On May 25, 1983, the judge convicted Nash of all charges and scheduled sentencing for a month later.

These days, the "sentencing phase" is what defense attorneys representing the clearly guilty emphasize, trying to find reasons why their clients shouldn't be sent to death row.

Defense attorney Hazelton, who now works for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, argued in one pleading how Thurston's position that West had "begged for his life and [Nash] shot him unnecessarily" was an exaggeration.

photo by Duncan Walker/iStock
Viva Leroy Nash, in a prison photo circa 1990.
Viva Leroy Nash, in a prison photo circa 1990.

"There was very little time for the victim to experience the stress, fear, and mental pain that preceded the death," Hazelton wrote, an absurd stretch of the facts.

A clinical psychologist hired by the defense wrote, "Nash has regular conversations in his own spirit world. He does not function according to our mode of behavior, but rather lives by natural laws."

The psychologist, Dr. Donald Tatro, concluded that Nash suffered from a paranoid disorder and was an "antisocial person whose behavior goes largely unchecked by considerations of conscience . . . a dangerous person who, in my opinion, is incapable of living successfully outside of institutional walls."

Nash told Dr. Tatro, "When I am broke and hungry, I am related to a tiger in a jungle, and when I go hunting, I don't think anyone has the right to stop me, or I will test them just like a tiger would test another animal."

Greg West apparently had been that other "animal" and had gotten his comeuppance with three shots to the chest.

At Nash's sentencing hearing, Susan McCullough told Judge Coulter what had happened at the shop.

By that time, about seven months after the fact, she was having repeated nightmares.

McCullough also had become claustrophobic — she still is — and was trying to cope with the loss of her friend and employee.

She and Garry shuttered their coin shop after the murder, and never reopened it.

"I would wake up screaming at the top of my lungs, and it would scare my husband about half to death," she tells New Times. "It was classic. Someone was trying to murder me in my dreams. I didn't need an expert to tell me what was going on.

"When I went to court that day, I looked right at Nash, and he stared back at me. I was shaking through the whole thing. But I told the judge exactly what had happened."

Surprising no one, Coulter ordered Nash to death row.


Leroy Nash and his appellate attorney soon began intense efforts to win a new trial or a re-sentencing.

None of the angles worked.

But Nash would become storied in penal circles, mainly because he had reached death row already a senior citizen and got older and older.

In October 2005, the journal The New Criminologist published a piece about Nash that praised him as "a living legend."

The story quoted infamous British prisoner Charles Bronson as calling Nash "an example to us all. A total, heroic superstar, I love the guy. Even if they gas him, inject him, or fry him, they can't kill the man."

The journal spoke fondly of Nash's schoolboy gang back in Utah in the 1920s, claiming its members had robbed and thieved "so their impoverished mothers and sisters wouldn't have to turn to prostitution . . . He is most certainly not one of those spineless thugs who gun down people for a handful of loose change or a mobile phone."

No, Nash is a fellow who gunned people down for a handful of coins or jewels and maybe a few bucks.

The writer's version of Greg West's cold-blooded murder was more fantastic even than Nash's own self-serving account:

"The desk clerk bravely opened fire, and in the ensuing gun battle, Nash shot the man, killing him."

As years passed, Leroy Nash added many pen pals to the long list of people intrigued by him and his never-ending story.

The list includes an Arizona State University professor who calls Nash his friend, numerous females, and news reporters.

Meanwhile, life on the outside has gone on for those directly touched by Nash's malevolence.

Cindy West remarried, had two sons — now teenagers — and moved out of the Valley, fearing that if Nash escaped yet again, he would track her down and kill her, too.

Jack Owen, the Good Samaritan with the bum heart who kept Leroy Nash from fleeing in the van right after murdering Greg West, died in 1988 while riding his bicycle.

As for Susan McCullough, who so nearly became a murder victim herself, well, she deserves the last word in this story, not Viva Leroy Nash.

"To be spared like I was, I just knew and know that God has something special in store for me," she says, "but I still haven't figured out exactly what that is. You don't ever have closure until you're gone. There's no getting set free."

McCullough says she honestly hasn't given much thought to whether Nash should have been executed long ago.

"I'm not a big fan of the death penalty, but if it's the law, it's the law," she says. "I just never want him to get out of custody, even if he's 100 years old. I know he'd try to find a way to hurt someone — he just would."

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