execution for a death row inmate convicted of killing his adoptive mother while on a three-day prison release in 1984.Corrections officials announced the execution date Wednesday for 63-year-old
at the state prison complex in Florence.
recently lost an appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider his case.Moorman was serving a nine-year prison term for kidnapping in 1984 when the state let him out on three-day release to visit his adoptive mother at a nearby hotel.
Families, others find closure in executionAt 10:23 a.m. on Feb. 29
, convicted felon Robert H. Moorman was declared dead following his execution at the Arizona State Prison – 27 years after receiving his sentence.For Tom Rankin this particular order of execution offered a different kind of closure than that for relatives of the victims. He was the police chief in Florence 28 years ago when Moorman committed one of the most heinous crimes in the town’s history.“That was my third execution to observe, but this one was a bit more personal,” Rankin, one of the witnesses, said. “It provided closure for me, not only on that case, but for my law enforcement career. It was the last case that I had pending that I was involved in.“It’s like saying, ‘You’ve done your career. It’s over with now.’”Ironically, the Blue Mist Motel is within sight from the ASP visitors’ parking area. It was at the Blue Mist where, on Jan. 13, 1984, Moorman beat, stabbed and suffocated his adoptive mother, 74-year-old Roberta Moorman, who, according to defense attorneys, sexually abused him into his adult years.Moorman then dismembered Roberta’s body, cutting off her head, legs and arms, halved her torso, and flushed her fingers down the toilet. Most of her remains were found in trash bins around town after asking various businesses if he could “dispose of spoiled meat and animal guts.”Shortly after Moorman asked a corrections employee to dispose of “dog bones,” he was captured. The incident took place during a a three-day “compassionate furlough” from ASP, where Moorman was already serving nine years to life for kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old girl in 1972.Moorman, 63, was sentenced to death on May 7, 1985. Appeals to overturn his warrant of execution were denied in 1986, 1987 and 1992. A motion to issue a warrant of execution was filed by the attorney general on Oct. 12, 2011 and granted on Nov. 29.Moorman was served his last meal between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 28. It consisted of one double hamburger (two quarter-pound patties prepared “medium”) with two slices of onion, three leaves of lettuce, three tomato slices and a bun; plus French fries (with four ounces of ketchup), two three-ounce beef burritos, three Royal Crown colas, and two 14-ounce containers of Rocky Road ice cream.
A light breakfast was an option, but there was no word on whether or not Moorman accepted it.
From the reporter’s notebook, here’s the sequence of events:
8 a.m. – The media witnesses are greeted and informed that no cameras, pens or outside note pads are allowed – a pencil and note pad is furnished by the prison.
8:38 a.m. – Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles L. Ryan came to the media room and announced that there were no further stays of execution and no pending motions from the Superior Court.
9:39 a.m. – The media leaves its holding area to another room upstairs. There, a DOC employee offered a briefing on the execution itinerary.
9:45 a.m. – After the briefing, media names were drawn at random to determine the order of entering the viewing gallery. My name was drawn first.
10 a.m. – There’s a delay in the process, as Moorman is having a final meeting with his legal counsel.
10:12 a.m. – The media is led to Housing Unit No. 9, enters the gallery area, and is positioned next to a partition, separate from other witnesses.
10:19 a.m. – Approximately 22 witnesses, other than the media and DOC staff, enter the gallery. An undetermined number of witnesses are on the other side of the partition.
10:21 a.m. – The curtain opens, and Moorman is seen strapped to a gurney, wearing his orange prison apparel. He appears calm as his execution order is being read.
10:23 a.m. – Moorman is asked if he has any final words. Looking up at the ceiling with a slight smile, he responds with an apology to the families involved, adding, “I’m sorry for the pain I caused. I hope this brings closure and they can start healing now. I just hope that they can forgive me in time.”
With that, the process of execution began.
10:24 a.m. – Moorman turns his head to his right and looks at the gallery. One minute later, he begins breathing hard, short of gasping for air, as the lethal injection of pentobarbital began to take effect.
10:27 a.m. – A physician enters the execution room to administer sedation.
10:29 a.m. – Moorman’s eyes are half-closed, looking peaceful, with little, if any, movement.
10:33 a.m. – The DOC announces, “The execution is completed.” The curtain is closed.
10:34 a.m. – The witnesses are excused.
10:40 a.m. – The media gives its witness account to six television stations and various print and radio reporters who did not see the execution.
“Death is never pretty,” Rankin said. “When I was standing there, I was wondering about (Roberta Moorman’s) family and wondering if any of her family was there. I didn’t know because I’ve lost contact with most of them. I didn’t recognize any of the other witnesses.
“For the family’s sake, I hope it’s over. It’s a period I hope they’ll never have to live through again.”
Deacon Ed Sheffer of St. Thomas The Apostle Parish in Tucson, who performs ministry work on death row, has been Moorman’s spiritual advisor for the last 10 years. After the execution, Sheffer said, “At the end, Robert was at a peaceful place and for some time had come to terms with what he had done and his fate. You could hear it in his last words, his thoughts and concerns were for others, not himself.”
Sheffer said Moorman received last rites from Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson on Feb. 21, and had his final communion prior to the execution at approximately 6 a.m.
“He received his communion and was very grateful for our years of working together as he found his relationship with the Lord,” Sheffer said. “He moved from shame to guilt, to asking for mercy and reconciliation.
“His soul is now in God’s hands.”
Rankin noted it was the only case from his days as police chief that resulted in the death penalty, saying, “It’s too bad about the way the death penalty is scheduled, with the long delays and the years it takes to fulfill the sentence. I understand the process, but for the family of the victim, closure should come sooner.
“As for Robert Moorman, he got what he deserved,” Rankin concluded. “There’s no need to talk about him anymore. In law enforcement, we say, ‘case closed.’”