After 38 Years Behind Bars, Bill Macumber Joins Those Freed by the Arizona Justice Project

Bill Macumber stares over the crowd of young heads shuffling into Coors Field in Denver. He observes that people dress much more casually at baseball games than in 1974, when he began his long incarceration in Arizona.

Sun shining on his gray hair, Macumber wears a bola tie, a red cowboy shirt, and glasses on his wrinkled face. He is a lanky, cane-wielding Rip Van Winkle, awakened in society after 38 years behind bars.

While in prison in Florence and Douglas, he passionately followed the Chicago Cubs, his favorite team since he first watched them at Wrigley Field with his father in 1945. On this day, he will see the Colorado Rockies play the San Francisco Giants with Larry Hammond, a Phoenix attorney and founder of the Arizona Justice Project, the organization that battled for a decade to secure Macumber's freedom.

After his release from the Arizona Department of Corrections, Macumber moved into a small home in the Denver suburbs with his only son who still speaks to him, and where his new home team is the Rockies.

"Less than six months ago, I never thought I'd be watching a baseball game at Coors Field," the 77-year-old says, arching his 6-foot-7 frame backward over a cement pylon, staring up to the flag atop the brick stadium and its huge clock marking time.

In 1974, Macumber was a supervisor at a Honeywell factory that made computer parts. He had a home in Phoenix, a wife, and three young sons. But baseball games and dashes on dirt bikes through the desert with his children all vanished suddenly when he became a suspect in two murders committed more than a decade earlier.

In spring 1962, a man and a woman left a Scottsdale home for gas at about 8:30 p.m. After filling their tank, the engaged couple drove to a subdivision of houses for sale, where a security guard eyed them as they passed in their 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

After looking around, the couple then drove to Bell and Scottsdale roads, continuing on a dirt path and stopping 300 feet from the main road at a popular lovers' lane, perhaps to kiss and discuss their upcoming marriage and the home they longed to buy.

They were the all-American couple: both 20 years old, him with blond hair and blue eyes. That night, she wore a white-and-yellow blouse to match her white tennis shoes and yellow capri pants.

"Victim No. 2 was neatly dressed and appeared to have been shot twice in the head," a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office report noted about her later.

She collapsed only seven feet from her love — who'd also been shot in the head — staring up at the night sky, the class ring she'd been given still secure on her index finger.

Three months later, authorities found a witness who spoke of hidden drugs and a crazed man. But that led nowhere. The case went cold for 12 years — until after Bill Macumber's embittered wife got a job at the Sheriff's Office.


Arizona Justice Project lawyers use the term "cracks" to describe what many clients have fallen into. In the past three years, the Justice Project has freed 10 people in the state who are innocent, are thought to be innocent but accepted plea deals, or have suffered an injustice from the legal system.

Nearly every horizontal surface in the project's office at 2120 North Central Avenue is covered with papers, piled in stacks measured in inches, and rows of cardboard legal boxes with the clients' names scribbled on the sides.

In one conference room rests a rusted door from an old Chevy Impala. It's the same model from which authorities claimed they lifted Bill Macumber's prints. Despite having successfully finished his case, it seems wrong to project workers to remove the Macumber boxes.

"We've had the case for so long that we've sort of got a sentimental attachment to the stuff," says staff attorney Andrew Hacker.

At a wood conference table in the back of the office, a new crop of 12 law students leans forward, chins on hands, a few taking notes. The students soon will start scouring records and digging into case histories, but this is orientation day. Katie Puzauskas, another project attorney, sits at the head of the table, ready to break in the recruits.

Puzauskas discovered the Justice Project in 2008 while studying law at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She knew about the famed Innocence Project in New York, the model for nearly all such organizations, but she never dreamed that Arizona would have something similar. She learned that what makes the Arizona version unique is that most innocence projects accept cases only when DNA can exonerate prisoners, and most take only clients who purport to have been be wrongly convicted, who can prove actual innocence.

"But," Puzauskas says to the students, "the Arizona project isn't limited to actual innocence claims. We also look at cases where we believe there has been a fundamental miscarriage of justice.

"Just to give you an example, we had a guy apply for our help in 2008 who'd sold $20 worth of crack cocaine — one rock — to undercover police officers in South Phoenix in 1989. He was 26 at the time. He got 50 years. Five zero!"

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50 comments
motherhemp420
motherhemp420

Bill Macumber is in jail for child rape since Oct 7. Good going...you've freed predator

jbox
jbox

Great story.....Too bad he is back in jail in Colorado.

nojusticeinaz
nojusticeinaz

thank goodness larry Hammond took this case thank him, and this man only son who talks to him

wonder if the other two will turn on the mother who is a sinister wicked woman, but bigger shame to Maricopa county for screwing up cases like this , all too often !!!

hopefully he will enjoy what freedom he has left, very sad and shameful state of affairs with az putting innocent people in prison , !

seanD
seanD

fuck his guilty CRACKER ass.

