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Michael Joe MURDAUGH

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Retaliation - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: May-June 1995
Date of arrest: June 30, 1995
Date of birth: January 9, 1954
Victims profile: Douglas Eggert / David Reynolds
Method of murder: Beating with a meat tenderizer and a jackhammer spike
Location: Maricopa County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 16, 2001
 
 

 

Supreme Court of Arizona

 
opinion CR-01-0421-AP
 
 

 
 

# 162753
Date of Birth: Jan 9, 1954 
Defendant: Caucasian
Victim: Caucasian

Murdaugh' s girlfriend, Rebecca Rohrs, met the victim, David Reynolds, at a bar. Rebecca told Murdaugh about Reynolds. Murdaugh told Rebecca to entice Reynolds to her house.

When Reynolds arrived, Murdaugh and his friend, Jesse Dezarn, took Reynolds to a barn at gunpoint. Murdaugh severely beat Reynolds. Murdaugh and his co-defendant, Dezarn, bound and gagged Reynolds and put him inside the trunk of their vehicle, where Murdaugh again beat Reynolds.

After beating Reynolds to death, Murdaugh dumped Reynold's body in a remote area. Before leaving, however, he severed Reynold's head and hands, pulled out Reynold's teeth and buried the body parts.

PROCEEDINGS

   Presiding Judge: Sherry Hutt
   Prosecutor: Mark Barry
   Defense Counsel: Jess Lorona
   Start of Trial: Guilty Plea
   Verdict: Change of Plea-Jan 10, 2000
   Sentencing: November 16, 2001

Aggravating Circumstances:

    Prior conviction punishable by life imprisonment or death
(15` degree murder)
    Especially cruel, heinous and depraved

Mitigating Circumstances:

    Non-Statutory: under the influence of drugs at time of offense, chronic drug abuser, personality disorder, paranoid thoughts, combination of above may have impacted defendant's mental abilities.
   Other non-statutory mitigating circumstances considered cooperation with law enforcement, lack of a prior criminal record, admission of guilt and concern for victim's family.

PUBLISHED OPINIONS

[Direct Appeal pending before the Arizona Supreme Court]

 


ARIZONA SUPREME COURT

ORAL ARGUMENT CASE SUMMARY

State of Arizona v. Michael Joe Murdaugh

No. CR-01-0421-AP

Facts:

In 1995, Appellant was living with his girlfriend and Douglas Eggert. Appellant suspected that Eggert was stealing from him and that Eggert intended to hurt certain people close to Appellant. Consequently, Appellant decided to kill Eggert. Appellant first attempted to sedate Eggert by forcing him to drink a mixture of beer and Valium. When that attempt proved unsuccessful, Appellant ordered Eggert to climb into the cross-bed toolbox on Appellant’s truck.

Appellant and his girlfriend drove Eggert to the Central Arizona Project Canal. At the canal, Appellant ordered Eggert out of the toolbox and directed him to get on his knees. Appellant gave a gun to his girlfriend and told her to shoot Eggert. When she refused, Appellant retrieved a nylon bat from his truck and used it to beat Eggert to death. Appellant then pushed Eggert’s body into the canal where it was recovered several days later.

A few weeks after the Eggert murder, on June 26, 1995 Appellant’s girlfriend met David Reynolds at a gas station. When Appellant’s girlfriend returned home, she told Appellant that Reynolds had propositioned her. Appellant decided to teach Reynolds a lesson. Appellant’s girlfriend paged Reynolds and invited him to Appellant’s home. Appellant left with a friend and instructed his girlfriend to page him as soon as Reynolds arrived.

Appellant received the page from his girlfriend and returned home to confront Reynolds. He and his friend armed themselves with a rifle and a handgun and stormed into the house. Appellant began yelling at Reynolds and ordered him to empty his pockets onto the coffee table. Appellant continued to yell at Reynolds while Appellant’s girlfriend and friend went outside to take anything of value from Reynolds’ van.

After keeping Reynolds in the living room for several hours, Appellant decided to move him into the garage so Appellant could “figure things out.” Appellant marched Reynolds from the house to his three-bay detached garage and placed him the trunk of a car. Reynolds remained in the trunk until the following morning.

In the meantime, Appellant and his friend decided to dispose of Reynolds’ van. After dumping the van, Appellant stopped for gas and picked up a third friend. The three returned to Appellant’s home and went into the detached garage to inject methamphetamine. Appellant heard Reynolds knocking from inside the trunk and Reynolds told Appellant that he had to use the restroom. Appellant let Reynolds’ out of the trunk. When Reynolds turned his back to urinate, Appellant used the nylon bat and a jackhammer spike to beat Reynolds to death. Appellant left Reynolds’ body in the garage for the remainder of the day.

Late that night, Appellant and his friend loaded Reynolds’ body into Appellant’s horse trailer. Appellant then left with his horses and dogs to go camping. After he arrived at his campsite, Appellant dismembered Reynolds’ body. Appellant also pulled the teeth from Reynolds’ head and cut the fingerpads from his hands. Appellant took Reynolds’ body into the forest and buried his torso in one grave and his head and hands in another. Back at his campsite, Appellant cut himself in the leg when he was cleaning his horse’s hooves. He went to a nearby hospital for treatment and it was there that he was ultimately arrested.

Appellant pled guilty to both the Eggert murder and the Reynolds murder. The State agreed that it would not seek the death penalty for the Eggert murder but reserved the right to use that conviction as an aggravating factor in the Reynolds murder.

Before the sentencing hearing on the Reynolds murder, Appellant elected to waive mitigation. The trial judge ordered the State to present mitigation and proceeded to sentencing.

The judge found the following aggravating factors: Appellant had been convicted of another offense for which a sentence of life imprisonment or death was imposable and the murder was committed in a cruel, heinous, or depraved manner. The judge did not find any statutory mitigation, but found the following seven non-statutory mitigating circumstances: 1) impairment from the use of crystal methamphetamine at the time of the offense; 2) impairment from chronic drug use; 3) personality disorder; 4) paranoid thoughts; 5) impact of the combination of drug use, personality disorder, and paranoid thoughts on mental abilities; 6) cooperation with law enforcement; 7) lack of prior criminal convictions; and 8) desire to spare his family and victim’s family from trial. The court found that the proffered mitigation was insufficient to call for leniency and sentenced Appellant to death on November 26, 2001.

 



Michael Joe Murdaugh

 

 

 
 
 
 
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