FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) – Arizona on Wednesday executed the oldest person on its death row, nearly 35 years after he was charged with murdering a man during a robbery and dumping his body along a highway.
The execution of 71-year-old Edward Harold Schad Jr. came about two hours after the U.S. Supreme Court denied his final appeals.
At about 10 a.m., the warden at the state prison in Florence read Schad’s execution warrant and asked him if he had anything to say.
Schad responded: “Well, after 34 years, I’m free to fly away home. Thank you, warden. Those are my last words.”
He lay quietly and looked at the ceiling as he was given a lethal dose of pentobarbital through IV needles in both arms. He then took a long, deep breath and exhaled. He was pronounced dead at 10:12 a.m.
Schad was sentenced to death for killing Lorimer “Leroy” Grove, whose body was found Aug. 9, 1978, in underbrush off the shoulder of U.S. 89 south of Prescott. A sash-like cord used to strangle Grove was still knotted around his neck.
Schad was arrested several weeks later in Utah while driving Grove’s Cadillac. Authorities say he had driven the car across the country, used Grove’s credit cards and forged a check from the Bisbee man’s bank account.
At the time, Schad was on parole for second-degree murder in the 1968 accidental strangulation death of a male sex partner in Utah.
Schad was convicted in Grove’s death in 1979 and again in 1985 after the previous conviction was thrown out. The conviction was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 1989 but later became tied up in a series of federal court appeals.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June lifted a stay put in place by an appeals court, ordering the court to issue the execution authorization.
Although Schad acknowledged driving Grove’s stolen car and using his credit cards, he always maintained he didn’t kill Grove. Regardless, he told the state’s clemency board at a hearing last week that he had accepted his fate.
A top Yavapai County prosecutor told the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency that despite Schad’s denial, he was twice convicted by juries that rejected his assertion of innocence.
“He doesn’t take any responsibility for what he did,” chief deputy Dennis McGrane told the board. “Accidents two times, died of strangulation? I don’t think so.”
The board refused to recommend to Gov. Jan Brewer that Schad’s sentence be commuted to life in prison.
Schad’s execution was Arizona’s 35th since 1992. It leaves 121 people on death row in the state, including two women.
Only a handful of people older than 71 have been executed in the U.S. since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The oldest was John Nixon, who was executed in Mississippi in 2005 at age 77.
Schad’s pastor, the Rev. Ronald Koplitz, said Schad’s last words likely were a reference to “I’ll Fly Away,” a Gospel song he gave Schad a couple of weeks ago.
Koplitz met Schad when the Lutheran minister first arrived at the Florence prison in 1981 and served as the prison chaplain. Koplitz said he kept in touch with Schad after that and gave him last rites just before the execution. He also served as a witness to Schad’s death.
“He was a good guy. Whether he did the murder or not, I don’t know,” Koplitz said afterward. “He always told me he didn’t, like he told everybody else.”
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Best and worst of Super Bowl commercials
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help
- This college bowl season is likely to be epic
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- 2016 college football rivalry games you simply can't miss
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof