By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Nash surely has flung some wacky legal theories at the courts over the years, including a pleading in the 1980s claiming that Arizona "discriminates against indigent out-of-state Caucasians" accused of committing crimes.
For the record, Nash himself is an out-of-state Caucasian.
"He's had a broken hip, a massive heart attack, and many other medical issues," Phalen continues. "Leroy would be a PR nightmare of the first order for the state of Arizona if they actually strapped him on the gurney and stuck a needle in him."
To Phalen, Nash now is incapable of inflicting any more violence, even if authorities were to wheel the old fellow out of prison and send him on his way.
Suffice it to say, that's not about to happen in Leroy Nash's lifetime.
Viva Leroy Nash was born in Utah in 1915, when the United States was still two years from sending soldiers to Europe to fight in World War I.
He writes that his mother gave him the ironic first name of Viva — it's a form of the verb "to live" in Spanish — after an ancestor.
Nash's accounts of his life have varied over time.
He has said his father, who owned a car-repair shop, often beat him as a child, tied him to a tree on occasion, and that his mother was just as violent.
In 1988, Nash responded to New Times for a story about the death penalty in Arizona with an hour-long audiotape.
Sounding like a grizzled old coot from a Western movie, Nash claimed to love "almost everybody. I'm a great-grandfather. I have three granddaughters who are married, and they're so beautiful they look like they belong on the cover of Playboy. I don't tell anybody who they are or where they live. I got into trouble — they didn't."
Earlier, he had told a probation officer that none of his three siblings "had any bad illegal habits. I'm the black sheep, and nobody seems to know why. I do not seem to be able to function in normal society."
Nash described himself in one letter as a rough-and-tumble country kid who grew up on Salt Lake City's then-rural south side.
Earliest available records show that he was caught stealing potato chips at the age of 7, and got busted in his early teens for lifting a cornet from a high school.
The seventh-grade dropout with bright-blue eyes and prematurely white hair was a wild child who roamed outside of Utah as soon as he could.
By the time Nash was 17, he already had been sentenced to a year and a day at an industrial school for juveniles in Ohio after his conviction in Illinois for transporting stolen cars.
He escaped from the school, was caught, and got sentenced to 30 months at the adult U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Paroled in 1934, Nash fathered a son with his then-wife Beth. (The son, who apparently was Nash's only child, died in 1989.)
Nash immediately resumed a life of crime, committing robberies in Utah, Georgia, Alabama, and parts unknown.
Authorities returned him to prison in 1936 after his arrest in a bungled Salt Lake City armed robbery with younger brother Lewis.
After finishing that prison stint, Nash again hit the road, committing an untold number of crimes until Mobile, Alabama police arrested him in late 1946 after a lucrative check-kiting scheme came to light.
He again escaped from jail and claims to have fled to Mexico with a large sum of money he stole from a Wall Street bond courier.
After returning to the States in 1947, Nash quickly found new trouble in Connecticut.
Yellowed police reports show that employees at a hat store in Danbury came upon a black satchel that Nash, a customer, had left behind. They called police after finding road maps, blank checks, ammunition, and a gun in the satchel.
A state police captain soon pulled Nash over, and was taking him to the station for questioning when the 32-year-old pulled a loaded revolver out of a pants pocket.
He shot the officer twice, but the cop survived.
Nash fled and found his way to Dallas, where he was arrested within days.
Ever cunning, Nash almost succeeded in smuggling a little two-shot Derringer into jail, as well as two hacksaw blades sewn into a belt.
He confessed to shooting the state cop, and was convicted of attempted murder.
A judge sentenced Nash to 25 to 30 years in the Connecticut State Prison, of which he served 25 years.
Intelligent and well read, Nash became a consummate jailhouse lawyer during that extended prison stay.
He frequently filed legal pleadings, and in the early 1960s, won certain procedural safeguards for inmates in a ruling that ended one step short of the U.S. Supreme Court (though he lost his own appeal for redress).
Freed in the early 1970s, Nash predictably returned to the only life he'd really ever known — robberies, burglaries, and, if it happened to come up, murder.
At the age of 63, in May 1977, he and an accomplice targeted a jewelry store in downtown Salt Lake City.
They'd tied up an employee and were loading merchandise into bags when a mail carrier unluckily walked in. Nash shot him to death.