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Greenawalt executed for murders

Nearly 2 decades after a homicidal rampage that riveted the state, the killer dies.

C.T. REVERE Citizen Staff Writer

”I have prayed for you many times and the Lord is using you well. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

Those were final words of Randy Greenawalt, whose violent life ended almost passively early this morning in an execution administered by lethal drugs.

Greenawalt, who was on Arizona’s death row for nearly two decades, made his final comments to Department of Corrections Director Terry Stewart.

He then received a trio of injections inside the Arizona State Prison’s Death House at 12:07 a.m.

Three minutes later, he was dead.

Greenawalt, 47, had a hand in the brutal deaths of at least nine people – including a Yuma family, a newlywed couple and two members of the Tison gang during his infamous 1978 escape with fellow convicted murderer Gary Tison.

Other than those 12 murderous days on the lam, Greenawalt had spent all his days behind bars since his first murder conviction in 1974 for the shooting death of trucker in Flagstaff.

This morning, before 28 witnesses including his sister, Darlene Anna Greenawalt, it was the killer’s time to die.

Killer grins at onlookers

Shortly after midnight, a heavy blue curtain was drawn away from the soundproof glass separating Greenawalt from witnesses. Strapped to a gurney, he turned and grinned at the silent gallery of onlookers.

As Warden Meg Savage read the death warrant, Greenawalt’s left foot bobbed nervously beneath the sheet that covered him from toe to chest.

As Savage said, ”This order will now be carried out,” Greenawalt appeared to mutter something to himself.

About two minutes after the cocktail of lethal drugs was administered, Greenawalt’s massive chest, bound in leather straps, heaved twice.

Then, turning his face again toward the witnesses, Greenawalt appeared to mouth the words ”I love you” in the direction of his sister.

Seconds later, his chest heaved one final time, and his body lay still.

A single sob came from the silent throng of witnesses and the curtain was drawn shut.

At 12:12 a.m., two minutes after Greenawalt was pronounced dead, Stewart’s voice came over the speaker in the viewing area: ”Ladies and gentlemen, the execution is completed.”

Tom McGovern, special assistant to Attorney General Grant Woods, said the peaceful way in which Greenawalt died did little to make amends for the suffering he caused.

”I think there are better candidates for the argument against the death penalty than Randy Greenawalt,” said McGovern, who was among the witnesses.

”It is very difficult to watch the taking of any life, even Randy Greenawalt’s. But in the interest of balance and in the interest of justice, you must conjure up the images of his victims. His end was much more peaceful than the end he gave others.”

Ann Nichols, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty, said she is saddened that the state has taken another life.

”I always feel kind of low afterward,” Nichols said. ”He’s not here today and he was yesterday and that seems wrong.”

Execution adds victims?

Nichols said Greenawalt’s death has merely added to the number of people suffering as a result of his crime spree.

”We’ve just added sorrow to what was already there,” she said in an interview. ”There is pain for more people and I don’t think we genuinely accomplished anything.”

She said Greenawalt’s execution attracted more protesters than previous executions.

”We had an amazingly good turnout. I think it was the best turnout we ever had,” she said.

In Tucson, about 50 people protested against the execution. In Florence, across the street from the Arizona State Prison, protesters at a candlelight vigil numbered at nearly 100, Nichols said.

Nichols said protesters prayed for the victims, as well as for Greenawalt, his family and others on death row.

”For them it’s a rehearsal. They experience a lot of stress,” she said of the other inmates on death row.

The state executed Greenawalt after a late-hour appeal to the nation’s highest court was denied, McGovern said.

Shortly after 8 p.m., the U.S. Supreme Court announced its refusal to hear an appeal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to not grant a stay of execution.

Greenawalt is the seventh Arizona inmate to be executed since 1992.

Last supper: Cheeseburgers

He spent about 5 1/2 hours visiting with his sister inside the Death House yesterday.

At 3:40 p.m., he was served his last meal – two cheeseburgers, French fries, coffee and milk from the prison cafeteria.

He finished the meal at 4 p.m., according to Department of Corrections spokesman Michael Arra.

Greenawalt was allowed visits by clergy and attorneys up until 11 p.m., then was prepared for execution, Arra said.

At about 11:15 p.m., he was walked a few feet from the door of his cell to the lethal-injection room.

After being strapped to the gurney, Greenawalt was fitted with intravenous tubes that delivered the lethal injections.

The initial injection of sodium pentathol sedated him. A second shot of pancuronium bromide paralyzed his muscular system and the final shot, potassium chloride, stopped his heart.

Greenawalt asked that his body be turned over to his sister and that his belongings be given to attorney Denise Young, who assisted with his appeals.

