Arizona executed an inmate Wednesday for killing and dismembering his adoptive
mother while he was out of prison on furlough for another crime, despite a
spate of last-minute appeals over his mental disabilities and how the state has
changed and violated its own execution protocol.
Just before he was put to death, Robert Henry Moormann used his last words to
apologize to his family and to the family of an 8-year-old girl he kidnapped
and molested in 1972.
"I hope this brings closure and they can start healing now," he said. "I just
hope that they will forgive me in time."
Moormann is the first Arizona inmate to be executed with one lethal drug, as
opposed to the state's long-standing 3-drug protocol.
The switch was made after corrections officials realized Monday that one of the
three drugs had expired. In doing so, they violated their own new written
execution protocol by giving Moormann only two days' notice of how he would be
put to death instead of seven days' notice, as stipulated in the protocol.
Moormann appeared to move more than other inmates executed with the 3-drug
protocol. Unlike the other inmates, who appeared to fall asleep immediately,
Moormann kept his eyes open during the entire execution.
Arizona joins Ohio, Texas and several other states that last year made the
switch to pentobarbital after the only U.S. manufacturer of execution drug
sodium thiopental said it would discontinue production.
In July, the only U.S.-licensed manufacturer of pentobarbital announced that it
would put the drug off-limits for executions. And a company that bought the
pentobarbital line in December is required to also keep it from use by prisons
Once states use up their current supplies of pentobarbital, executions could be
delayed across the country as officials look for yet another alternative.
Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request for a stay, the
two-member execution team gave the lethal injection to Moormann at 10:23 a.m.
The 63-year-old was pronounced dead at 10:33 a.m.
The execution happened just a minute's drive away from the Blue Mist Motel,
where on Jan. 13, 1984, he beat, stabbed and suffocated his adoptive mother,
Roberta Moormann, 74, who sexually abused him into adulthood, according to
He cut off her head, legs and arms, halved her torso, and flushed all her
fingers down the toilet. He then went to various businesses asking if he could
dispose of spoiled meat and animal guts before he threw most of her remains in
trash bins and sewers throughout the dusty town, about 60 miles southeast of
Moormann was captured after he asked a corrections employee to dispose of what
he said were dog bones.
He killed the woman while on a three-day "compassionate furlough" from the
prison in Florence, where he was serving 9 years to life for kidnapping and
molesting an 8-year-old girl in 1972.
The killing prompted the state to stop its policy of allowing such leaves, and
they're still not allowed.
Tom Rankin, who was Florence's police chief at the time of the killing and
interviewed Moormann just afterward, said he attended the execution to get some
closure in the case, which was the only one of Rankin's that resulted in the
"It's over," the former chief said outside the prison. "It was a horrible
Rankin, who retired from the police department in 1994, rejected arguments from
defense attorneys about Moormann being too mentally disabled for the state to
"Those are excuses attorneys try to dig up to save someone's life. It just
costs the taxpayers more money," he said. "The man knew what he was doing.
There was no doubt in my mind."
Moormann lost a recent flurry of appeals over a number of issues, including 2
on Tuesday at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Although a 3-judge panel declined to delay Moormann's execution, it issued a
strong warning to Arizona officials who have continuously changed and violated
their own execution policy, saying the state has forced the court "to engage in
serious constitutional questions and complicated factual issues in the waning
hours before executions."
"This approach cannot continue," the panel wrote. "We are mindful of the
admonition requiring us to refrain from micromanaging each individual
execution, but the admonition has a breaking point."
Unless Arizona officials make permanent changes, the judges wrote that the
court might have to start monitoring each individual execution in the state to
make sure the law is followed.
Dale Baich, one of the attorneys who filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit on
behalf of Moormann, was at the execution and said that the process appeared to
be more transparent than in the past because the injection site was visible.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said, but added that he will continue
to challenge the new execution protocol because it gives corrections Director
Charles Ryan too much discretion.
A different 9th Circuit 3-judge panel turned down a separate filing from
Moormann that sought a delay in his execution over arguments about his mental
Moormann's attorneys have argued in courts at every level that the Flagstaff
man should not be executed because multiple psychologists have diagnosed him as
State law prohibits executing the mentally disabled or those who have IQs lower
Prosecutors argue that Moormann's mental capacity at the time of the killing
was just above the legal requirement for mental impairment.
Moormann's attorneys also were unsuccessful in arguing to courts and a clemency
board that because Roberta Moormann sexually abused her adoptive son throughout
childhood and into adulthood, it would be "unconscionable" to execute him.
Moormann was born to a 15-year-old prostitute who died when she was 17. He
bounced around six foster homes before being adopted by the Moormanns in
Flagstaff when he was 5.
At his clemency hearing in Florence on Friday, Moormann said he accepted
responsibility for killing his mother but that he didn't remember much about
"It was me playing with her breasts, and that is the only part I remember,"
Robert Moormann said. "I carried her in the bathtub and I knew something was
wrong, so I put her in bed. I do not remember cutting her up. Sorry."
He told the board that he wasn't sure why he can't remember the details of the
killing but wondered aloud if it might be because of a stroke he had in prison
"I accept responsibility for what happened that night," he said. "The only 2
people in that room were her and me. I know I'm guilty of the crime. I wish I
could go back and undo it, but I can't."
At the time of the killing, Moormann also told authorities conflicting stories
about the death, saying that he accidentally suffocated her during sex and
later that she had begun sexually abusing him again, prompting him to kill her
in a fit of rage.
Medical examiners found no evidence of sexual contact between the 2 the night
of her killing. They also found that she had been alive when she received cuts
and bruises covering her body and that "the dismemberment showed no rage, but
rather a methodical, meticulous activity," court records say.
A jury convicted Moormann of 1st-degree murder after 2 hours of deliberations,
rejecting his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Although the trial judge did find that Moormann had an impaired ability to
understand right from wrong, the judge cited several reasons why Moormann
deserved the death penalty, including that the murder was especially heinous
Of the 129 inmates left on Arizona's death row, just 6 have been there longer
Robert Charles Towery is scheduled to be executed March 8. Towery, who has a
clemency hearing set for March 2, was convicted of killing a man while robbing
his home in 1991.
Moormann becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Arizona and the 29th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in
Moormann becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 1282nd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17,
Online: Arizona Death Row: http://1.usa.gov/osOcN2
(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)