cause
of death, but there was no evidence that the victim was conscious at
In terms of the sentence to be imposed the
sectioning of the body is not so critical as torture of the victim
as it is to show the state of mind of the defendant and his cohorts.
Things like offering Paul, Sr.'s penis to Rosemary as a joke; taking
a smoke break because of the smell and length of the task;
commenting on the toughness of his skin; lecturing Paul, Jr. on the
use of the knife instead of the saw (because saw teeth plug up with
fat and flesh); and commenting casually on the amount of fat around
his heart as like 'a chicken heart' show a callousness of mind of
Lack of conscience, or a showing of no remorse,
or inhuman feelings are inadequate expressions of the deep disgust
and revulsion experienced by the Court. It is as though all
concerned are humanoids only capable of speech and other indicia of
bodily functions. The Defendant's code of conduct, if any, does not
include familial loyalty that other primate species enjoy at the
It now appears the conspirators were correct as
to the money that would have been available had their plan been
successful. In fact, defendant and his wife had gotten a 'loan' of
five thousand dollars ($5,000) from Paul, Jr. and one thousand seven
hundred dollars ($1,700) from Rosemary plus the victim's truck. It
shows in the most convincing manner that the defendant's prime
motive has been money.
In this respect, the defendant's moral character
is slightly rehabilitated by this most venal of motives. Defendant's
expectation of further monetary gain was the same as any husband of
an heiress to an estate. At trial, defendant recanted his prior
confessions. He placed on seventeen year old Paul, Jr. the entire
blame for the killing and dissection. This does little to
rehabilitate his basic lack of character. It directly contradicts
the other available testimony and physical evidence.
He paints himself as the victim, a pawn of a
demented family ploy, sacrificed in a gambit to save his wife. His
portrait is a caricature, with just enough admissions against his
penal interests to give it the appearance of truth. His admissions
at trial of six separate attempts to murder, three times with
concentrated nitroglycerin tablets, one time with rat poison and one
time with a combination of poison, cocaine and codeine belie his
denial of the only act that succeeded. He had nothing to lose in the
attempt and he has, in fact, lost nothing. This visualization of the
scenario is unworthy of belief and wholly rejected by the Court.
* * * *
In this case, the trial court's findings as set
out above in part I clearly demonstrate that the trial court made an
individualized consideration of Vandiver's crime and of Vandiver's
character. We have reviewed the trial judge's written findings along
with the evidence in the case and find that the record clearly
supports the trial judge's conclusion that the imposition of a death
penalty for Vandiver's murder conviction was justified by the nature
of the offense and by the character of the offender. Moreover, the
evidence supports our conclusion that Vandiver's death sentence was
not arbitrarily or capriciously arrived at and is not manifestly
The sentence of the trial court is affirmed. This
cause is remanded to the trial court for the sole purpose of setting
a date for Vandiver's death sentence to be carried out.
William E. Vandiver