FLORENCE — Arizona on Wednesday executed a death-row inmate for two gruesome slayings committed 25 years ago.
Daniel Wayne Cook was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the 1987 strangulation murders in Lake Havasu City of 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos and 16-year-old Kevin Swaney.
His execution by injection was Arizona’s fifth so far this year, and more could be scheduled. The most Arizona has conducted in a year was seven in 1999.
Cook, 51, spent nearly half of his life on death row. He avoided being executed in April 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court just one day before a scheduled execution date ordered a stay to allow consideration of an appeal.
That appeal, based on a claim of ineffective legal representation early in Cook’s appeals process, was later denied.
Another man who participated in the 1987 killings, John Matzke, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testified in Cook’s 1988 trial in Mohave County Superior Court and was released from prison in 2007 after serving a 20-year sentence.
Cook and Matzke had worked at the same restaurant with both victims, and Cruz-Ramos shared an apartment with Cook and Matzke.
Court documents say Cook and Matzke were drunk and high on methamphetamine when they stole about $90 from Cruz-Ramos, a Guatemalan immigrant. After Cruz-Ramos confronted the two, they overpowered him, gagged him and tied him to a chair. Cruz-Ramos was then tortured, raped and murdered.
Swaney arrived at the apartment hours later. He was raped and murdered after he was shown Cruz-Ramos’ body stuffed in a closet.
The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency on Friday unanimously denied Cook’s requests to either commute his sentence to life in prison or grant him a temporary reprieve to delay the execution. Such requests can only be considered by the governor if recommended by the board.
Cook’s lawyers argued he was doomed to be sentenced to death because the trial judge denied his request for expert help to present sentencing evidence of an abusive childhood and other circumstances that could have supported leniency.
Cook said during the clemency hearing that he was molested and beaten by relatives as a young boy and that he later was molested by a worker and other boys at a California youth foster home.
Cook represented himself during his trial and sentencing after concluding that his defense lawyer wasn’t competent, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was Cook’s decision to not present sentencing evidence.
Several siblings of Swaney testified during the clemency hearing, urging the board to let the execution proceed.
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith also urged the board to deny the clemency petition, saying Cook murdered the victims for the thrill of killing.
Cook said during the clemency hearing that he used methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol before, during and after the killings and that he only remembered “pictures” of what happened.
He also said he was surprised to be told by Matzke afterward that they’d killed the victims. “It scared me because I’m not a violent person,” he said.