While serving a
sentence for child molestation, Robert Arguelles, 34,
confessed to being a serial killer. On May 2, 1996, four
years after the disappearance of three teen-age girls
from the Salt Lake City area, Robert confessed to their
murders after he received a letter saying that he was a
repentant slayer said: "I realise these girls were just
little girls like mine.... I started to understand just
how much it would hurt to have someone do what he had
done". In return for fessing up, Arguelles asked for a
private cell, a color TV and the death penalty.
confessed that on March 1992 he kidnapped, sexually
assaulted and strangled 15-year-old Tuesday Roberts,
then stabbed her friend, 16-year-old Lisa Martinez, to
death with a wood chisel.
month, he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed
13-year-old Stephanie Blundell. He also pleaded guilty
to the February 1992 abduction and strangulation of
42-year-old Margo Bond, a janitor at a junior high
school where Arguelles said he was hunting for girls.
claimed to have merely witnessed the dumping of the
bodies of two of the dead teenagers. Later, in a tearful
seven-hour session with his lawyer and a police
investigator he broke down and admitted to the four
On May 12, 1997
Arguelles -- who has spent all but three years of his
adult life behind bars -- pleaded guilty to the murders
and said he wanted to be executed as soon as possible.
On June 20 Third
District Court Judge David Young handed down the death
sentence for Roberto. In a strange courtroom exchange
the judge bluntly asked Arguelles: "You're asking me to
sentence you to death?" To which he replied: "I am
because as many years as I've been through this, no
one's going to help me with this condition... I would
elect to be executed by firing squad," if possible
without a hood, Arguelles added.
On April 7,
2000, Arguelles told Judge David Young he was fed up
with the competency hearings to determine if he is fit
to die. "I'm tired of waiting," Arguelles said, "I'm
having a lot of problems at the prison. A lot of people
are trying to tell me I don't want the death penalty."
The killer, who was sentenced to death June 20, 1997,
for the brutal murders of four Salt Lake County women,
was ordered to undergo a competency evaluation after he
tried to hang himself with a laundry bag in his cell at
the Utah State Prison on August 12, 1998. Arguelles has
repeatedly stated he wishes to die for his crimes and
will fight any effort to appeal his death sentences.
41, was on parole in March 1992, when
he kidnapped 15-year-old Tuesday Roberts and her
16-year-old friend Lisa Martinez. He sexually assaulted
and strangled Tuesday and
stabbed Lisa more than 40
times, then buried their bodies at a
Earlier that month,
Arguelles had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed
13-year-old Stephanie Blundell. He also abducted and
strangled 42-year-old Margo Bond, a
janitor at a junior high school where he had been
hunting for teenage victims. The three teens were killed
after accepting rides from Arguelles.
During a hearing
at which the judge signed the death warrant, Lisa's
grandmother, Rose Edwards, was removed from the
courtroom briefly after she shouted at Arguelles during
his health-related complaints. "That's nothing compared
to what you did to my granddaughter," she said.
The execution of serial killer
Roberto Arguelles, which had been scheduled for June 27,
2003 has been stayed until his competency can be
determined. Third District Judge Michael Burton signed
the stay on Tuesday after prosecutors agreed to the
The action came one day after the
Utah Department of Corrections notified Burton that
there was good reason to evaluate Arguelles. "The bottom
line is, we cannot legally or constitutionally execute
someone who is incompetent," Assistant Attorney General
Thomas Brunker said. "The prison ... has concluded this
is an issue that needs to be adjudicated."
In their filing, prosecutors
contended that the Corrections' action invalidated
requests filed in Arguelles' behalf last week by
attorney Ed Brass. Brass sought to vacate the execution
order and extend the time to appeal it, stay the
execution and arrange a competency evaluation.
Arguelles' last court-ordered
evaluation was in 2000, after he tried to hang himself
with a laundry bag and was briefly in a coma. Two
psychiatrists and a neuro-psychologist
determined he was competent.
However, in March 2001, Karen Stam,
an attorney who formerly represented Arguelles, wrote to
the Utah Supreme Court that Arguelles "continues to
deteriorate mentally, collecting and eating feces
regularly." That behavior was among several reasons
cited by Brass last week in seeking a new evaluation.
Technically, Arguelles has no attorney, as he has
fired Brass and other court-appointed public defenders.
At a May 1 hearing, Arguelles
repeatedly requested that Stam be called. She initially
was appointed to represent him, but in 1996, she and
other members of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders
Association were disqualified because an employee had a
potential conflict of interest. Brass has asked that an
attorney be appointed for Arguelles.
The prosecutors argued Tuesday that
unless Arguelles is ruled incompetent, he has the right
to not have an attorney. In a
response Tuesday, Brass contended that courts have the
authority to appoint counsel for defendants "who defy
basic procedural rules or who fail to maintain proper
courtroom decorum." He said
that at the May 1 hearing, Arguelles "was clearly and
wildly inappropriate and also (appeared) to be
incompetent. He simply cannot be allowed to represent
himself at this point."
During that hearing, Arguelles yelled,
screamed and spewed profanity. Burton had him removed
from the courtroom three times.
Brass' motion suggested a competency evaluation
should stretch back to before Arguelles pleaded guilty
in 1997. Prosecutors said, "The only inquiry is whether
defendant has become incompetent since the last
adjudication of that issue."
