(Nash put it more colloquially in a recent letter to New Times: "Poor guy bushwhacked me and an unfortunate thing happened. Wish it hadn't happened.")

Then and now, Susan McCullough's account is vastly different from Nash's.

She tells New Times that Nash shot West in the chest without notice right after saying he'd take it all:

More letters from Nash.
More letters from Nash.

"As Greg was falling off his chair after Nash shot him, he grabbed for the little gun he had below the counter, and shot it once. For the rest of my life, I'll feel that he was trying to save me. But the bullet just went up in the air.

"We always had told him that if someone holds him up, just give them what they want without a fuss. Greg would have done that if Nash had let him. But he just had to kill him."

McCullough was just a few feet away when Leroy Nash shot the helpless and prone West twice more. She had slipped under the counter when that second bullet (the one apparently meant for her) failed to discharge.

Nash soon stuffed about $600 in cash and merchandise into a bag and made his getaway.

McCullough waited a bit after she heard the door close, then crawled over to West, who was unconscious and bleeding profusely.

"He was so pale and so hurt," she says.

Next door to the coin shop, bicycle store owner Jack Owen had heard the shots and screams.

Though only 43, Owen had a serious heart condition that would end his own life just six years later.

But he had promised Susan McCullough he'd come to her aid if something happened next door, and he did — a true hero.

Owen grabbed his own pistol and ran out of his shop just as Nash was exiting the coin shop.

"Jack tackled that a-hole," says his widow, Joanne, of the extraordinary moment.

"They literally came face to face and got entangled. Jack pinned Nash face down until this Explorer scout [Douglas Lee Clark], came by and helped hold him down. Jack ran back in and called the police. He didn't realize he'd been shot until later."

Susan McCullough heard another gunshot outside and figured the killer was firing at more people. Actually, Jack Owen's weapon had discharged by accident and he'd shot himself in the hand, but he wasn't seriously injured.

McCullough summoned the courage to peek outside.

"Greg was fading, and I just had to get [West's wife] Cindy, who was two doors down," she says. "My legs were like rubber. Everything was moving slow for me. Nash was still at the scene, lots of commotion going on out front — the cops hadn't arrived yet."

Cindy West ran over to the coin shop with McCullough. She tried to stick the corner of a paperback into her husband's mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue.

The situation was dire.

"I wanted to go in the ambulance with Greg," McCullough says, but she was told she'd have to wait to be interviewed by a detective.

Greg West died within minutes, as Phoenix police prepared to interrogate his killer.

Leroy Nash had already spent a lifetime of dancing around with police investigators after committing crimes.

In the West killing, he at first gave them a wrong name, saying he was Paul Henderson and never had been in trouble with the law before. He said he had no idea who owned the van still running in the parking lot.

But he confessed within a few hours, telling Detective Jim Thomas he felt sorry "for that poor bastard. He shot at me. I wish he would have killed me."

Gregg Thurston, then a deputy county attorney, came by the station and heard Nash say, "I went up to rob the place to get some money to survive. The guy pulled a gun on me and shot at me. I didn't mean to kill him. I guess I was shook up. Everything went so fast."

A grand jury indicted Nash on murder, robbery, and other charges.

Greg West was buried in the West Valley after a beautiful and packed church service. Susan McCullough's husband, Garry, one of the pallbearers, collapsed with grief at the hearse, though he was able to carry on with his grim task.

Prosecutor Thurston later announced his intention to seek the death penalty against Leroy Nash.

"Nash wanted to plead guilty to all charges in return for life," recalls Thurston, who now is in private practice. "But I wouldn't have felt good if he'd escaped again and killed someone else. I remember him quite well. His self-defense argument was ridiculous.

"I personally never cared if he got executed or not, as long as he never got to hurt another person. If they want to do away with the death penalty, fine. But my job was to try to get a conviction and a death-penalty sentence in this case, and I got it."

Thurston got it after Nash's attorney, Hazelton, unusually agreed to submit the case to Superior Court Judge Rufus Coulter Jr. on the sole basis of the grand-jury testimony.

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