Arizona carries out third execution this year, fourth slated for next month

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

FLORENCE, Ariz. -- Arizona put convicted murder Thomas Kemp to death Wednesday morning in its third execution of 2012.

“Nearly 20 years after murdering Tucson resident Hector Juarez, justice has been served on Thomas Kemp," Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said in a statement e-mailed to media outlets shortly after the execution, which began at 10:01 a.m. Kemp was pronounced dead just seven minutes later.

The Arizona Supreme Court approved the the death warrant for Kemp, 63, and another death-row inmate, Samuel Villegas Lopez, on March 20.

Kemp was sentenced to death for kidnapping Juarez, 25, from outside his Tucson apartment in July 1992 and taking him into a desert area where he shot Juarez twice in the head.

“Kemp was a particularly cold-blooded individual," Horne continued in his statement. "He never expressed any kind of remorse for his crimes, which were particularly brutal."

That lack of remorse continued until the end, as illustrated by Kemp's last words -- "I regret nothing."

"He abducted Juarez, used his ATM to steal $200 and then drove him to a remote area near Marana, where he forced Juarez to disrobe and fatally shot him twice in the head," Horne wrote in his statement. "An added measure of cruel and depraved conduct was that Juarez knew he would be killed. Kemp then took Juarez’s truck to Flagstaff, sold it, and while in Flagstaff encountered a couple traveling through Arizona. Kemp and an accomplice kidnapped that couple, forced them to drive to Colorado where the man was sexually assaulted by Kemp. Kemp was later caught when the crimes were reported by his accomplice."

That accomplice, Jeffrey Logan, is serving a life sentence.

“Now that Thomas Kemp has paid the penalty for his terrible crimes," Horne continued, "it is my hope that his victims and their families will find some measure of peace that justice has been carried out, although we will work to see that victims in the future can see more timely justice.”

Kemp's execution was the third in Arizona this year. Robert Moorman was executed on Feb. 29, and Robert Towery was put to death a few days later on March 8.

Since 1910, Arizona has executed 94 inmates; 29 of them have been put to death with lethal injection since the state began using that method in 1992. The state executed 28 inmates by hanging from 1910 through 1931, and 37 inmates by lethal gas after that.

All together there are 127 inmates, three of them women, still on Arizona's death row.

Lopez, who is scheduled for execution on May 16, was convicted of raping, robbing and stabbing a 59-year-old woman to death in her Phoenix apartment on Oct. 29, 1986, after what court records described as a "terrible and prolonged struggle."

At this point, Arizona is on pace to match its busiest year for executions since establishing the death penalty in 1910 and be among the busiest death-penalty states in the nation, The Associated Press has determined.

If the state carries out three additional executions of inmates likely to be at the end of the appeals process well before the end of the year, that would make seven executions for 2012. That would match the 1999 total, the most ever in the state. It also would make Arizona the second-busiest death-penalty state after Texas.