AZHighways
AZHighways

Although I'm unfamiliar with this case, I'm just delighted we have an AZ Justice Project.  We need them!  Thankfully they know law & how to effectively use it.  I'm noticing watch dog groups holding the corrupt system accountable.  Prisons seem to be making a lot of extra money in a lot of creative ways.  It's interesting to see the racial percentages behind bars.

I'm so grateful to those with the know how & compassion to simply get the job down.

saavytech
saavytech

have read the transcripts of both Macumber trials and Carol Macumber NEVER took a lie detector test regarding whether she tampered with evidence in the Sheriff's Office where she worked.  She did take a lie detector test but it was concerning another matter entirely.  

What did she get out of the divorce?  The three kids (who she had previously LEFT for 3 months with her supposedly murderous husband).

Motherhemp keeps saying two juries found him guilty and why do we think we know more than they do.  Because WE DO KNOW MORE THAN THEY DID!   Ballistics science today shows us that there is no way the bullets that were recovered could be shown to have come from Macumber's gun.

The biggest incontrovertible piece of evidence in this case is Linda Primrose.  There is NO WAY she could have taken police to the scene of the crime and divulged information about her friend pulling out her hair (which she had no way of knowing that the police did, in fact, find a clump of hair at the scene) , given an accurate description of Ernie Valenzuela (who later committed and was convicted of an almost identical murder of two people parked in a car in Laveen) and given an accurate description of how the murder took place (which trajectory angles later confirmed).  

In terms of Larry Hammond wanting to make a name for himself ...  what a joke.  Larry Hammond made a name for himself about 40 years ago in the Watergate prosecution.  Long before he ever heard of Bill Macumber he was one of the most respected attorneys in the country so I don't think he needed to put in hundreds of unpaid hours in the later years of his career to "make a name for himself."  



ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

The Whore got what she wanted, custody of the kids and all the Sheriff man candy she wanted!  What more of motive do you need to make a case of framing Bill.  NONE! 

dogbiter
dogbiter

Motherhemp is one obsessed lady! Maybe she's smoking the back of her name. Hey, you apparently can't read the facts in this story. Pretty ironclad, I'd say. You're obviously biased. Fact is, the Justice Project, which has a lot of smart lawyers involved (i'm sure they are smarter than you, by 40 IQ points per person) believed he was railroaded. And the Clemency Board agreed. Wake up and smell the coffee, sister!

royalphoenix
royalphoenix

Good read. I think gov. glug glug is paying the prison industry for their $ support. peace

joegrad00
joegrad00

I think motherhemp is his ex-wife Carol.  She protest too much!  If he is so guilty, then what was his motive?  Why would a supervisor at Honeywell with no criminal record suddenly go out and kill two strangers.  C'mon Carol give us the inside scoop.  Do you feel guilty for framing him?

aztreeman
aztreeman

seems like motherhemp has her own agenda.......

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

I couldn't let this slide.. The fact is that Macumber was tried TWICE and found GUILTY, TWICE by 24 different people.  Macumber's wife took lie detector tests concerning the supposed tampering with evidence AND PASSED.  The foreman of the second jury wrote Ms. Macumber a letter expressing the jury believed her (Bill's defense, with the lack of evidence to prove Bill not guilty, tried put Ms. Macumber on trial) and found Bill Macumber GUILTY.  How many times does someone have to be found guilty in Arizona?  Macumber was found guilty TWICE!

budsan
budsan

Something must be done about the legal system in AZ. Now we have Richard Wintory a Pinal prosecutor involved in questionable behavior trying to put someone on death row. We have Debbie Milkie who was put on death row by a lying cop and now we have a over zealous prosecutor in Bill Montgomery who will not accept the truth of the case. Jan Brewer and her underhanded awful tactics with her hand picked Clemency Board. Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio fiasco. Why can't we not only disbar these prosecutors but jail them and the lying cops as well with long prison terms?

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

So, MCSO was destroying or tampering with evidence even in 1962. Why am I not surprised?

I hope Macumber sues. The MCSO and MCAO knew he didn't do it and they still sent him to prison for 38 years.

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

My sister framed no one.  How do you think she was able to do that?   How do  you account for the reloaded bullet (Bill reloaded his own) that matched one found at his house? What makes you think you know better than two juries that found him guilty?  Why do you think this is some sort of conspiracy to keep a supervisor at Honeywell in prison?  Not only did Bill not have a criminal recorded, he was the Commander of the Maricopa County Search and rescue team...which is why he was investigated.   I could go into detail...shall I? 

