Alvie Kiles was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for the murder of a woman and her two children. According to court documents Alvie Kiles following an argument would murder Valerie Gunnell by beating her to death with a bumper jack. Alvie Kiles would then murder 9-month-old Lecresha and 5-year-old Shemaeah. Alvie Kiles would show off his killings to a friend. The two children bodies would be dumped into a river and Lecrsha body would be found in Mexico, Shemaeh body was never found. Alvie Kiles was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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ASPC Florence, Central Unit
PO Box 8200
ALVIE C. KILES 058243
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Kiles lived in Yuma with his girlfriend, Valerie Gunnell, and her two daughters, 9-month-old Lecresha and 5-year-old Shemaeah. On February 9, 1989, Kiles used a bumper jack to bludgeon Valerie to death in their home. He then killed the two children because they started “screaming and hollering” as he killed their mother. Kiles bragged about the murders to an acquaintance and took him on a tour of the murder scene, during which Kiles stepped on Valerie’s head. Lecresha’s body was later found floating in a canal in Mexico, but Shemaeah’s body was never found.
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The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday upheld the guilty verdict and death sentence of a Yuma man convicted of bludgeoning his girlfriend to death.
In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected arguments by Alvie Copeland Kiles that there were irregularities in the trial at which he was found guilty of the 1989 death of Valerie Gunnell. These range from claims of ineffective assistance of counsel to what he said was extensive pre-trial publicity, notably nearly 100 articles about the case in the Yuma Daily Sun.
The justices also were not swayed by arguments he should be spared the death penalty.
Monday’s ruling does not end Kiles’ legal fight: He still has issues he can present to federal courts, including the constitutionality of the death sentence.
It also does not affect separate guilty verdicts or sentences against him for the murders of Gunnell’s two daughters, one 5, the other 9 months.
While he was sentenced to death after a first trial, those convictions were overturned. A second jury could not agree on punishment, resulting in consecutive sentences of life behind bars. He did not appeal.
According to testimony at the trial, Kiles admitted to a neighbor that he had killed Gunnell, with whom he fought over stealing her food stamps to support his cocaine habit. Kiles also said he killed the girls because they were “crying and hollering and screaming.”
When the neighbor doubted the story, Kiles took him in the apartment which had blood on the floor and all over the walls and ceilings.
Gunnell’s body revealed she died of skull fractures and a brain laceration. The younger daughter, whose body was found in a canal in Mexico, also had head injuries; the body of the older daughter never was found.
Kiles argued he could not be guilty of premeditation because he was intoxicated and that the jury should have been instructed about that.
But Justice Michael Ryan, writing for the high court, said the evidence presented to the jury was enough for them to find premeditation. That included Kiles’ going to his car and getting his tire iron, returning to the apartment and killing Gunnell.
Anyway, Ryan wrote, intoxication is only a defense in questions of whether someone did something intentionally. He said it is irrelevant in cases of first-degree murder to whether someone acted intentionally.
Ryan also said there was nothing wrong with holding the trial — Kiles’ second — in Yuma despite 98 articles in the Yuma Daily Sun that detailed evidence in the case, including that he had told some people he was guilty. The justice said the evidence showed at best regular media coverage during the 10 years between the crime and the new trial and there was nothing to show that the extent of the coverage was presumptively prejudicial to Kiles
The high court also said there were enough “aggravating circumstances” around the murder, including multiple deaths and that a crime committed in an especially cruel or heinous fashion, to overcome any claims by Kiles that he should be spared the death penalty.