State v. Willoughby

Decision Date23 March 1995
Docket NumberNo. CR-92-0439-AP,CR-92-0439-AP
Citation892 P.2d 1319,181 Ariz. 530
PartiesSTATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Daniel Hayden WILLOUGHBY, Appellant.
CourtArizona Supreme Court

FELDMAN, Chief Justice.

On May 19, 1992, a Maricopa County jury convicted Daniel Hayden Willoughby (Defendant) of premeditated first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, fraudulent schemes and artifices, armed robbery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and filing a fraudulent insurance claim. The court sentenced him to death for the murder conviction and to life in prison for the conspiracy offenses. Appeal of the judgment and sentence is automatic. Ariz.R.Crim.P. 26.15 and 31.2(b). This court has jurisdiction under Ariz. Const. art. 6, § 5(3) and A.R.S. §§ 13-4031 and 13-4033(A).


Defendant and his wife, Trish, were residents of Phoenix, Arizona. In late 1990, Defendant arranged a trip to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), Mexico, ostensibly as a Christmas gift for Trish. The couple and their three children rented a condominium at Las Conchas beach for a weekend in February 1991. The day after the family arrived, Defendant and the children went to visit a nearby museum. Trish stayed behind because she was tired and wanted to rest.

After Defendant and the children boarded their van for the museum, Defendant returned to the condo, saying he forgot his passport. He remained in the condo for about five minutes. While he was inside, his oldest daughter tried to enter, but the door was locked. When Defendant came out of the condo, he was adjusting his belt and tucking in his shirt. After Defendant returned to the van, he and the children went on their trip.

When they returned some two hours later, Defendant's ten-year-old daughter Thera rushed in to tell her mother about the trip. She found her mother unconscious in the bedroom. Trish had been stabbed, bludgeoned, and strangled, and a knife was protruding from her head. Defendant gathered the children outside for prayer and then drove to the Red Cross station for help. Trish died that evening.

Mexican authorities questioned Defendant, who told them that he and his wife were happily married. They eventually released Defendant, and he arranged for the return of Trish's body to Arizona for burial. No autopsy was performed until Arizona authorities exhumed the body several months later.

After the murder, Defendant's mother-in-law told several people, including an investigator from the Arizona Attorney General's Office, that Defendant might have committed the murder. This prompted an investigation which revealed that, although he had appeared happily married, Defendant had been unhappy with his wife for the past several years.

Investigators discovered that in late 1990, Defendant met Ysenia Patino Gonzalez, a Mexican transsexual who was then "married" to Jack Mielke. After the purported marriage ceremony between Ysenia and Mielke, Mielke paid for Ysenia to have a male-to-female sex change operation. At all relevant times, Ysenia was a resident alien living in Arizona.

Defendant began an affair with Ysenia, took her on vacations, and paid the rent for her apartment. Trish eventually learned of the affair and confronted Ysenia. Defendant moved Ysenia to a different apartment. He also bought her an expensive engagement ring and told others, including Jack Mielke, that he wanted to marry Ysenia. He told Ysenia, however, that he could not divorce his wife because she "had too much on him."

Defendant, in fact, depended on Trish's income. She and her mother were sole partners in a business worth over $2.5 million, with a 1990 income of $324,000. Defendant, meanwhile, had lost his job, and he told Ysenia he would be "taken to the cleaners" if he tried to divorce Trish.

Defendant began to talk about killing his wife. Ysenia testified at trial that at various times Defendant discussed buying a firearm silencer in Mexico, drowning Trish while scuba diving, or pushing her off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. In May 1990, during a dinner with Ysenia and Jack Mielke at a Tempe restaurant, Defendant said, "I think I will take her to Mexico and get rid of her." He later made similar statements to them at a restaurant in Cottonwood, Arizona. He also discussed having his "Mafia connections" kill her.

Defendant began discussing with Trish and her mother the disposition of their business should one of them die. He eventually convinced them to adopt an insurance-funded buyout agreement. Several insurance policies covered Trish, including a $750,000 policy purchased just months before her murder.

Defendant began to plan the murder in more detail. He told Ysenia that he wanted the satisfaction of killing Trish. Ysenia was instructed to come in after the killing and make it look like a robbery by stabbing Trish, strangling her with a rope he bought, ransacking the condo, and taking her rings and money. Defendant rented a condo in Rocky Point, somewhat removed from others in the area, and paid in cash. Defendant and Ysenia made two trips from Phoenix to Rocky Point before the killing to reconnoiter the area and go over their plans. In Phoenix, Defendant showed Ysenia a weapon, described as a homemade mace consisting of a heavy ball attached by rope to a handle, he would use to kill Trish. He arranged for Ysenia's brother to take Ysenia to Rocky Point on the day of the murder.

On the afternoon of the killing, Defendant met Ysenia and her brother on the beach at Rocky Point. After Defendant and Ysenia talked, Defendant returned to the condo. Ysenia left her brother at a park and drove to a spot with a view of the condo. After Defendant and the children left for the museum, she went to the condo and entered through the unlocked back door. Taking knives from the kitchen, Ysenia went to the bedroom and saw Trish lying comatose in a pool of blood. Trish was still breathing, each breath making a gurgling sound. Following Defendant's plan, Ysenia stabbed and strangled Trish but was unable to kill her. After taking Trish's rings and money and scattering the contents of Trish's purse, Ysenia fled, meeting her brother for the return trip to Arizona.

At the border, a United States Customs agent understood Ysenia to say that she and her brother were going to a store just across the border. When the agent saw that they did not go there, she had them returned to the port of entry and searched. Trish's rings were discovered in Ysenia's pocket, but because no contraband was discovered, Ysenia and her brother were released. They immediately returned to Phoenix.

After the murder, Defendant took steps to cover his tracks. He told Ysenia to leave Phoenix, and she returned to Mexico. Defendant called a meeting of his neighbors, at which he denied involvement in the killing and tried to dissuade them from talking to police. He asked Ysenia's brother to lie to police about seeing Defendant in Mexico. He threatened Jack Mielke and told him not to get involved. He called his travel agent to have the trip information removed from the agent's computer. He asked his former secretary to tell police he was a wonderful family man and told her to threaten a co-worker to prevent him from telling police about Defendant and Ysenia. He lied to investigators, saying that guards at the condo had seen three Indians in a black pickup truck in the area. He collected on an older life insurance policy for his wife but was unsuccessful in collecting on the policy purchased to fund the buyout agreement between Trish and her mother.

A Maricopa County grand jury indicted Defendant for premeditated first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit one or more of the following offenses: murder, fraudulent schemes and artifices, armed robbery, obstructing a criminal investigation or prosecution, and filing a fraudulent insurance claim. Ysenia was charged with murder by the Mexican authorities, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison. During the investigation, the Mexican government cooperated with Arizona officials by allowing them to interview Ysenia and giving them temporary custody of her so that she could testify at the three-week trial. In return for turning state's evidence, the state agreed to not prosecute Ysenia and to try to have her sentence in Mexico reduced.

The defense called no witnesses and rested immediately after the state's case concluded. The jury convicted Defendant of both the murder and conspiracy counts. After the aggravation/mitigation hearing, the trial judge found one aggravating circumstance--that the murder was committed in expectation of pecuniary gain--and no mitigating circumstances. He sentenced Defendant to death for the murder and life imprisonment for the conspiracy conviction.


The fact that the fatal blow and the victim's death occurred in Mexico raises jurisdictional issues not present in the great majority of cases. The trial court asserted jurisdiction under A.R.S. § 13-108, 1 which gives Arizona extra-territorial jurisdiction under certain conditions, including cases in which a defendant commits an element of an offense within the state. The state invoked jurisdiction on the ground that Defendant had planned the crime in Arizona, premeditation being an element of the charges.

Before trial, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of A.R.S. § 13-108 and moved to dismiss the murder charge on the ground that Arizona lacked subject matter jurisdiction to try him for crimes committed in Mexico. The trial judge denied the motion. At the close of evidence, Defendant asked the trial judge to instruct the jury that it must decide beyond a reasonable doubt that an element of the crime was committed in Arizona. After hearing arguments on who decides the jurisdictional question and by what quantum of...

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  • State v. Clark
    • United States
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    ...their duties in accordance with the juror's oath, not because of their religious opinion or affiliation. See State v. Willoughby, 181 Ariz. 530, 892 P.2d 1319, 1335 (1995) (en banc) ("Although religious beliefs may motivate one's opinion about the death penalty, the beliefs themselves are n......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Territorial Jurisdiction in Ohio Post-Wogenstahl.
    • United States
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