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Joseph R. WOOD III





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Revenge - Domestic violence
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: August 7, 1989
Date of arrest: Same day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: December 6, 1958
Victims profile: His ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, 29, and her father, Gene Dietz, 55
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber revolver)
Location: Pima County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 2, 1991

Date of Birth: December 6, 1958
Defendant: Caucasian
Victim: Caucasian

Wood and his 29-year-old ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, had been involved in a turbulent relationship for 5 years, which had been marred by numerous breakups and several domestic violent incidents. Debbie was working at a local body shop owned by her family.

On August 7, 1989, Wood walked into the shop and shot Gene Dietz, age 55, in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver, killing him. Gene Dietz's 70-year-old brother was present and tried to stop Wood, but Wood pushed him away and proceeded into another section of the body shop.

Wood went up to Debbie, placed her in some type of hold, and shot her once in the abdomen and once in the chest, killing her.

Wood then fled the building. Two police officers approached Wood and ordered him to drop his weapon. After Wood placed the weapon on the ground, he reached down and picked it up, and pointed it at the officers. The officers fired, striking Wood several times. Wood was transported to a local hospital where he underwent extensive surgery.


    Presiding Judge: G. Thomas Meehan
    Prosecutor:  Thomas Zawada
    Start of Trial: February 19, 1991
    Verdict: February 25, 1991
    Sentencing: July 2, 1991

Aggravating Circumstances:

    Grave risk of death to others
    Multiple homicides    

Mitigating Circumstances:

    None sufficient to call for leniency


    State v. Wood, 180 Ariz. 53, 881 P.2d 1158 (1994).



State v. Wood, 180 Ariz. 53, 881 P.2d 1158 (1994)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Pima) of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to death on each murder conviction. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.


(F)(3) (Grave Risk of Death to Others) - UPHELD
This aggravating circumstance exists only if the defendant's murderous act itself puts other people in the "zone of danger." The inquiry is whether, during the course of the murder, the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct that created a real and substantial likelihood that a specific third person might suffer a fatal injury. No single factor is dispositive of this aggravating circumstance. Here, three employees were present in the confined garage space where the defendant shot one of them. One of the employees was only six to eight feet away from the victim when he was shot. The defendant then turned toward another employee, as if to shoot him, but the employee fled. There was evidence that the defendant cocked and uncocked the gun twice between shooting the first victim and shooting the second. The other employees were found to be in the zone of danger based on the defendant's actions.

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The (F)(8) finding was upheld without extensive discussion. Wood did not challenge the finding on appeal. Wood shot and killed his estranged girlfriend and her father at a Tucson body shop. The Court noted that this was a double murder and the trial court properly found the existence of the (F)(8) aggravating circumstance.


The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were insufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Impulsive personality exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse ["little, if any" weight]
History of substance abuse ["little, if any" weight]
Lack of Criminal History

The Court found the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following as mitigating circumstances:

(G)(1) Significant Impairment [mental or alcohol/drugs]
(G)(2) Duress
(G)(4) Death not Reasonably Foreseeable
Difficult Childhood/Family History

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.


Joseph R. Wood III



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