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Phillip Alan BOCHARSKI





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 10, 1995
Date of birth: February 22, 1962
Victim profile: Freeda Brown, 85
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Yavapai County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 27, 1999. Commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole on August 8, 2008

Supreme Court of Arizona

opinion CR-97-0306-AP opinion CR-06-0295-AP


On May 13, 1995, Freeda Brown's partially decomposed body was found in her trailer located outside of Congress, Arizona. 

The cause of death was determined to be multiple stab wounds to the head and neck. The victim also had a defensive wound on her right hand.

Phillip Bocharski lived in a tent near Congress. He had previously done some odd jobs for the victim, including driving her to Wickenburg banks and stores so she could cash checks.

On May 10, 1995, Frank Sukis gave Bocharski a ride to Congress to obtain food handouts from a food bank. Upon returning to Bocharski's tent, they saw Ms. Brown, and Bocharski told Sukis they should kill her because she was 85 years old and was complaining of arthritis.

Before Ms. Brown's death, Bocharski was broke; After her death, he had "hundreds of dollars" he claimed had been given to him by someone who wanted some work done in the future; he subsequently told Sukis that he had been given $500 in advance "to do a hit job in Prescott."

Bocharski told a friend that he had "murdered an old lady for her money."


Presiding Judge: William T. Kiger
Prosecutor: Arthur Markham
Start of Trial: 8-21-96
Verdict: 9-13-96
Sentencing: 7-29-97

Aggravating Circumstances

(F-5) Pecuniary gain
(F-6) heinous and depraved
(F-9) age of victim, over 70 years

Mitigating Circumstances

traumatic and abusive childhood


Supreme Court commutes Bocharski's death sentence

By Joanne C. Twaddell - The Daily Courier

August 14, 2008

In a unanimous decision, the Arizona Supreme Court on Aug. 8 commuted the sentence of Phillip Alan Bocharski from death to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

A jury found Bocharski guilty of burglary in the first degree and first-degree felony murder for the 1994 death of 84-year-old Freeda Brown at a campground outside Congress. Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger sentenced Bocharski to death in September 1996.

The Arizona Supreme Court, however, reversed the death sentence and remanded the case back to Kiger for resentencing. The Court concluded that Bocharski's attorneys, Tom Kelly and Ray Hanna, did not receive enough money to collect mitigating evidence necessary to adequately defend their client.

In the meantime, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that a jury, rather than a judge, must determine if a criminal defendant deserves the death penalty.

At Bocharski's second trial in January 2006, a jury found that the prosecution had proven that Bocharski's murder of Brown involved two of the aggravating factors set out in Arizona statutes: the murder was especially heinous or depraved, and Brown was over the age of 70 years at the time of her death.

In its latest decision, the Supreme Court disagreed with the jury. Chief Justice Ruth V. McGregor, writing for the Court, ruled that the State established only one aggravating factor, the age of the victim, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The State, McGregor continued, did not prove that Bocharski "had a separate intent to mutilate" Brown's body, or that "Bocharski intentionally inflicted violence after he knew or should have known of a fatal occurrence."

Conversely, the Supreme Court determined that the mitigation evidence the jury reviewed at Bocharski's sentencing trial was "substantial."

"When there is a doubt whether the death sentence should be imposed, we will resolve that doubt in favor of a life sentence," McGregor wrote.

When contacted about their reaction to the Supreme Court's opinion, Bocharski's defense attorneys had positive reactions.

"I'm excited. I obviously agree with the decision," Kelly said. "I am in contact with Bocharski frequently and he is excited as well.

"Many criminal defendants present mitigation evidence of a less-than-ideal life, but Bocharski's mitigation evidence is unique in its depth and breadth. The evidence in the record demonstrates severe neglect, as well as almost unimaginable mental, physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout his childhood. The record also reveals Bocharski's history of alcohol abuse and intoxication at the time of the crime. Finally, he established the impact of execution on his family and his remorse."

Hanna stated simply, "I am pleased."

Disappointed with the ruling, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk said. "The system provides for the independent review by the Supreme Court on death penalty cases, and I have great respect for our criminal justice system."

Kelly said Bocharski received a letter indicating that he will stay on Death Row for quite some time.

"I don't swear the accuracy of this letter, but supposedly there is a transition period," he said. "He has been on Death Row for 12 years, isolated in a small cell. He will be transported to the main prison yard and that could take three years."


Phillip Alan Bocharski



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