Arra said media interest in Greenawalt’s execution was greater than any of the previous executions because of the high-profile nature of his crimes.

Eight media representatives were among the witnesses and many more reporters from throughout the state waited in a media staging area for reports on the execution.

In addition to his sister, attorney Jeffrey Kelleher was on hand to witness on Greenawalt’s behalf.

The remainder of the witnesses were law enforcement officials, including two lawmen who aided in the capture of the Tison gang.

No witnesses appeared on behalf of the people killed by the gang, Arra said.

While Greenwalt’s execution closes a chapter on one of Arizona’s most infamous crime sprees, McGovern said the pain he and the Tisons caused endures.

”I don’t think you close the book like this,” McGovern said. ”I think you just lay it down.”

It started with breakout

Nineteen years ago, Greenawalt seized the opportunity for freedom when three sons of fellow inmate Gary Tison hid shotguns inside a cooler and smuggled them into the prison.

Greenawalt was 28 at the time.

Tison was 42.

By joining the Tison family in what was Tison’s third attempt to flee custody, Greenawalt earned an infamous place in Arizona history.

After the July 30, 1978, escape, the five men embarked on a murderous odyssey that lasted 12 days and left six corpses in its wake before a shootout with Pinal County sheriff’s deputies resulted in the deaths of Gary Tison and one of his sons.

The gang’s victims included a Yuma family that was shotgunned to death for their car.

On Aug. 6, 1978, authorities found the bodies of 24-year-old Marine Sgt. John Lyons; his 23-year-old wife, Donnelda; and the couple’s 22-month-old son, Christopher.

In the back seat of the car, where Donnelda Lyons’ body lay with her toddler son still huddled between her legs, was a large, spattered blood stain that left authorities to believe another shooting victim had managed to get away from the Tisons and Greenawalt.

Five days later, the decomposing body of 15-year-old Teresa Tyson, the Lyons couple’s niece, was discovered in a dry wash about two-tenths of a mile from where the other victims were found.

Huge manhunt followed

As the largest multiagency manhunt in Arizona history ensued, the Tison gang made its way north to Colorado.

Stuck in a construction roadblock in southwestern Colorado, the fugitives switched vehicles again when they found themselves behind a van that fit their needs.

Two of Tison’s sons walked up to the van to size up its occupants and found a young couple inside. Gary Tison and Greenawalt then commandeered the van in the middle of traffic.

Months later, the bodies of 26year-old James Judge and his newlywed wife, 23-year-old Margene Judge, were found partially buried in southwestern Colorado.

The gang’s rampage ended in the early morning of Aug. 11, when they exchanged gunfire with sheriff’s deputies at a roadblock set up in remote Pinal County.

As the van carrying the men tried to break through the second of two roadblocks, 20-year-old Donald Tison, who was driving, was fatally shot in the head.

The van careened into the desert and the rest of the fugitives fled. Within minutes, deputies captured Greenawalt and the Tison brothers.

Gary Tison managed to slip away – but he did not get away.

His body was found beneath a paloverde Aug. 22. Tison apparently fell victim to the desert sun.

Tison’s sons will live

Greenawalt and the Tison brothers were convicted of killing the Lyons family and their niece. All three were sentenced to die, but the Tisons’sentences were later changed to life in prison.

The brothers apparently had no role in the murders.

Greenawalt was first sentenced to die in February 1993, but appeals delayed the execution as his attorneys tried to show that his confession was illegally obtained and that he’d had ineffective counsel during his trial.

On Dec. 23, the Arizona Supreme Court rescheduled his execution for Jan. 23.

The state Board of Executive Clemency last week denied Greenawalt’s request for a reprieve and late legal maneuverings on Tuesday also failed to postpone the execution.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced Tuesday that Greenawalt’s request for a new hearing failed to gain majority support of the 20 active judges. Attorneys turned to the full court after a three-judge panel Friday upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of Greenawalt’s final appeal.

The Arizona Supreme Court also reduced Greenawalt’s opportunity for delay Tuesday by rejecting a claim by his attorney that the state’s Board of Executive Clemency acted improperly.

Greenawalt’s attorney, John Bailey, walked out of a clemency hearing Friday after the six-member panel refused to hear evidence intended to show problems of bias in the state’s clemency system.

After a two-hour hearing, the board unanimously voted not to recommend clemency for Greenawalt, and the execution was ordered to be carried out.


Protesters hold a candlelight vigil in Florence, where convicted killer Randy Greenawalt was executed early this morning.

Quillan Mercer of Florence (left) and Tamarack Little of Tucson hold a small angel and candle during an anti-death penalty vigil this morning outside the Arizona State Prison in Florence.

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