LUCASVILLE — Robert Van Hook horrifically murdered a Cincinnati man, but he seemed remorseful as he died by lethal injection on Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

Van Hook, 58, was strapped to the gurney in Ohio's death house and the lines carrying the deadly drugs had been inserted in his arms when he turned his head to three witnesses from the family of his victim, David Self.

Van Hook had seemed calm as technicians prepared him to die, but then he started to cry.

"I'm very sorry for taking your brother from you," he said. "I'm no good. I hope now you have some peace. One day may you be reunited with him, and your mother as well. I pray one day he goes through the light."

Van Hook recited a Norse poem and then sang a song, the words of which were unintelligible, until the first of the Ohio execution protocol's three-drug cocktail took effect.

He fell silent. A minute later, his breathing became labored. At 10:32 a.m., technicians checked his eyes — apparently before injecting the second drug. Within a minute, he began puffing out his lips as he exhaled and then he wheezed loudly enough that it was audible through the microphone feet away in the back of the death chamber.

A minute later, Van Hook's breathing appeared to stop. Ten minutes after that — at 10:44 a.m. — he was pronounced dead.

Van Hook served a violence-plagued 32 years in prison after a death-penalty conviction for what now could be considered a hate crime — of the utmost violence.

On Feb. 18, 1985, Van Hook met Self in a gay bar in downtown Cincinnati and went home with him. Van Hook's clemency report says he lured Self into a vulnerable position and strangled him into unconsciousness.

"He then took a paring knife from the kitchen and stabbed the victim behind the right ear, aiming the thrust upward toward the brain, accompanied by a blade-twisting movement," the report said.

It added that Van Hook then appeared to try to decapitate Self. After that, he cut open Self's abdominal cavity, stabbed his liver and heart and then "placed a small bottle which contained amyl nitrate, its cap, a cigarette butt and the paring knife into the victim's abdominal cavity," the report said.

Van Hook stole a few trinkets, checked the refrigerator. Finding nothing he liked, he left. He was arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on April 1, 1985.

Van Hook raised the defense that he was in a "homosexual panic" when he committed the crime, but prosecutors rejected the notion. Illinois and California have outlawed the defense.

During his incarceration Van Hook amassed a disciplinary record of more than two dozen incidents, including stabbing another inmate in the face and chest, threatening to kill corrections officers and damaging property.

Joe D'Ambrosio served 22 years on death row with Van Hook until D'Ambrosio was exonerated and released in 2010.

"He had mental problems, I don't care what anyone says," said D'Ambrosio who was at the prison Wednesday to protest Van Hook's execution. "He would go for long periods of time and then he would explode."

In their unsuccessful bid for clemency, Van Hook's attorneys cited his difficult childhood.

His mother, who had a history of mental illness, abused alcohol and drugs and became enmeshed in repeated, mutually abusive relationships. His father also drank heavily, beat Van Hook and was a virulent homophobe, the lawyers wrote.

Van Hook's father, a musician, introduced his son to alcohol and drugs when Van hook was 11 or 12, his lawyers said. At 14, Van Hook moved with his father to Florida and eventually ran away. He lived on the streets, sometimes supporting himself by having sex for money with men.

After Van Hook's execution, one of his attorneys, Allen Bohnert, said that even after his client was honorably discharged from the Army in the early 1980s, he never had access to the drug-and-alcohol or mental-health counseling that he needed.

D'Ambrosio said there was no point in killing Van Hook. "It was unneeded, unnecessary, cruel, unusual," he said. "It's barbaric."

But three members of Self's family, who sat quietly holding hands through the execution, wanted Van Hook to die.

They declined comment on Wednesday. But Self's sister, Janet Self, told the parole board that her brother's murder reduced him in the public mind to nothing more than a gay man in a bar, when in reality he was an intelligent, witty person. She also noted that Self was abused by his own father and had to face prejudice because he was gay.

Van Hook's execution was the first in Ohio in 2018. The last attempted execution — of Alva Campbell in November — was called off when corrections workers could not find a suitable vein for intravenous drugs. He died earlier this year of natural causes.

Gary Otte and Ronald Phillips were executed last year. They were the first to be killed in Ohio's death chamber after a three-year moratorium following the 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire, 53, who gasped, choked, clenched his fists and appeared to struggle against his restraints for about 10 minutes before being pronounced dead.

Van Hook was the 56th man to be executed in Ohio since 1999. Two more executions are scheduled for later this year. A total of 137 people remain under death sentences in Ohio.