Shad Armstrong was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for two murders. According to court documents Shad Armstrong and two accomplices planned the murders out in the weeks before. On the day of the murder they put down sheets to catch the blood and waited for the two victims Shad Armstrong sister and fiance. When the two victims arrived they were both shot by a shotgun wielded by Armstrong. The victims possessions were take and the murderous trio would travel to the victims apartment where they stole more valuables. Shad Armstrong would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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Shad Armstrong in February 1998 dug a huge grave, turned garbage bags and sheets into dropcloths and then used a shotgun to kill his sister and her fiancé.
What defense attorneys and prosecutors don’t agree on is why.
If jurors agree with prosecutors, Armstrong could wind up on death row again.
If not, Armstrong, 34, will be sentenced to life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
Armstrong has already been convicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Farrah Armstrong, 22, and Frank Williams, 25.
A jury convicted him in December 2000 and a judge sentenced him to death. However, the U.S. Supreme Court later decided that jurors, not judges, should decide the sentences in capital-murder cases.
So on Tuesday, a new group of jurors gathered at Pima County Superior Court to decide if Armstrong is eligible for the death penalty and if he should get it.
When Armstrong moved to Tucson with his girlfriend and sister in 1998, he was wanted for violating parole in Oklahoma and for burglary, prosecutor Susan Eazer told jurors.
If he was caught, Armstrong knew he would go to prison for life, Eazer said.
Farrah Armstrong was also in trouble with the law, but shortly after she moved to Tucson she fell in love with Williams and decided to turn her life around, Eazer said.
She and Williams decided that before they got married, Farrah Armstrong needed to turn herself and her brother in to Oklahoma authorities, Eazer said.
Unfortunately, Farrah Armstrong told her brother’s girlfriend, Rusty Medina, her plans, Eazer said.
Armstrong decided he needed to kill his sister and use her money to go on the run again, Eazer said, and decided to kill Williams to cover his tracks.
In the weeks before the murders, Eazer said, the unemployed Armstrong stole his sister’s bank card and began making withdrawals. At the same time, he plotted the murders with Medina and his roommate in Three Points, David Doogan.
On Feb. 19, 1998, Eazer said, Armstrong lured Williams and his sister to Doogan’s trailer.
Once inside, he shot them both in the head and the chest, tore his sister’s rings from her fingers and rifled through Williams’ pockets for his cash, Eazer said.
He and Doogan then tied the bodies up in the sheets and garbage bags, hooked them up to a pickup truck and dragged them to their predug grave.
Eazer said Medina and Doogan both testified Armstrong tried to use his sister’s bank card after the murders and was upset to find out she had changed her personal identification number.
Medina and Armstrong spent time in Mexico and California before being arrested in Texas.
In order for Armstrong to be eligible for the death penalty, Eazer said, the jury has to find that he killed his sister for money and that Williams and Farrah Armstrong’s deaths happened at the same time, in the same place and for the same reason.
Defense attorney Dan Cooper told the jury that despite his client’s “horrible, senseless, unspeakably sad and unbelievable” actions, they have to remain dispassionate. He urged them to decide if Armstrong is eligible for the death penalty on the facts of the case.
At no time did Doogan or Medina ever say Armstrong killed his sister for her money and property, Cooper said. They have always said he killed her to stop her from turning him in.
It was Doogan who hoped to gain financially from the murders, Cooper said. It was he who ended up with Farrah Armstrong’s belongings.
Cooper also said that while Farrah Armstrong and Williams died seconds apart in the same location, Williams died for a different reason.
“Frank was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and Shad didn’t like him, period,” Cooper said.
If the jury doesn’t think Armstrong should be eligible for the death penalty, Pima County Superior Court Judge Christopher Browning will be required to sentence Armstrong to life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Doogan is serving 22 years for his part in the crime, and Medina, the mother of two of Armstrong’s children, received 11.5 years.