Utah killer who was convicted of the 1992 murders of a
woman and three teenage girls, who had volunteered for
execution at the hands of a firing squad, and even had a
June 2003 execution date set that was later halted by a
judge, died suddenly on Nov. 15, 2003 at the state
penitentiary in Draper, UT of undetermined causes at the
age of 41.
In Utah, a
Notorious Killer's Death on Death Row Leaves Mixed
By Melissa Sanford - The New York
December 14, 2003
Roberto Arguelles will never face the
firing squad that he chose as the means of his execution
after he was convicted of kidnapping and killing four
Mr. Arguelles, who was considered
Utah's most notorious inmate, did die on death row last
month in what some relatives of his victims say was an
unfair reprieve: Five months after a judge postponed his
execution, Mr. Arguelles died at age 41 in Utah State
Prison of what investigators said were natural causes.
''I can't believe he just passed away;
it was like nothing,'' said Lorraine Martinez, whose 16-year-old
daughter was one of Mr. Arguelles's victims. ''I wish he
could have lived longer and suffered more.''
The path that led Mr. Arguelles to
death row began with a string of crimes that started
when he was 16 and he sexually abused a 10-year-old girl.
By age 18, he had been convicted of attempted capital
homicide of one 15-year-old girl and aggravated sexual
assault of another.
In the winter of 1992, while he was
on parole, he went on a killing spree. Mr. Arguelles
confessed to killing one woman and three teenage girls.
Most of his victims were kidnapped, sexually assaulted
and then strangled.
''I was driving when I heard about
the murders,'' said George Haley, a lawyer who had
argued against parole for Mr. Arguelles. ''I pulled over
and cried. They let this mad dog out and he murdered
Mr. Arguelles was 30 years old and
working as a laborer at a metals processing plant when
the killings began. His first victim was Margo Bond, a
42-year-old janitor at a junior high school. Three weeks
later, Mr. Arguelles kidnapped and murdered Stephanie
Blundell, 13, who was on her way to school.
A week later, he offered Tuesday
Roberts, 14, and Lisa Martinez, 16, a ride to a mall. He
handcuffed the girls together and tried to sexually
assault Lisa. When she resisted, Mr. Arguelles stabbed
her to death with a wood chisel. Mr. Arguelles then
sexually assaulted and strangled Tuesday.
The deaths remained unsolved until
1996, when Mr. Arguelles confessed while in prison for
sexually abusing two young children.
''I can just see Lisa screaming and
fighting him,'' said Mrs. Martinez, her mother. ''I can
hear her yelling in the car.'' When she heard that Mr.
Arguelles died in prison, Mrs. Martinez said, she cried
When inmates are sentenced to death
in Utah they are given the option of lethal injection or
a firing squad. Mr. Arguelles would have been the third
person executed by a firing squad, after Gary Gilmore in
1977 and John Albert Taylor in 1996.
Use of a firing squad is also legal
in Oklahoma and Idaho, but those states have never
exercised the option.
Mr. Arguelles had been set to face
the firing squad on June 27. The procedure, as described
by a prison official, is simple and precise: he would
have worn a black jumpsuit with a white cloth pinned
over his heart and a black hood over his head. At the
shouted command of ''ready, aim, fire,'' state-sanctioned
riflemen would have fired at the white cloth.
''This is quick, clean, and simple,''
said Jack Ford, spokesman for the Utah Department of
Corrections. ''It is a lot more humane than the way his
The execution was postponed after the
director of the Utah Department of Corrections told a
judge Mr. Arguelles might not be mentally competent.
In 1998, Mr. Arguelles tried to hang
himself in prison. After that, he began eating his own
feces, Mr. Ford said. He also ate pieces of paper and
To protect officers, Mr. Arguelles
was strapped in a wheelchair whenever he appeared in
court and a mesh mask covered his face to prevent him
In the end, Mr. Arguelles died
without Utah's help. He was taken to the hospital twice
with intestinal blockage but refused treatment, Mr. Ford
On the evening of Nov. 15, officers
on routine patrol noticed Mr. Arguelles had glassy eyes
and was unusually subdued, and he was taken to the
His death came quickly. ''17:05
Inmate Arguelles unresponsive,'' said Clint Friel,
warden of the Utah State Prison, in a sterile tone.
''17:10 called for an ambulance. 17:27 pronounced dead.''
Karen Stam, Mr. Arguelles's former
lawyer, said she had been concerned about his
deteriorating mental state and the attention he received
from the prison staff.
''In the situation where somebody is
obviously mentally ill, which Roberto was, you don't ask
them if they want treatment, like they are a normal
person,'' Ms. Stam said. ''You treat them.''
Mr. Arguelles insisted he was being
mistreated. During a court hearing, he said prison
officers broke his neck and back bones, according to
transcripts. He also yelled a litany of profanities.
Mr. Ford said there was no evidence
of any broken bones or mistreatment.
The results of a toxicology report
and autopsy are expected in a few weeks, said the Salt
Lake County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating
Mr. Arguelles's death.
For Mrs. Martinez, his death did not
''He gets to rest, but I'm still out
here in the world,'' she said. ''I still have to live
with losing my daughter.''