In 1980, a 21-year-old South Carolina man, Michael Anderson Sloan, was charged with the murder of Mary Elizabeth Royem, 24. Miss Royem’s body was found in her West Columbia apartment. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death with an electric iron. Sloan, who also used the name Michael Anderson Godwin, was on work release from a local prison. He was serving a sentence there for robbing a woman at knifepoint three years earlier.
Sloan went on trial for Royem’s murder in 1981. He was convicted of murder and sexual assault and sentenced to die in South Carolina’s electric chair. Sloan’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1983 after a retrial cleared him of the sexual assault. As fate would have it, Sloan was still destined to die on an electric chair, albeit a different one:
“Convicted murderer Michael Anderson Godwin… has died after electrocuting himself, authorities said. Godwin was seated on a metal toilet and was apparently trying to repair earphones to a television set when he bit into the electrical cord, said State Corrections spokesman Francis Archibald.
‘It was a strange accident’, Archibald said. ‘He was sitting naked on a metal commode’… Richland County Coroner Frank Barron said Godwin was severely burned in his mouth and tongue. Barron said that an investigation is continuing but that it appears the electrocution was an accident.”
According to press reports, Sloan was a model prisoner who spent his final six years obtaining two college degrees in education. He had dreams of being released on parole and working with young people.