FLORENCE, Ariz. — 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.
His pastor, the Rev. Ronald Koplitz, said Schad’s final statement likely was a
reference to “I’ll Fly Away,” a Gospel song he gave Schad a couple of weeks
Koplitz met Schad when the Lutheran minister first arrived at the Florence
prison in 1981 and served as the prison Chaplin. Koplitz said he kept in touch
with him after that, and gave him last rites just before the execution and
served as a witness. “He was not your typical inmate,” Koplitz said.
“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.”
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
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
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
The board refused to recommend to Gov. Jan Brewer that Schad’s sentenced 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.
In his final hours, Schad thanked his lawyers and corrections officers who
watched over him during the 35 days since his execution was scheduled, said
Kelley Henry, a federal public defender who helped represent him.
“Ed Schad was a model inmate to the end,” Henry said in a statement released
by the defender’s office in Phoenix.