Arizona set to execute man for 1991 robbery, murder

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2012 10:48 AM
Arizona set to execute man for 1991 robbery, murder

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The condemned killer of a Phoenix-area man who was injected with battery acid and strangled during a 1991 robbery of his home was set to be executed on Thursday after nearly two decades on Arizona's death row.

Robert Charles Towery, 47, was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 10 a.m. local time at the state prison complex in Florence, about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix, state officials said.

Towery was sentenced to death for robbing and killing Robert Jones at his home in September 1991. According to trial testimony, Towery injected Jones with battery acid, then fashioned a noose with plastic ties and strangled his victim.

His conviction hinged in large part on the testimony of his co-defendant in the case.

Towery would be the seventh person executed in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

He would also become the second man executed in Arizona within the past eight days and the 30th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1992.

In a series of last-ditch appeals, his attorneys sought to have the sentence reduced to 25 years to life in prison by arguing Towery received too harsh a penalty compared with his accomplice, Randy Barker.

Barker was sentenced to 10 years in prison under an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and testified against Towery.

Barker recounted that he and Towery took a taxi to Jones' home in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley on the night of the crime, knocked on his door and asked to use the phone, claiming their vehicle had broken down. Towery had met the victim before through his automotive business.

Once inside, Towery pulled a weapon on Jones and Barker handcuffed him. Towery then proceeded to take $1,200 and load jewelry, electronics and other items into Jones' car before both men led their victim to the master bedroom at gunpoint.

Towery laid Jones face down on the bed and injected him using a veterinary syringe filled with a substance that Barker said was battery acid. Towery told the victim the substance would put him to sleep.

Believing that Jones was pretending to have fallen asleep, Towery then pulled plastic ties from his briefcase and strangled Jones. It took two attempts before Jones died, according to trial testimony.

Jones' body was found the next day. His car was discovered abandoned a week later.

The two suspects were arrested as a result of a tip to authorities. Towery was sentenced to death in November 1992.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta)