Letters From Hell

Robert Comer wrote to New Times from prison for years, predicting recently that his soul would be in the real hell "soon enough"

Robert "Gypsy" Comer, whose path to death by lethal injection was paved with bad intentions, sent a series of letters to New Times before his execution on the morning of Tuesday, May 22.

"I'm ready, and I've been ready," he wrote from his cell in Florence on April 29, "though I know there are some people out there who are going to fight me until they put the needle in my arm."

Comer was the first person executed in Arizona since November 2000.

Comer's missives remained consistent with what he had been telling attorneys, judges, confidants and New Times for years — that he wanted to waive any remaining appeals and be put to death as soon as possible.

Becoming a death penalty "volunteer" was far more of a legal ordeal than the 50-year-old killer originally envisioned. Along the way, Comer's toughest fight was against his court-appointed habeas lawyers, whose job it was to find legally compelling flaws in their client's trial and sentencing.

Those attorneys tried desperately to convince various state and federal courts ("Arizona's Worst Criminal," May 2, 2002) that Comer had been rendered mentally incompetent to make decisions about his life by his long incarceration at the Arizona Department of Corrections' SMU II unit, a super-maximum-security facility, where isolation from other inmates and other mind-twisting punishments are the norm.

But Comer had presented a credible case for his execution during a memorable March 2002 federal hearing in downtown Phoenix, telling U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver that "[this] has to do with me paying my debt to society. I ended a whole bunch of innocent people's lives, and changed their lives forever. I was sentenced to death. That's the legal sentence."

Silver concluded that Comer was competent, a key finding that moved the long-standing case ahead.

After years of other legal twists and turns, the infamous inmate finally landed on a gurney and poison coursed fatally through his veins, courtesy of the state of Arizona.

It is unlikely that those who weren't in Arizona back in early February 1987 can grasp the level of antipathy and horror that Comer's name conjured. It was then that the California native went on a reign of terror near remote Apache Lake, about 65 miles north of downtown Phoenix.

Then 30, a methamphetamine-fueled Comer shot a disabled camper in the head at close range, then cut his throat, and stole his possessions. He also killed the man's beagle. Later that night, Comer and a female companion (who would serve about six years in prison) came upon a young Chicago couple who were camping.

Comer raped the young woman after binding her boyfriend to the fender of his pickup truck. He left the boyfriend tied to the truck in the desert. He then kidnapped the woman in her vehicle (taking along his companion and her two young children). He continued to sexually assault the Chicago woman over the next several hours.

That vehicle ran out of gas north of Roosevelt Lake, and the young woman miraculously escaped into Tonto National Forest, practically naked. Bloody and bruised, she sought refuge for almost 24 hours, until passers-by found her along Arizona 188 near the little town of Punkin Center, about 40 miles north of Phoenix.

The next day, Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies, aided by tracking dogs, arrested Comer and his companion at a campground in Gila County.

Television cameras recorded the end of the highly publicized manhunt, and the heavily tattooed, feral-looking career criminal reminded many of the infamous Charlie Manson, except that this guy did his own killing instead of leaving it to others.

During his trial, which Comer chose not to attend, the prosecutor called him the "reincarnation of the devil." An appellate court later characterized the statement as excessive but not necessarily inaccurate.

Jail officials rousted Comer from his cell before his sentencing with water from a pressurized fire hose (after he had tried to stick one of his captors with a shank), shackled him, covered with only a blanket and his underpants, to a wheelchair, and took him into court, where he told county Judge Ron Reinstein, "Let's get it on."

The crimes for which Comer went to death row in April 1988 included murder, kidnapping and rape.

Though long known to prison authorities as one of their most troublesome and dangerous inmates (Comer's weapon-making abilities are the stuff of legend among correctional officers), records show that his last infraction came August 30, 2001.

In his letters to New Times, Comer attributed his marked positive change in attitude to courteous corrections officers who treated him with respect and to attorneys Holly Gieszl and Mike Kimerer, who worked on his behalf to expedite the execution.

But he added a cautionary note in a 2002 letter, writing: "I am not Hannibal Lecter, but I'm not that far away from being him, either, under the right circumstances."

Comer adopted a more pensive tone in recent weeks, as the likelihood of his execution became apparent.

"Executions are creepy," he wrote. "Imposed death — violent or at the hands of the state is wrong. Murder is murder, no matter the name you give it . . . I don't believe in Jesus, have no urge to tell anyone to go to Hell (I'll be there soon enough), and telling the families I've destroyed that I'm sorry on my deathbed, no matter how sincere I am, would just be written off as a load of crap.

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10 comments
Damien
Damien

I like to say that juggalos are people as well but this man is a legend amoung all satanics. He knew what he did and accepted the consequense for his acts meaning that he did have a heart yet like he stated was tortured inside which most of you would never understand. This man is niether a criminal or human but at least he can admit it unlike most criminals. Another thing is that you can hate him for what he has done or accept his apology. One or the other this is his story not yours or any one elses to take glory from. He is a legend in my books of those who could have followed the left hand path. So my rsponse to most of you bigots, get your information straight without disrespect for others because you believe that what you think is right but to others may be incorrect. Take a day in this mans shoes and try to feel his pain other then disreguard what he may think

sane observer
sane observer

That's ridiculous.

Sinking to the level of murderous criminals is hardly holding the moral high ground.

What good does it do anyone if the good guys sink to the same level as the bad guys?

None.

Instead we should promote and hold ourselves to a higher, more civilized standard.

Observer
Observer

That piece of garbage should have been tortured before being executed for what he did to those innocent people.

Painless death is too good for demonic scum like that.

He should have been made to suffer even 1/10th of what he made those poor victims suffer.

Let the punishment fit the crime.

james alphonse
james alphonse

i would like to make a few comments. first, this man deserved to die. to show no compassion except for killing the family dog is absurd. this guy was special friends with inmate bonzai mcvickers who was a crazy death row inmate and the two wanted to kill correctional officers.show compassion for this guy, maybe when your family is taken from you, your mom is raped as your father watches, maybe if you can live with that when they are both killed, you will be coherent enough to say don't kill a person like this. and for a final note, try working smu 2 where they throw piss-shit-sperm coctails on you because they are easily pissed off that it's a bad day for them

Johnny Longwind
Johnny Longwind

shannon,

thank you paying attention to me. my parents never loved me so now i garner attention from strangers by making ridiculous comments and that feels like the love i need but can never get.

ps: you must be a juggalo. how'd you learn to use a computer? shouldn't you be at walmart?

love,

johnny

Chris
Chris

Nice job PR....

Shannon
Shannon

Johnny that was uncalled for what you said about "Juggalo fools" had nothing to do with deathrow or this guy or anything. Channel your hatred to the Juggalos someother way.

And comment for the article. That was really well spoken. I had never heard of the guy or what he had done. But this worked even still.

Johnny Longwind
Johnny Longwind

Great story.

Can we now execute those Juggalo fools too? The less white trash there is in our fair state, the less burdened our jails and Walmarts.

Thank you.

Andy Harris
Andy Harris

Absolutely "killer" story. Better than anything I read or saw about this guy. It really told it like it was. Thanks.

hnielsen58
hnielsen58

@james alphonse    I worked the VCU at SMU II.  In fact, I worked all three high control units,  CB-6, SMU I, and SMU II.  If you want to know where the gates of hell begin, they are there.  My buddy took a piss, shit, and blood cocktail to the face from Urshal Reed.  He sprayed it out of his mouth. 

The last time I talked to Comer was 2002.  Bobby Vickers was dead.  Urshal was so drugged up he was nearly catatonic.  Comer just wanted to die.  Bobby was his buddy, and they would taunt Urshal Reed all night long until Reed would snap.  Comer was joking about his bunk.  It was made out of 2" plate steel.  He and Bobby figured out how to cut shanks out of a regular bunk using the wheel off a lighter.  Comer said if there was ever a nuclear attack he would be the only one left because he would crawl under that battleship steel bunk.

 
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