YORK COUNTY, S.C. -- A South Carolina judge has sentenced a woman to 25 years in prison after she admitted to poisoning her husband by inserting eye drops into his drinking water.
Lana Clayton pleaded guilty in a York County courthouse to voluntary manslaughter and tampering with food or drugs charges related to the July 21, 2018, killing of Steven Clayton. Lana Clayton, 53, admitted to cops that she placed droplets of eye drop liquid in her husband's water glass starting two days before his death. Steven Clayton, 64, was believed to have originally died from natural causes; however, medical examiners found high levels of tetrahydrozoline, the chemical found in eye drops which constricts blood vessels, in his system during the autopsy.
Deputy solicitor Willy Thompson told South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Paul Burch Thursday that Lana Clayton, who was a nurse for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, knew the eye drops were tasteless and odorless and would not be detected by her husband, according to Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC. He added that when officers began to suspect foul play, Lana Clayton told them her husband put eye drops in his drinks all of the time.
She was eventually arrested in September 2018 and charged with his killing. Solicitor Kevin Brackett told the judge that Lana Clayton had killed her husband for money. He claimed she burned his will and threw his phone in a lake so he couldn't call for help, according to WSOC.
At the hearing, Steven Clayton's family and friends gave emotional testimony to the judge before the sentencing. His goddaughter, Lourdes Alvarez, held back tears and she urged the judge to punish Lana Clayton to the fullest extent of the law.
"Lana has fooled a lot of people, please don't let her fool you," she said.
Lana Clayton's attorneys said their client had been a victim of sexual abuse in her past and that Steven Clayton "hit her, kicked her and choked her" during their five-year marriage. Lana Clayton told the judge that she put the drops in her husband's drinks to make him sick and uncomfortable and didn't intend on killing him.
"I wanted him to leave me alone," she told the judge.
Rosemarie Clayton-Leslie, Steven Clayton's younger sister, disputed the her sister-in-laws claims that her brother had abused her.
"He was so funny. And he was so affection and caring," she said in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" airing Friday. "My brother was the type of person who loved romance. He was a hopeless romantic. He was a wonderful man -- a wonderful brother and an amazing friend."
She said she's convinced that Lana Clayton began poisoning him long before he died with the intention of killing him slowly.
"My brother was strong and he was healthy. He had gone through multiple bizarre illnesses over the last few years since he had been with Lana, but we really chalked it up him just having ear problems or benign positional vertigo," Clayton-Leslie told GMA. "My brother was very much a proponent of traditional Chinese medicine."
She said her brother spent a lot of time with "an incredible acupuncturist" in the Charlotte area who she spoke to frequently after his death.
"I had many conversations with him and he was also perplexed because as many treatments as he tried on him, they couldn't get to the nitty gritty of why he continued to do so poorly," she said. "And I think that it was the perfect combination for her knowing that he was not a person who relied on traditional Western medicine."
"She knew that he wasn't going to go out and have blood drawn and they weren't going to find the things that she was putting into his system, which were more than just tetrahydrozoline," she added.