In his high school yearbook, Stephen Stanko was called “the all-American boy”—polite, friendly, and extremely intelligent. But in 1996, that facade came crumbling down when, at the age of 28, Stephen was convicted of assault and kidnapping.
He tried to make the most out of his 10-year sentence. While incarcerated, Stanko co-wrote “Living in Prison,” in which he recounted his experience, his fears, and his desire to leave the “felon” label behind. While the book wasn’t necessarily a commercial hit, it was a personal victory for Stanko: Due to his good behavior, he was released 1 ½ years early and moved to Myrtle Beach in 2004.
Roughly one year later, Stanko began visiting the local library, presumably doing research for his second book. His hours of hard work led to a friendship with 74-year-old Henry Lee Turner, another frequent patron, and librarian Laura Ling. His relationship with Ling quickly blossomed into a full-blown romance and, just two months after their first meeting, Stanko moved into her home. There, Ling hoped she and her teenage daughter, Penny, could give Stanko the fresh start he needed.
It seemed that Stanko was doing well until the morning of April 8, 2005. Without warning, Stanko snapped—starting a violent fight between himself and Ling that lasted through the night. When questioned by the police later on, Stanko said his memory of the incident was slim: Ling had slapped him; he’d been burned by his own cigarette. That was all he could remember.
But other things had happened during the fight, and the following excerpt of Watch Mommy Die describes the terrifying details—from Stanko’s sinister M.O. to Henry Lee's murder to the miracle that helped launch the manhunt that brought him to death row.
This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for The Lineup to continue publishing the horror stories you love.
Featured photo: Murderpedia