Del. Inmate Is Ready To Be Executed James Allen Red Dog Refuses To Spend His Life In Jail. Delaware Plans To Oblige Him This Week.

Posted: March 01, 1993

James Allen Red Dog, an American Indian raised on a Montana reservation but now confined to a Delaware prison cell, wants to die rather than spend his life in jail.

On Wednesday, the State of Delaware is expected to oblige him. Red Dog is scheduled to be executed for slicing the throat of a suburban Wilmington man in February 1991.

Red Dog, 39, never contested the murder charge, and last week he told a judge he wanted "no appeals or motions for stay of execution."

Unless a state or federal appeals court unexpectedly intervenes, Red Dog will become the second convict to die by lethal injection since Delaware resumed executions last year. Multiple murderer Steven Pennell was executed last March.

Red Dog is described by attorneys in the case as articulate and intelligent, and the courts have found him competent to seek his own execution.

"He's spent most of his adult life in prison, except for a total of three or four years, and he doesn't want to continue to be housed there," Red Dog's public defender, Edward C. Pankowski Jr., said last week.

A Native American spiritual leader is traveling east to give Red Dog spiritual support at the execution, and will accompany his body back to Montana for burial.

Red Dog has been linked to five slayings in four states.

He once told a television interviewer that he has been ready for execution ever since he had committed his first serious crime, a fatal armed robbery in 1973: "From that moment on, I was prepared to die."

Still, he long avoided the full force of the law, even though he was implicated in killings in Montana, California and Illinois.

"He has managed time and time again to slip through the cracks of an inefficient and ineffective criminal justice system," said Steven P. Wood, the Delaware deputy attorney general who prosecuted Red Dog.

Red Dog's case has received wide attention in Delaware and around Montana's sparsely populated Fort Peck Reservation, where Red Dog grew up among descendants of the Sioux who followed Sitting Bull. He is of mixed Sioux and Assiniboine Indian heritage.

Red Dog has never denied the 1991 murder of Hugh Pennington, 30, a motel night auditor whose mother was a friend of Red Dog's wife.

At the hearing to determine his sentence, Red Dog told Pankowski not to present mitigating evidence.

"He's expressed a lot of remorse and that's why he didn't have a trial . . . to save the Pennington family from going through the whole trial stage," the defense attorney said.

Red Dog arrived in Delaware in 1988, while on parole from a federal prison, Wood said. At one point, he taught Sioux traditions to Delaware's Nanticoke Indians. At the time of the killing, he was living outside Wilmington with his wife, Bonnie Red Dog, who worked as a secretary. Nearby lived Hugh Pennington, 30, and his mother.

On the night of Feb. 9, 1991, after a day spent drinking, Red Dog appeared in Pennington's kitchen.

"Hugh said or did something that enraged Red Dog, and we suspect, whatever it was, it was something very minor, but in Red Dog's homicidal state it was enough," Wood said.

Earlier, Red Dog told companions he was a "terminator," records say.

"I hurt people," Red Dog said, according to the court records.

Red Dog forced Pennington into a basement workshop, bound his hands and feet with duct tape and electrical cord, and then cut his throat.

Later the same night, Red Dog repeatedly raped a woman he had lured to Pennington's home.

In the television interview, Red Dog suggested Pennington may have said or done something that triggered "hate" he learned in prison.

"When you get out, you turn that hate against society," Red Dog told Cathy Matusiak of First State News, a Delaware cable television program. "It might have been he came down and tried to get bad with me," Red Dog said. ''If he did, you are operating out of intuition and reflexes" that don't stop until "whenever you sober up."


In recent weeks, Red Dog has refused all interview requests.

In the television interview, Red Dog blamed his criminal history on reservation poverty and discrimination: "I had no choice. There wasn't no job on the reservation. Crime was the only thing left to me to make a living out of. When I took that role, I was prepared for the end. So now it comes to this."

It's not that simple, said Wood and a family friend from Fort Peck.

Fort Peck sprawls over miles of Montana countryside but is home to only

2,800 people.

A family acquaintance said that at age 8 or 10 Red Dog started to emulate an older half-brother with a criminal record, who is now incarcerated in a federal prison.

"Red Dog really admired his brother and tried to copy those lifestyles of his," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "He went outside the routes of his own age group and peer group, and hung around with the older age group."

"As far as what life had to offer him, that was very little," said the man.

Both of his parents were heavy drinkers, Red Dog told the court.

Wood, however, said, "It's too easy to explain Red Dog's behavior by highlighting his upbringing.

"There is no denying the privation Native Americans are subjected to on reservations, but the simple fact is there are hundreds of thousands of Native Americans raised in those conditions, and precious few become multiple murders."

Wood said: "Each time he killed, the killing was essentially motiveless."

Red Dog was one of two men who robbed a reservation liquor store and pizza shop in 1973. The owner was killed, and Red Dog, convicted of robbery, was sentenced to prison.

In 1977, furloughed from jail to attend an Indian ceremony, Red Dog escaped. He fled to Los Angeles with a companion, where they met two American Indian men in a bar who offered lodging for the night. Red Dog and his companion stabbed the two men to death while they slept.

Red Dog pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder but was given a sentence concurrent with his federal sentence for armed robbery.

"He served not an extra day in jail for a double murder, which is absolutely mind-boggling," Wood said.

In the 1980s, Red Dog, by then in a federal prison in Illinois, provided a lethal dose of heroin used to kill a prison gang member who had offended other inmates, prosecutors say.

Red Dog's family sees him as something different from the killer prosecutors portray.

Six of his eight sisters wrote that "he is not the multiple and motiveless killer they paint him to be."

Protesting "white" news accounts, Red Dog's sisters said, "The people of Delaware should be thankful that our brother . . . is willing to give his life, like a man, instead of spending thousands and thousands of the taxpayers' money on appeals."

The sisters wrote: "Would you be brave enough to walk the walk he's about to take?"

They could not be reached for comment.

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