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@budsan The truth is Macumber is guilty.  I know.  No one lied, Bill Macumber is GUILTY!

leroidbrown
leroidbrown

@budsan This was from planting evidence not the legal system. Learn the diff between the two

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@MaskedMagician1967   Sue for what?   Macumber is guilty.  There will be no law suit. There's nothing to sue for.  Who do you think Macumber is going to sue?  The MCAO knew no such thing!   There was no one tampered with evidence.   Why do you think people would put their careers on the line by lying just to prove Macumber guilty?   What about the polygraph that was taken my Macumber's wife? It showed she was telling the truth.  What about 2 juries, 24 individuals, that found Macumber guilty in 2 trials?   Do you suppose ALL those jurors were stupid? 

sasavtec
sasavtec

I highly doubt it was just the MCSO, seeing as how unorganized they were I know there are more similar cases across the US with similar tampering and unorganized departments from back in the day.

joegrad00
joegrad00

@motherhemp420 Relax mother.  Your beef is with the guy who wrote this article.  He presents a very one sided argument with some pretty compelling information.  I only have that information to go on, so at this point I am skeptical of the legitimacy of his conviction.  So, my question is what was his motive?  Why would he kill those people?

savatage69
savatage69

@motherhemp420 The jury wasn't given all the evidence. DUH. Of course they couldn't make the correct determination. You expect people to believe you when you have a personal connection to someone who had an axe to grind with this innocent man? Talk about having an agenda. Must run in the family.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@motherhemp420 @aztreeman Your agenda is that your sister is a whore but you want to make it okay that she set up her husband so as to have a better outcome for her in the divorce!

budsan
budsan

@truthseekeraz  My question is why aren't prosecutors who withhold evidence, except perjured testimony, and lying officers who out right lie on the witness stand, plant evidence or any other underhanded tactic, prosecuted themselves, like the detective in the Milkie case and prosecutors disbarred and jailed? The stern message must be sent to these despicable human beings

maryis
maryis

@motherhemp420 The jurors don't have to be stupid. All they need to be is misled by witnesses for the prosecution lying under oath, so-called experts who are anything but who testify, LEOs tampering with evidence, and prosecutors more interested in "wins" than fairness and true justice.

Just ask Ray Krone who went through more than two trials, was on death row for years and years, and was railroaded by an "expert" witness on human bites. DNA evidence cleared him years and years after being convicted.

It's apparent you are related somehow to Macumber's ex-wife or someone near to her. I can understand your bias but don't call jurors stupid or believe that just because more than one jury found him guilty that he really was guilty. Hundreds of innocent individuals who have been released on real evidence deserve as much if not more sympathy.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Mother, it seems that Macumber was telling the truth about what happened that night. He can sue for wrongful imprisonment.

Macumber can sue MCSO and MCAO. It wouldn't surprise me if MCAO withheld the evidence from the defense and MCSO tampered and/or altered the evidence.

Lie detector tests are unreliable. That's why they aren't admitted as evidence in court.

Jurors are human. They make mistakes. In this case government fucked up. Big time.

Police lie and embellish their reports all the time. They have reason to lie when they need a promotion or it's an election year.

aztreeman
aztreeman

Seems as though motherhemp has her own agenda...........

joegrad00
joegrad00

@motherhemp420 I guess that is a question for a higher power.  I agree that there is no way to make up for killing innocent people, so maybe 38 years isn't enough.  I guess that doesn't matter now that he has gone free. 

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@joegrad00 @motherhemp420  That was just what he got caught  for...Do I think he served enough time?  I dunno...how much are two innocent lives worth?  I remember the FBI being in my parents living room...Bill was being investigated.  Sociopaths don't change without treatment.  I agree it sounds fantastic... but that is what he told us. 

joegrad00
joegrad00

@motherhemp420 @joegrad00 That sounds pretty fantastic, but like I said I wasn't there.  If that is all true and he did commit the murders...don't you think 38 years is enough time to serve?  It seems like he has had the time to change the person you say he was.  Even professional killers go free after only 10 years...

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@joegrad00 @motherhemp420  Bill is a wanna be..Like Zimmerman.  His excuse was he was instructed to kill those people by the Army intelligence...He thought they were communists.  He story was he was in Army intelligence and he was either  killing communists in Cuba or going after counterfeiters in Mexico.  He says he was to exterminate two commies in a car fitting that description. He says he got the wrong people.

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@savatage69 @motherhemp420 And why would you expect anyone to care what you think?  You have no connection to this case or Bill.  The only information you have is what has been fed to you.  Why would I have an ax to grind if he is innocent?  He's not...Why would you defend a double murder with no direct information?  I'm waiting for you to tell me why you think 24 people in two different trails found him guilty?  No one withheld information or evidence. 

