Robert Jones execution set for 10 a.m.

2013-10-23T00:00:00Z 2013-10-23T11:09:21Z Robert Jones execution set for 10 a.m.By Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Department of Corrections plans to execute the man convicted of gunning down six people in a pair of 1996 robberies this morning.

Robert Glen Jones was convicted in 1998 of shooting and killing six people in robberies at the Moon Smoke Shop on May 30, 1996 and the Firefighter’s Union Hall on June 13, 1996.

Jones, 43, and Scott Nordstrom were found guilty of the murders in 1998 and sentenced to die for the crimes.

Arthur “Taco” Bell, 54; Judy Bell, 46; Maribeth Munn, 53; and Carol Lynn Noel, 50, were fatally shot during the union hall robbery. 

Clarence Odell III, 47; and Thomas Hardman, 26, were killed in the Moon Smoke Shop. 

“It’s overdue; it’s way overdue,” said Don Sink, a longtime friend of Arthur and Judy Bell.

Sink, 69, said he and Arthur Bell shared a passion for sprint and supermodified race cars that they built and raced at tracks across the Southwest.

He said the killings at the Firefighter’s Union Hall were especially senseless because of the peaceful and friendly nature of the victims, adding Arthur Bell would have gladly helped the killers carry the cash register to their truck if it was money they were after.

“He was the most easygoing person,” Sink said.

The mother-in-law of Moon Smoke Shop victim Odell also said the execution was too long delayed.

“He had just gone inside the door of the smoke shop when it happened. He didn’t deserve that,” said Donna Schoonbeck.

She said Odell left behind two children.

The 90-year-old Schoonbeck, who attended Jones’ 1998 murder trial, is on the list of 22 victim witnesses allowed to watch Jones death by injection at the state prison in Florence.

The separate trials of Jones and Nordstrom held the attention of the community because of the gruesome and unprovoked nature of the crimes.

In the Moon Smoke Shop killings, Jones and Nordstrom entered the store and Jones immediately shot Odell in the head.

The pair then held employees at gunpoint, demanding money from two cash registers in the store.

Nordstrom pursued Hardman, who worked at the smoke shop, into a back room, where he forced him to lie facedown on the floor and shot him in the back of the head.

Jones shot and injured another employee, who survived.

The killings at the union hall were considered even more brutal, with the gunmen essentially executing the unarmed victims.

Jones told the Bells and Munn to put their heads on the bar while Nordstrom took Noel into the back room, demanding she open a safe.

As the victims sat with their faces to the bar, Jones shot each in the back of the head with a 9 mm pistol.

When Noel could not open the safe, Nordstrom shot her in the back of the head with a .380-caliber handgun.

The gunmen fled with an estimated $1,300.

Throughout the trial and appeals, Jones maintained his innocence.

Evidence presented at trial, however, proved too great for his defense to overcome.

For example, testimony from acquaintances of Jones, whom he stayed with in the Phoenix area after the killings, said he boasted openly about the crimes.

Letters Jones sent a former girlfriend while he was in Maricopa County Jail after an arrest for another robbery and murder show him directing her to provide an alibi.

In meticulous cursive handwriting, Jones laid out his alibi following with a veiled threat.

“Get that story in your head and stick to it,” he wrote. “You know my friends! I’ll make sure you’re taken care of if you help me.”

The most damning testimony likely came from Nordstrom’s brother, David Nordstrom, who contacted police with evidence Jones had committed the crimes.

David Nordstrom admitted to police that he drove the getaway car in the Moon Smoke Shop killing.

David Nordstrom eventually pleaded guilty to armed robbery and served less than four years in prison. Like Jones, Scott Nordstrom was convicted on six counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He remains on death row.

Federal public defenders have argued that Jones had ineffective counsel at his trial and a now-deceased Pima County prosecutor withheld evidence. They still question David Nordstrom’s testimony.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to rehear Jones’ case or issue a stay by 10 a.m. today, Jones will become the 36th inmate executed by Arizona since 1992. He would be the second inmate put to death by the state in two weeks.

Jones turned down a request for an interview in the weeks before the execution.

From Sink’s perspective, sad irony encompasses the entire case.

He said Arthur Bell, an auto mechanic, had repaired the truck the killers drove just weeks before the murders.

“The thing that’s really sad about the thing,” Sink said, “is that Judy (Bell) didn’t believe in the death penalty.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @pm929.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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