The York County wife charged with murder in the death of her husband could face a death penalty trial because she allegedly used poison in the killing.
Lana Sue Clayton initially lied to police, telling them her husband had an illness after he was found dead, according to a July 21 police incident report. Then she confessed after lab tests showed that Steven Clayton died from poisoning.
Sabrina Gast, York County’s Coroner, told The Herald her office has ruled that Steven Clayton’s death is a homicide, with poison being the cause.
It has not been decided whether prosecutors will seek capital punishment against Lana Sue Clayton for allegedly using a poison commonly found in eye drops.
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Under South Carolina law, one aggravating factor that prosecutors can use to seek the death penalty is “killing by poison,” state law shows.
Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit Deputy Solicitor, said Tuesday it is “far too early in the case” for any consideration of the death penalty.
Lana Clayton was arrested Friday.
In South Carolina the decision to seek the death penalty is solely up to prosecutors. Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor, said prosecutors have not received a case file from York County Sheriff’s office and there have been “no discussions” on whether the case might be viewed as a potential capital case.
Brackett, who has decried South Carolina’s death penalty process as a “sham” because of lengthy appeals and other problems that leave victims’ families dealing with courts for decades, declined further comment.
As of late Tuesday, Lana Clayton had not hired a lawyer to defend her, according to York County Clerk of Court officials. She remains in the York County jail without bond.
Lana Clayton is accused of using the chemical called tetrahydrozoline commonly found in eye drops to poison her husband from July 19 to July 21. Steven Clayton was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in his upscale Lake Wylie waterfront home July 21 by his wife, police said.
When officers responded to the home July 21, Lana Clayton told officers her husband “had been suffering from vertigo for several days.”
Lana Clayton told officers she left her husband ill upstairs while she went outside to “mow the grass” on July 21.
Lana Clayton told responding deputies her husband “had not left the upstairs bedroom much during this illness” when she came back in from outside and found him “face down in the foyer at the foot of the stairs.”
Police and prosecutors have not released a motive for the crime. The couple lived in a home worth $822,000, county records show. Additionally, Steven Clayton had founded and operated a national business called Physical Therapy Resources.
The police response July 21 was not the first time Lana Clayton had been investigated for violence against her husband.
In a 2016 incident, Lana Clayton shot her husband in the head with a crossbow. Steven Clayton told police his wife was not trying to kill him despite him being shot while he slept, deputies said in 2016. Lana Clayton claimed in that 2016 incident the crossbow discharged after she had trouble loading it.
She then told police her husband was “mentally abusive” but had never been physically abusive.
In 2017, York County deputies ruled the 2016 crossbow shooting accidental and there was no intent to commit a crime after both Steven Clayton and his wife said her shooting him in the head was an accident, a sheriff’s office incident report shows.