Death row inmate dies nine years to the day after sentencing

by: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS  - ZweigartA Warren man who had been on death row in the Oregon State Penitentiary since Dec. 14, 2004 following a conviction for murdering his wife died of natural causes last Saturday, exactly nine years to the day after he entered the state’s custody.

Allen Gary Zweigart, 64, was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife, Hong Ha Zweigart, in their Warren home as well as soliciting to kill three others, including his own son and daughter.

Zweigart died at 12:25 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, in the Oregon State Penitentiary infirmary.

The charges Zweigart was convicted on stem from a murder-for-hire plot with his former girlfriend and her nephew. Court records show Zweigart plotted to kill his wife by hiring the nephew of his lover to pull a fake invasion-robbery in his home. The teenager couldn’t go through with the killing, so Zweigart grabbed a gun and shot his wife in the head in the early morning of Jan. 10, 2002.

In early 2003, while incarcerated in the Columbia County Jail as a suspect in the murder, Zweigart also tried to talk a fellow inmate into killing three potential witnesses in the case; his son, Allen Gary Zweigart Jr., his daughter, Michelle Howard, and former St. Helens Safeway co-worker Heather Bennett, who testified on behalf of the prosecution.

Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison said the Zweigart case was one of the biggest he’s worked on in his nearly 17 years with the county.

“It was one of the larger and more complex cases for sure,” he said. “Whenever you have a potential death penalty case, it gets ramped up. It was not only the murder, but while he was awaiting trial, he committed new crimes against those testifying against him. When you starting adding up two different indictments, it adds to the complexity of the endeavor.”

The state of Oregon has not executed an inmate since 1997.

In November 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber announced he would not allow any executions to occur as long as he holds his position.

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