Saturday, June 16, 2007

May 23, 2007

...they stole a number of his belongings, as well as his dog....

Last Meal: Comer had a final meal request of fried okra, four buns with lots of butter, lots of salt and two slices of banana bread.

The skinny: Comer was executed for the killing of a Florida man at a campsite at Apache Lake.

He was also serving 339 years for rape and kidnapping.

His execution came after he waived his rights to further appeal.

More skinny: Comer and his girlfriend, Juneva Willis, were at a campground near Apache Lake. They invited the victim, who was at the campsite next to theirs, to have dinner and drinks with them. Around 9:00 p.m., Comer shot the man in the head, and later stabbed him in the neck.

Comer then removed an Emergency Medical Technician badge from the man’s pocket and hid the body by covering it with wood. After the murder, Comer and Willis drove to dead man’s campsite, where they stole a number of his belongings, as well as his dog.

Comer and Willis then proceeded to the campsite of a couple, where they posed as “Arizona Drug Enforcement” officers, and ordered them out of their tent at gunpoint. Comer flashed the EMT badge and then tied the two up with wire and duct tape, then put them in their truck and stole several items from their tent.

Comer then drove the truck while Willis followed behind in his. After a short time, Willis stopped following Comer. When the woman asked to relieve herself, Comer permitted her to do so but accompanied her into the woods and sexually assaulted her. He then sexually assaulted her again in front of the truck.

Comer threatened to kill the man but the woman convinced him not to do so. Comer instead left the man in the woods and drove off with woman. When the truck ran out of gas, Comer and the woman walked back to Willis, and the three of them then drove together, along with Willis’s two children. During this journey, Comer shot and killed Pritchard’s dog, and sexually abused the woman twice more.

The woman finally managed to escape while Comer was fixing his truck. She was later picked up by a passing motorist and taken to the sheriff’s home. . The man had managed to walk back to the Burnt Corral campground and had reported the incident to the Department of Public Safety.

The police quickly apprehended Comer and Willis.

Willis subsequently pled guilty to one count of kidnapping in exchange for agreeing to testify against Comer. The other charges against her were dropped.

The sentencing: Comer had to be subdued with a hose, beaten and dragged to his sentencing in 1988. When he was brought into the courtroom strapped to a wheelchair, he was bloodied, barely conscious and naked except for a towel on his lap. His extensive tattoos, including a swastika, were exposed and his shaggy hair and beard were wild.

Last words and such: This day is a welcome one for Comer, who has fought to be executed since 2000. Comer spent much of that time just proving he is competent to make that decision, saying he owes it to his victims, society and himself.

After being sentenced to death, Comer spent the next 13 years making knives and shanks, fighting with prisoners and guards and setting fires in his own cell. He was cited 43 times between 1988 and 2001 for such infractions. But since 2001, he hadn't been disciplined once. Guards, psychologists, lawyers and Comer himself say he matured, mellowed and become more thoughtful during his prison time, particularly after his best friend in prison, Robert Vickers, was executed in 1999.

Comer never flinched as he was injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs that put him to death. He took a picture of his daughter into the death chamber with him and seemed defiant as he smiled and maintained eye contact with his witnesses as drugs coursed through his body.

His last words were "Go Raiders!" and with that, his smile slowly faded until he passed out.

Factoids: Comer was the...

20th murderer executed in U.S. in 2007
1077th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Arizona in 2007
23rd murderer executed in Arizona since 1976

Protesters moved on to prison grounds earlier in the morning to voice their objections over the planned execution. However, the Arizona Department of Corrections officials made sure they could not be seen from the main road.

A group of 17 people from Pax Christi USA drove from Phoenix, formed a circle and prayed the Hail Mary. "You don't teach not killing by killing," Ruth Zemek said. Wearing a hat that said "let us not become the evil we despise, abolish the death penalty," Margaret Snider said: "I don't think it accomplishes anything. The crime has been committed. It doesn't make anything well." "Taking a person's life does not bring a person back," protester Dan Wolford said. "His taking a life doesn't justify taking his. He doesn't forfeit his right to live because he took someone else's life."

However, at least one man from East Valley drove to Florence to support Comer's execution. "This man can never do it again after 10. He can never kill again. They will be safe from this man," said George Williams, the lone pro-death penalty protester. He held a sign saying "Coomer will never murder or kill again"

Comer was the first inmate to be put to death in the state since Donald Miller was executed on Nov. 8, 2000, for helping murder an 18-year-old woman.