1997: Michael Carl George

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1997, 39-year-old Michael Carl George was executed by lethal injection at Greensville Correctional Center in Virginia. He’d been condemned for the murder of fifteen-year-old Alexander Eugene Sztanko in 1990.

Michael Carl George (top) and his victim, Alexander Sztanko.

The teenager’s death had been horrific by any standard: he was abducted while out riding his dirt bike, handcuffed to a tree and sexually abused. Before shooting him in the head, the killer applied a stun gun to his genitals. His body, fully clothed but shoeless, was found the following afternoon.

The boy had been killed so close to home that his unsuspecting father actually heard the gunshots. A few hours after Alex Sztanko’s body was found, George was seen loitering near the murder site by a police officer and stopped for questioning. He matched the description of a camouflage-clad man seen near the Sztanko residence the day before, and the suspicious officer asked him directly if he’d been there the previous day.

George admitted that he had, claiming he’d been turkey hunting in the woods. As he was being questioned he was standing directly in front of a “No Trespassing” sign, which gave the policeman an excuse to pick him up.

At the time of his arrest he was carrying, among other things, a knife, a handcuff key and a map, which had an “X” marking the site where Alex’s body turned up in the woods and an “O” where the boy’s dirt bike and helmet were ultimately located.

Inside George’s truck was a machete, a hacksaw, bolt cutters, a tear gas canister, leather gloves and a stun gun. A search of his parents’ home, where he lived, turned up more incriminating items: a pair of handcuffs that matched the key he carried, and a loaded 9mm pistol which turned out to be the murder weapon.

Blood, DNA and fiber evidence also pointed to George as the culprit. The case was pretty open-and-shut.

George had a reputation as a pedophile and Alexander Sztanko wasn’t the only person he killed. The first, as far as anyone knows, was Larry Wayne Perry, a mentally disabled nine-year-old who lived with his grandparents in Dumfries, Virginia.

Larry vanished without a trace on May 22, 1979 and was never found. George admitted to burying the child’s body but said his death was an accident. As the authorities lacked the evidence to prove intentional homicide, he was allowed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and abduction.

A model prisoner, he served just two and a half years of a five-year sentence.

Four years later, he killed Alex Sztanko.

George would later claim he had murdered a third person, but he never named the alleged victim and his statements could not be verified. His appeals raced through the court system at top speed; his time on death row was less than five years, one of the shortest in the state since Virginia resumed executions in the early eighties.

Given the circumstances of the murder and his prior record, he had very few sympathizers and not much he could say for himself on appeal. His case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they voted 7 to 2 to deny a stay of execution, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Paul Stevens dissenting.

Alex Sztanko’s parents were quoted as saying they were opposed to the death penalty generally, but as far as they saw it, George’s death was society’s gain.

George’s lethal injection took place without incident and he was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m. He had no last statements for the press, but he did leave a letter for Mr. and Mrs. Sztanko, both of whom declined to witness his execution.

On this day..

16 thoughts on “1997: Michael Carl George

  1. I grew up with the George family in Dumfries, VA and attended Graham Park Middle and then. Gar-Field High school. The unfortunate part of people like this is if they abuse young people they are likely to have been abused by a family member, close relative, or friend in their formative years as a child. There is a good chance that another pedo was out there abusing Michael George to start the chain of abuse and violence. That person, if Michael George was abused, remains out there and needs to be found. I am having some trouble with Joe George saying his brother let the Devil into him. Probably a more likely scenario is Michael was abused as a child and the Devil had nothing to do with Michal’s terrible acts.

  2. Does anyone have information regarding the murder of Larry Wayne Perry? Does anyone know where any hard documents are regarding the manslaughter conviction? Court records are available online pertaining to Sztanko’s murder but I am concerned with those related to Perry. Any assistance would be appreciated.

  3. Pingback: Larry Wayne Perry – Murderer Executed – Body Missing – Crafton Megan

  4. The death of Alex Sztanko terrified me as an 11 year old when it happened. I lived down the street from the site of the horrible murder and remember his friends were friends with my older brothers. We lived in a little community where we all felt safe being kids. This death shattered our community and personally left me scarred. I found this site today, because I thought of Alex and what happened so long ago. I pray for him and know he is with God.

  5. I wont make excuses for his actions but will give some facts on his life…He came from a Christian family
    He was normal, nice, caring, very smart and pretty much a loner thru school
    his parents split up and as stated above was picked on as a young man [that did seem to start his downfall]
    I never knew how bad this was until after his death
    as a young adult he started playing dungens and dragons
    Bottom line….He let the devil into his life
    He told story’s of visits from a demon
    He chose to listen to these demons
    His mother and family loved him as each of you would love your family
    We all pray for the victims family but unlike them I do believe in the death sentence and it had to be done
    guess that sounds tough coming from his own brother
    Lessons learned…
    don’t open the door to the devil if you give him an inch he will take a mile
    resist the devil and he will flee from you

  6. My husband went all through school with Michael George. He said he was tormented by his classmates, was the kid with the high waisted pants, the bow ties, etc and was just bullied. I wonder how much if anything that had to do with how he turned out. Horrible.

  7. He was my uncle. There was another boy. Sick and terrifying to read this and think about all the time I spent with him. I pray peace for all the victims families.

  8. @JCF: You’re having a problem and I will try to help you. I can’t promise you any positive results, mind you, but I will try:

    You are suffering from what I refer to as the “Utopia Syndrome”; that is, you see everyone on the planet the same. You must believe that every person is worthy of life, and that no matter what they do, we must love them and be accepting of them; and God forbid should we speak evil of them!

    Those suffering from this Utopian Syndrome can’t bear to think of people as being different: That is the men who abduct, rape and murder women are, well, just like you and Me! They deserve life, and love, and by God, respect! “We are all human” cry the Utopians, “We all have value” scream the Utopians, and they proclaim loudly that those who sexually abuse children, murder them and then dismember them, are, well, just like the rest of us, and if someone says they need to be stepped on like a bug, well they’re “as sick as the mentally ill executed”.

    You, sir, are a Utopian and your comments are so foolish and unrealistic that I’m surprised you have been able to navigate in life at all.

    You may even be one of the Utopians who clock themselves in a false sense of God and what he wants for such people. So if this is you, let me explain how God feels about all of this: The Bible states that God loves everyone, and that’s true. God has also said that those walking the earth have a responsibility to treat people as they would like to be treated. And He has also said that those among us who murder and do all manner of wickedness should be put to death, for while he loves them, they have lost their right to live in the earth. The death penalty for such people is not only morally correct, but it makes perfect sense.

    So sorry your thinking is so convoluted, JCF, and it is my hope that the wisdom I’ve imparted to you will do some good. But I must warn you: Most folks like you would rather hold onto such odd ramblings, and as such, you’ll have to work very hard to even reach normalcy.

  9. I swear, some of the commenters here are almost as sick as the mentally-ill executed. Lord have mercy!

  10. Hi Meaghan…I didn’t know that and I think you’re right. Too bad. Thanks for the additional info!

  11. Alas, Kevin, I don’t think they could even prove abduction in the Larry Perry case. The last time anyone saw them, Larry was chasing after George, not the other way around. It’s very unfortunate they couldn’t get him the first time around, but if the prosecution had went for murder in Larry’s case, there’s a good chance the jury would have let Michael George off altogether or the case would have been dismissed. Sigh.

  12. Mr. George should have been put to death after the first killing. It matters not to me that he may have killed accidentally. He abducted the boy, and he should have been killed over that, period.

    Mr. George was utter vermin, and when he “got his” it was little more than stepping on a bug.

    Poor Ginsburg and Stevens. It must be tough having such convoluted thinking.

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