State v. Gretzler

Citation612 P.2d 1023,126 Ariz. 60
Decision Date21 April 1980
Docket NumberNo. 3750,3750
PartiesThe STATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Douglas Edward GRETZLER, Appellant.
CourtSupreme Court of Arizona
Robert K. Corbin, Atty. Gen. by William J. Schafer III and Crane McClennen, Asst. Attys. Gen., Phoenix, for appellee

Hoffman & Brown, P. C. by David S. Hoffman, Tucson, for appellant.

CAMERON, Justice.

Defendant, Douglas Gretzler, was charged in two indictments by a Pima County grand jury with one count of burglary, A.R.S. § 13-302; one count of kidnapping for robbery with a gun, A.R.S. §§ 13-491, -492; two counts of robbery with a gun, A.R.S. §§ 13-641, -643(B); and two counts of first degree murder, A.R.S. §§ 13-451, -452, -453. 1 After jury verdicts and judgments of guilt, Gretzler was sentenced as follows: death for the crime of first degree murder, two counts; not less than twenty-five years nor more than fifty years each for the crimes of robbery, burglary and kidnapping, to run concurrently. Notice of appeal to this court was filed by the Clerk of the Pima County Superior Court pursuant to Rule 26.15 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, 17 A.R.S.

The defendant raises some fifty-four questions on appeal. For purposes of convenience, we have grouped these questions under the following headings:

1. Challenges to the Grand Jury.

2. Extradition and Speedy Trial.

3. Consolidation and Severance.

4. Defendant's Competence to Stand Trial.

5. Objections to Identification Witnesses.

6. Alleged Failure of the State to Make Full Disclosure to the Defense.

7. Claims Concerning the Jury.

8. Admissibility of Defendant's Confessions.

9. Objections to Evidentiary Rulings.

10. Challenges to Miscellaneous Rulings Made During Trial.

11. Objections to Rulings Involving the Expenditure of Public Funds for the Defense.

12. Alleged Misconduct of Trial Judge and Prosecutor's Office.

13. Constitutionality of the Death Penalty.

The acts on which the instant prosecution was based were the kidnapping of Vincent Armstrong and the murders of Patricia and Michael Sandberg in Tucson, Arizona, on 3 November 1973. These crimes were but two events in an essentially undisputed chain of episodes involving Douglas Gretzler and Willie Steelman. See State v. Steelman, 120 Ariz. 301, 585 P.2d 1213 (1978). Gretzler and Steelman were responsible for the deaths of at least seventeen human beings in the autumn of 1973.

In late December of 1972, Gretzler abandoned his wife and infant daughter in New On 11 October 1973, Gretzler, Steelman and a woman friend left Denver for Phoenix, Arizona. In Globe, Arizona, the two men committed an armed robbery of a sunbathing couple; the robbery netted them five dollars. Later on the same day, they picked up a hitchhiker, tied him to a tree and stole his clothes, a ring and twenty dollars. On 15 October, the trio arrived in Phoenix where they pawned the ring and robbed a woman of twenty dollars and some checks.

York City, leaving no word of his intentions or whereabouts. He drove to Casper, Wyoming, and then to Denver, Colorado, where he met and moved in with Willie Steelman and Steelman's sister. At this point, Gretzler's criminal record consisted of minor traffic charges and one count of vagrancy.

Shortly after the trio's arrival in Phoenix, the woman set forth on her own. Steelman and an Arizona acquaintance known as "Preacher" went out to settle a drug-related dispute involving Preacher's brother. Both Preacher and his brother died in the resulting melee.

Through two young men, Ken Unrein and Mike Adshade, Gretzler and Steelman learned that acquaintances of Steelman named Bob Robbins and Yafah Hacohen were living at an area trailer park. All four visited the couple. Following the visit, Gretzler and Steelman kidnapped Unrein and Adshade in their Volkswagen van and drove to Stanislaus County, California, where, on 17 October 1973, the pair garroted and stabbed Unrein and Adshade to death. They hid the bodies and continued to drive the Volkswagen until it stopped running, at which point they began to hitchhike. On 20 October, they kidnapped a young couple who stopped for them near Petaluma, California. Steelman raped the woman captive, but eventually both victims were released at an underground garage, where Gretzler and Steelman stole another car.

