FLORENCE – Condemned murderer Robert Charles Comer fought for seven years to drop his appeals and be allowed to die. He smiled from the beginning to the end Tuesday as the sentence was carried out.
Comer was mostly quiet as he lay strapped to a gurney before his execution. He looked around at the more than 20 witnesses before focusing on the area where the three people he asked to be there were waiting. Comer mouthed, “Hi, how are you?”
Warden Carson McWilliams then asked Comer if he had any last words. The California native replied: “Yes. Go, Raiders.”
He was pronounced dead about five minutes after the injection was administered.
Comer, 50, was sentenced to death for the 1987 murder of a fellow camper at Apache Lake east of Phoenix. He also was convicted of repeatedly raping a female camper that night, once in front of her boyfriend.
He had fought since 2000 to prove he was competent to withdraw appeals to his death sentence and choose to die. At his 2002 competency hearing, Comer said it was time he paid for shooting and killing Larry Pritchard.
“I killed Larry Pritchard. Stuck a gun in his ear and pulled the trigger, he’s dead,” Comer said, according to transcripts from the hearing. “An eye for an eye. I mean, I ended a whole bunch of innocent people’s lives and changed their lives forever. Even though they’re still alive, their lives are destroyed. I owe that to them. I owe it to myself, man. I was totally wrong.”
K.C. Scull, who prosecuted Comer nearly 20 years ago, said he, the detectives who investigated the case and Comer’s victims deserved closure and that he was satisfied the sentence was carried out.
“I am glad that the law was followed and it’s finally over with,” he said.
Comer’s lawyer, Michael Kimerer, who has said he and Comer have grown close over the years and that he would be “extremely sad” to see him go, did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Kimerer witnessed the execution.
Comer spent his last night talking with prison guards, reminiscing about his life and the time he served in the 1980s at Folsom State Prison in California for rape and assault with a deadly weapon, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Katie Decker.
At his competency hearing, Comer said his crimes were revenge for how guards at the prison treated him. He said he and other inmates were beaten and that guards tortured him with a cattle prod.
In the final years before his execution, guards, psychologists, lawyers and Comer himself said he had matured. Comer expressed regret about his crimes and hope that his only child, a daughter, would not turn out as he did.
Comer had a picture of his daughter, now a grown woman, with him in the death chamber.
Comer was the first inmate to be put to death in the state since Donald Miller was executed on Nov. 8, 2000, for helping to murder an 18-year-old woman.
Arizona has executed 87 people, 23 of them since resuming the death penalty in 1992 after a 29-year hiatus. More than 110 inmates, including two women, are awaiting their executions in Arizona prisons.
Slightly more than a dozen people demonstrated outside the prison Tuesday. The protesters included members of the Arizona Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and a Roman Catholic peace group. At one point they gathered in a circle and prayed.
“We need to preserve life, not take life,” Phoenix resident Margaret Snider said.