GARY W. PLOOF, Defendant Below, Appellant,
STATE OF DELAWARE, Plaintiff Below, Appellee.
Submitted: September 12, 2018
Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware Cr. ID No.
VALIHURA, SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.
F. Traynor Justice.
18th day of September, 2018, after consideration
of the parties' briefs, and the record on appeal, it
appears to the Court that:
Gary Ploof was convicted in 2003 of first-degree murder and a
lesser firearms charge. Under the then-governing
first-degree-murder punishment scheme-which is codified at 11
Del. C. § 4209 and which provided an option of
either death or life imprisonment without parole-he was
sentenced to death. After this Court held, in Rauf v.
State,  that § 4209's implementation of
the death penalty is unconstitutional and later held, in
Powell v. State,  that Rauf has retroactive
effect, Ploof's death sentence was vacated. The Superior
Court resentenced him to life in prison without parole-§
4209's alternative sentence for first-degree murder.
thereafter, Ploof moved to correct his sentence, asserting
that he should have been resentenced not under § 4209,
but under 11 Del. C. § 4205, which prescribes a
punishment of 15 years to life for all Class A felonies other
than first-degree murder.
The Crime and the Aftermath
was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. He was married,
but he had been having an affair with a colleague he met
while working a part-time, off-base job. Some time after the
affair began, he learned that the Air Force was planning to
roll out a new, $100, 000 life-insurance benefit for military
spouses. Ploof then hatched a plan to kill his spouse and
collect the life insurance benefit.
drove his wife to the parking lot of a store, where he shot
her in the head. He tried to frame the killing as a suicide,
but the story did not hold up.
convicted at trial of first-degree murder. During the penalty
phase, an advisory jury unanimously found that Ploof had
committed the murder for pecuniary gain-a statutory
aggravating factor under § 4209(e)(1)(o). That finding
made Ploof death eligible, and the jury further found that
the aggravating factors in Ploof's case outweighed the
Superior Court agreed with that finding and sentenced Ploof
to death.On direct appeal, this Court
the next decade, Ploof tried a number of times to obtain
post-conviction relief in both state and federal court, with
no success. After Rauf and Powell, his
death sentence was vacated, and in 2017, he was resentenced,
under § 4209, to a mandatory term of life without
parole. Shortly thereafter, he filed two motions with the
trial court: a new motion for post-conviction relief and a
motion to correct his sentence. The Superior Court denied
both. The former motion is the subject of a separate
appeal; the latter is the subject of this one.