Robert Cromwell was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for the murder of an eleven year old girl. According to court documents Robert Cromwell had just met the victims mother and the two had spent the night together. The next day the victims mother would leave for a short period of time. When she returned she would find her eleven year old daughter, naked and dead. The child had been severely beaten and stabbed to death. Robert Cromwell would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Robert Cromwell 2021 Information
ASPC Florence, Central Unit
PO Box 8200
ROBERT L. CROMWELL 174456
Florence, AZ 85132
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On March 6, 2003 Robert Louis Cromwell was sentenced for the following: MARICOPA COUNTY CR-2001-095438, Count 1, First Degree Murder (of Stephanie Short), committed on October 8,2001, sentenced to DEATH by Lethal Injection. At approximately 0351 hours October 8, 2001 Phoenix Police Department received a 911 call from a hysterical female stating she was trying to locate her daughter who was taken by a man who had beaten her. The female (later identified as Ella “Michelle” Speaks) told the dispatcher she was beaten with a stick by a man at her home located at 3208 E. Flower Street and that she believed this man ran off with her daughter. Shortly there after the Phoenix Police Department dispatch received a second 911 call from a Hispanic male who said he heard someone yelling for help and that they thought there was a dead baby at 3208 E. Flower Street, Apartment #205. During the investigation it was determined that through a one time meeting, spending the evening together drinking and doing drugs Ella “Michelle” Speaks left Robert Cromwell at her residence with her 3 daughters while she left for a few minutes to pickup another friend, Kim Jensen. Upon returning to 3208 E. Flower Street Michelle and Kim were greeted at the door by Robert Cromwell who struck Kim Jensen with a pool stick as she stepped into the apartment doorway. Michelle Speaks attempted to stop Robert Cromwell but when Kim was stuck in the head and fell to the floor Robert Cromwell turned on Michelle Speaks and began hitting her until the pool stick broke. Robert Cromwell ran from the residence. Injuries sustained by Michelle Speaks and Kim Jensen required medical attention. Michelle Speaks, who was shaken up over the incident, took off in her vehicle after Robert Cromwell as she believed Robert Cromwell had taken her daughter, Stephanie Short. While driving to Robert Cromwell’s residence Michelle Speaks called 911 to report the incident. The police made contact with Michelle Speaks in her vehicle and returned with her to her residence. Upon searching the residence at 3208 E. Flower Street they found the body of her 11 year old daughter, Stephanie Short, in the master bedroom, unclothed and severely injured. Stephanie Short had 13 stab wounds to her back, a fractured skull and broken jaw and had appeared to have been sexually assaulted. Stephanie was transported to the Good Samaritan Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Cause of death was determined to be multiple blunt force and stabbing injuries. Robert Cromwell was later contacted at his residence 3329 E. Osborn Road, Apartment #9 in Phoenix on October 8, 2001. Robert Cromwell was interviewed, taken to the Phoenix Police Department and subsequently arrested. Inmate Cromwell is also convicted of the following: Maricopa County CR-2001-095438 Count 2, Sexual Assault and Dangerous Crime Against Children (of Stephanie Short), committed on 10/8/01, sentence lifetime without the possibility of parole until 35 years have been served. Counts 3 Aggravated Assault (Ella “Michelle” Speaks), committed on 10/8/01, sentence 10 years; Counts 4 Aggravated Assault (Kim Jensen), committed on 10/8/01, sentence 10 years.
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Stephanie Shortt lived with her mother, Ella Speaks, and two younger sisters, Amanda and Heather, in a one-bedroom apartment located on Flower Street, near the intersection of 32nd Street and Osborn Road in Phoenix. Ella met the defendant, Robert Cromwell, in the early evening hours of October 7, 2001 while walking from her apartment to a nearby convenience store to purchase transmission fluid for her car. Ella passed a building where she saw Cromwell sitting on a bench. Cromwell yelled out to her, “Hey, are you a prostitute or a police officer?” Ella continued walking and replied, “I’m neither one. I’m a mother and I’m having a bad day. Leave me alone.” Cromwell then got on his bike and rode toward Ella. Upon reaching her, he said, “I just want to apologize to you. That was a very rude thing I said. In this area, there’s a lot of prostitutes. I can’t believe that I disrespected you that way and I want to give you my fullest apology.” Ella told Cromwell, “It’s okay. I’m just having a bad day. I don’t mean to lash out at you, but I’m not in the mood for those kind of comments.” Cromwell then told Ella he would escort her to the store because “this is a bad area and it’s now dark at this time.” Ella saw some men off to her left and was “almost relieved” that Cromwell was going to walk with her to the store.
¶ 4 Ella went into the store alone where she purchased transmission fluid. When she emerged, Ella found Cromwell waiting for her. The two walked back to her apartment and according to Ella’s testimony, Cromwell seemed “kind” and “caring.”
¶ 5 At the apartment, Cromwell helped Ella put the transmission fluid into the automobile. Ella then asked Cromwell if he would like to accompany her and her three daughters to a nearby fast-food restaurant. Cromwell agreed to go, but wanted first to take the bicycle back to his apartment. Ella and the children followed Cromwell and parked the car to wait for him outside the apartment. Cromwell parked his bike, changed his clothes, then drove with Ella and her three girls to the restaurant.
¶ 6 On the way, Cromwell and the children sang songs. At the drive-through window, Ella offered to buy Cromwell a hamburger. He declined. They obtained food for Ella and the children and went back to Ella’s apartment. While the children ate, Ella and Cromwell went into her bedroom where the two talked and Ella smoked methamphetamine. After spending about an hour in the bedroom, Cromwell agreed to accompany Ella to a number of local bars where she filled out job applications and played a few games of pool.
¶ 7 Cromwell had one drink during the bar visits, and Ella had none. At one bar location, Cromwell leaned over a pool table and tried to kiss Ella on the mouth, but she turned her cheek. Cromwell said, “I can tell you didn’t like it, but I will do it again.” Ella replied, “I don’t think you will,” at which time Ella noticed that Cromwell smiled as if he understood, and he apologized once again.
¶ 8 When Ella and Cromwell returned to her apartment around 1:00 a.m., the children were on a mattress in the living room, still awake. Ella told the girls to go to sleep, and Ella and Cromwell went into the bedroom where they played cards for about an hour.
¶ 9 At some point, with Cromwell still in the apartment, Ella received a phone call from a friend, Kelly Lancaster, asking that she come to his house to help resolve a disturbance being caused by a mutual acquaintance, Kim Jensen. Ella agreed and determined to leave her children with Cromwell because “he seemed so nice.” Cromwell told Ella he would just stay in her room while she was gone. Ella was gone from the house for a little more than an hour.
¶ 10 During Ella’s absence, Stephanie’s nine-year-old sister Amanda was awakened by the sound of Stephanie making a noise as if “she was really hurt.” Amanda then saw Stephanie standing in the bathtub, unclothed, while Cromwell, with socks on both of his hands, washed her with soap. Amanda got out of bed on several occasions while Ella was gone, but Cromwell angrily told her to get back to bed each time. Eventually, Amanda saw Stephanie follow Cromwell into Ella’s bedroom. Although Stephanie remained in Ella’s bedroom, Amanda saw Cromwell move from the bedroom to the kitchen several times. During one such trip, Amanda heard a noise like “silverware shatter, and while Cromwell and Stephanie were in the bedroom, she heard noises that made her think Stephanie was hurt. She then heard a “big bang” that sounded like a television dropping to the floor. Amanda finally fell asleep while Stephanie was in the bedroom with Cromwell.
¶ 11 When Ella returned to the apartment, accompanied by Kim Jensen, Cromwell attacked both of them with a pool cue, resulting in injuries to each. Cromwell ran out of the apartment after the attack and Ella quickly followed, after looking unsuccessfully for Stephanie.
¶ 12 Cromwell’s attack on Ella and Kim awakened Amanda. She saw her mother chase Cromwell out of the apartment. Kim Jensen was lying on the floor with a head injury. Amanda and Heather, the youngest sister, then got up and went to the bedroom to look for Stephanie. Amanda reached into the bed, felt Stephanie’s legs and saw that the television set was resting on Stephanie’s head. She and Heather removed it, then ran downstairs and asked the landlord to call 9-1-1, which he did. After the call, Amanda and Heather went back upstairs and into the bedroom. They observed blood stains on the bedding and found Stephanie’s body, bruised and bloody.
¶ 13 Police Officer Tallon Busby responded to the 9-1-1 call. When he arrived, the door was open and Kim Jensen was on the floor. Officer Busby described the scene: “Laying [sic] inside the doorway was a white female. From the waist down she was outside the apartment, from the waist up, she was laying [sic] facedown in the apartment. There was a blood smear on the door.” He asked Kim, who was semi-conscious, if anyone else was in the apartment. She replied that the baby was in the bedroom. He then asked Kim where she was injured, and she replied that she had been hit on the back of the head. Officer Busby observed that the hair on the back left side of Kim’s head was “matted in blood.”
¶ 14 The officer then went into the dark apartment and observed a light in the bedroom. He walked toward the doorway and saw Stephanie lying face up on the bed. A blanket covered her unclothed body from the waist down. She had “visible wounds on her face and blood coming out of her nose and lips and out of her mouth.” There was a “huge pool of blood” under her head and shoulders. Officer Busby checked to see if Stephanie was breathing and if she had a pulse. He felt a “slight pulse” at her neck. He placed his hand on Stephanie’s chest and “felt a slight rise and fall.” Visible evidence of severe vaginal trauma indicated that Stephanie also had been sexually abused.
¶ 15 By the time Gary Ford, a Phoenix Fire Department paramedic, arrived, Stephanie no longer had a pulse and had stopped breathing. While performing cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, Ford observed that Stephanie had suffered a head wound and multiple stab wounds to her back. Ford also observed the vaginal injuries. After attempting CPR and other life-saving procedures, the paramedics rushed Stephanie to Good Samaritan Hospital.
¶ 16 Dr. Wendy Lucid was on duty at the Good Samaritan emergency room when Stephanie arrived. Stephanie had no heartbeat and was not breathing. Initially, Dr. Lucid did a full body assessment. She found a large laceration on Stephanie’s forehead. Closer inspection revealed a skull fracture. Due to the severity of Stephanie’s head injuries, Dr. Lucid stopped all life support efforts and pronounced her dead. Dr. Lucid then turned Stephanie onto her side and observed eleven stab wounds on her back. Further examination also revealed the vaginal injuries.
¶ 17 The medical examiner performed an autopsy on Stephanie’s body. Based on the injuries, he determined Stephanie had received a minimum of five blows to the head and thirteen stab wounds to the back. The stabbing punctured her right lung, causing it to collapse. In the opinion of the examiner, Stephanie was alive at the time she suffered the vaginal trauma and at the time she was stabbed. The cause of death was multiple blunt force and stabbing injuries inflicted on her head and back.
¶ 18 The grand jury indicted Cromwell October 16, 2001 on one count of first degree murder, one count of sexual assault and two counts of aggravated assault. On November 9, 2001, the State filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for the murder and on August 9, 2002, filed its notice of aggravating factors. Trial began February 3, 2003, resulting in conviction by the jury on all counts in the indictment.