Concerned that Bob Robbins and Yafah Hacohen would eventually connect them with the disappearance of Unrein and Adshade, Gretzler and Steelman decided to return to Arizona and silence the couple. On the way to Phoenix, they picked up a hitchhiker named Steve Loughren. The three stayed overnight with Robbins and Hacohen; the following evening, Gretzler and Steelman murdered Loughren in an isolated area near the Superstition Mountains. They then returned to their friends' trailer. On 25 October, while Hacohen was at work, they garroted and shot Robbins to death and hid his body. When Hacohen returned home, she, too, was murdered.

Gretzler and Steelman then moved on to Tucson where they shared a "crash pad" with some local street people. On 2 November, while hitchhiking with some of their Tucson acquaintances, they were picked up by Gilbert Sierra, whom they murdered later that night. They drove the victim's car to a parking lot, where they wiped their fingerprints off the vehicle and abandoned it.

On 3 November, Gretzler and Steelman kidnapped Vincent Armstrong who stopped for them while they were again hitchhiking. Armstrong escaped from his moving car and notified police of his abduction and the theft of his vehicle. His captors drove his Pontiac Firebird to a Tucson condominium complex, where Michael Sandberg was washing his white Datsun in the parking lot. They parked the Firebird in an inconspicuous corner of the lot and forced Sandberg to take them to his condominium where his wife Patricia was studying. While in the Sandbergs' home, Gretzler dyed his blond hair to brown. Both he and Steelman changed from jeans to slacks and coats belonging to Michael Sandberg. They bound and gagged both hostages, Michael on his bed and Patricia on the living-room couch. When night fell, Gretzler shot Michael in the head, muffling the gun with a pillow. He then shot Patricia, who was entirely covered by a blanket. Steelman took the gun and fired one more shot into her body, to make certain she was dead. The two then wiped down the condominium in an attempt to eliminate their fingerprints, gathered together credit cards, checks, a camera and other items belonging They went to the place where they had arranged to meet acquaintances with whom they planned to drive to California. The only person at the meeting-place was Donald Scott, and the three set off together. Scott knew that he was riding in a stolen car, and he testified that he saw Steelman pay for motel rooms and automobile service with Michael Sandberg's American Express Card. However, Scott apparently was unaware of his companions' other crimes. He had been told by them that he was free to leave them if things became "too much" for him. Scott did leave when Gretzler and Steelman stopped for gas in Pine Valley, California. The two continued to Lodi, California, where they entered the home of the Walter Parkin family and took as hostages all present, as well as others who arrived later. Gretzler and Steelman forced Parkin to open the safe in his nearby store and stole between $3,000 and $4,000, of which Gretzler's share was about half. Afterwards, Gretzler shot to death seven adults, whom he had previously bound and gagged. He went to a bedroom where Steelman had pulled a blanket over the heads of two sleeping children, shot one of them to death and waited while Steelman shot the second.

to the Sandbergs, and drove away in the couple's car.

On 8 November 1973, California police arrested Gretzler and Steelman as suspects in the Parkin homicides. In addition the two were named in Arizona warrants for crimes committed in Maricopa County. Gretzler was incarcerated in Stockton, California, the county seat of San Joaquin County, where the Parkin crimes were committed. He was appointed a lawyer, George Dedekam. On 9 November, California and Arizona authorities began intensive questioning of both suspects.

It was only after Gretzler and Steelman were arrested that the Sandberg murders were discovered. California authorities notified Pima County that the two had been driving a car registered to Michael Sandberg. Tucson police then went to the Sandberg home, where they found the couple's bodies and lifted fingerprints later determined to be those of Gretzler and Steelman. While in custody in California, Gretzler confessed to the murders of Michael and Patricia Sandberg.

On 6 June 1974, Gretzler pleaded guilty to nine counts of first degree murder for the nine California killings. A month later, judgment was pronounced in accordance with his plea, and he was sentenced to nine concurrent life sentences. Arrest warrants pursuant to Pima County indictments based on the Armstrong and Sandberg crimes were served on 17 September 1974. Gretzler was booked into Pima County Jail on 18 September 1974 and he was arraigned on 25 September 1974. Various trial dates were set and continued, and Gretzler was finally brought to trial on 14 October 1975. 2

The jury found Gretzler guilty of all charges. After an aggravation-mitigation hearing pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-454, the court, on 15 November 1976, sentenced Gretzler to death for each of the two murders. Gretzler appeals.


On 16 November 1973, a Pima County grand jury heard evidence concerning the crimes at issue here. The jury unanimously voted true bills resulting in indictments against Gretzler and Steelman for burglary, robbery, kidnapping for robbery with a gun, robbery with a gun, and two counts of first degree murder. Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying several motions to dismiss these grand jury...

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