Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery ?
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: December 1, 1999
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: March 26, 1980
Victims profile: Ellen Franco and Lance Rush
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 20, 2004

INMATE 190487


Ellen Franco separated from her husband, Larry Franco, and moved into the home of Jennifer Farley and Lance Rush.

Ruben Garza who is Larry Franco's nephew, went to the Franco/Rush residence on the night of December 1, 1999, ostensibly to convince Ellen to reconcile with Larry.

However, after Garza entered the Farley/Rush home, he drew a handgun and shot Ellen Franco twice. Jennifer and Lance attempted to escape the same fate by locking themselves in a bedroom, where Jennifer hid in a closet.

Garza broke through the bedroom door and began struggling with Lance. Garza shot Lance three times and sustained a gunshot wound to his own arm. Jennifer called 9-1-1 after Garza fled.

Despite the efforts of paramedics and emergency surgeons, both Ellen and Lance died from their gunshot wounds. Police arrested Garza the following day.


Presiding Judge: Hon. Gregory H. Martin
Prosecutor: Mark Barry & George Gialketsis
Defense Counsel: James Cleary & Christopher Dupont
Start of Trial: May 27, 2004
Verdict: August 26, 2004
Sentencing: September 20, 2004

Aggravating Circumstances

Convicted of one or more homicides during commission of offense


[Direct Appeal Pending Before the Arizona Supreme Court]


Ruben Garza—Latino, age 19

Sentenced to death in Maricopa County, Arizona

By: A jury

Date of crime: 12/1/99

Prosecution’s case/defense response: Garza and an unknown other person burglarized the home of Garza’s aunt by marriage. The aunt was shot twice in the head. A man who also occupied the home was shot multiple times during a struggle. The prosecution alleged robbery as a motive, but the jury did not find it as an aggravating circumstance. The defense argued that Garza had only confessed to being present in the home, and that there was insufficient evidence that he had inflicted any violence on the victims. In mitigation, the defense offered his youthful age (19), his lack of any criminal record, and friends and relatives to attest to his non-violent character.

Prosecutor(s): No information
Defense lawyer(s): James Cleary, Christopher Dupont


State v. (Ruben) Garza, 216 Ariz. 56, 163 P.3d 1006 (2007)

(DEATH PENALTY UPHELD) Jury Trial/Indep. Review

PROCEDURAL POSTURE:  Garza was convicted by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury of two counts of first-degree murder. The jury found the state had proved the multiple homicides aggravator (A.R.S. §13-751(F)(8)) as to each murder, and determined that Garza should be sentenced to life imprisonment for one murder and death for the other. Direct appeal of death sentence with independent review.


The statutory requirement that the multiple murders be “temporally, spatially and motivationally related” to each other was satisfied. Both victims were shot in the same house, one shortly after the other. The two homicides were also motivationally related. Garza shot the first victim in the living room and then went down the hallway to the bedroom and shot the other victim.


The Court independently found:

  • Age (G)(5): Garza was 19 years old at the time of the murders:  Of diminished significance when the defendant is a major participant in the crime, especially when he plans it in advance

  • Good character and lack of prior criminal record: Also accorded less weight because crime planned in advance

  • Stress: Lack of causal connection to the crime also diminishes this mitigation

The Court found that the mitigation was not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.

JUDGMENT:  Convictions and death sentence affirmed.


Ruben Garza



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