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@ExpertShot @motherhemp420 @aztreeman   Have a better outcome?  LOL  Bill and Carol didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of...what  divorce out come are you suggesting?  Arizona is a community property state.  Seems like you have an agenda.  Who are you..really?  I make no claims about my sisters conduct during that time.  Surely there must be a better way to set someone up.  I mean...all the effort, that must have  involved many  people who were willing to put their careers on the line, over a few thousand bucks?  That doesn't make sense.  Then there was the bullet that matched one of Macumbers weapons that was in the shed at his house.  Reloading equipment...  Maybe Macumber spent that time in prison for crimes he was never caught for.  Ya just never know...eh, ExpertShot?
  Speaking of whores...why not ask Bill about the 17 year old babysitter and the camping trip with his three young sons...and sharing a tent with the baby sitter. 

maryis
maryis

@motherhemp420 @maryis You wrote "  Do you suppose ALL those jurors were stupid? " What my post was trying to point out was that no, I don't think that the jurors were stupid but that prosecutors, police, and trials themselves often are rigged (I can't think of a better word right now) so that the jurors are often fed a load of crap and lies when the prosecution wants to win at all costs.

 It's unfortunate that you know nothing about Ray Krone and what Arizona courts put him through. You should look it up and then you might see why I wrote what I did. Even though he was fully exonerated via DNA evidence the asshole prosecutor wouldn't allow him to leave the state to see his dying grandmother after he was allowed out of prison. The prosecutor held onto him till the last minute and Ray's grandmother died without hi there because the prosecutor said that Ray needed to be in state until his court appearance to set him totally free. And Ray was tried something like three or four times and the jurors found him guilty. Twice put on death row and twice to a sentence of life without parole. ALL ON EVIDENCE THAT WAS ENGINEERED BULLSHIT WITH FAKE 'EXPERTS' TO ADVANCE THE PROSECUTOR'S AND DA'S WEAK CASE.

Finally a DNA test was allowed to be done and the DNA matched a guy who was already in prison in Arizona. And yes, the guy admitted that he was the real killer, not Ray.

 So don't wave multiple juries around as confirmation and evidence that the verdict has to be right. Ray's case can show you that four separate panels of 12 people can be swayed to the DA's lies.

 You are saying that you have all this information. Well, has the legal system allowed you to present it? Anyone else allowed to present it? DA's and prosecutors and judges often rule out pertinent information because they don't want to confuse juries or they think that the witness might be disliked by the jury even if the witness is telling the truth.

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@maryis @motherhemp420 This isn't about Ray Krone. I don't know who he is.  This is about Bill Macumber and all the insane speculation by people that know only what they have been told.  If you would have read all the posts you would have seen I'm am Carols sister.  I was there for the whole thing and know things that would put Macumber right back in prison.  These things were reported to authorities...but buried. From where I'm sitting, it looks like evidence was suppressed that would have shown the true nature of Mr. Macumber.  Do I believe everything my sister says? Nope!  I have some issues with my sister but I believe enough and saw and heard enough to know Bill is guilty.  He is a predator and needs to be watched so there aren't more victims.  Thank you for your concern but where is the compassion and concern for the families...you remember...Joyce Sterrenberg and Tim McKillop?  I can't imagine what they must think reading speculation by strangers, declaring Macumber innocent.  BTW...I don't have bias....only information that you don't have.  Once again...I have NEVER indicated that the juries were stupid. How did you arrive at that conclusion?

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@MaskedMagician1967It appears Macumber was telling the truth? Which "truth" are you talking about?  The story he told my sister or the story he told the cops? WHICH?  Yes.. jurors are human but 24 jurors in 2 trials?  Come on!  You keep saying the government fucked up...tell me how you THINK the government screwed up. What evidence do you think was with held?  What makes you think you know anything about this case?  To do what my sister is charged with...(tamper with evidence) it would have taken a lot of people covering up. Do you think all those people put their careers on the line...for what? What do you think the police embellished?  You've drawn many conclusions but have nothing to back them up..if Macumber was going to sue someone he would have done it already.  What is he going to sue for? He was found guilty TWICE by a jury of his peers.  He was sentenced to two life terms.  You people have no idea what you are talking about and you certainly have no evidence to back anything you believe except second hand information...hearsay.  Do you have excess to the trial transcripts?  What is it you are  trying to defend? Do you not think Larry Hammond might be trying to make a name for himself? 
Did anyone make political gains, as you claim? Anyone promoted? Have you even done the research to find the answers to those questions?  I'm no fan of the criminal justice system.....but in this case and considering the year...you'd have to do much more than to make claims you can't back up.  So tell me..what truth are you talking about? What "truth" did Macumber tell about the night he murdered two nice kids in the desert.

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@MaskedMagician1967 It appears Macumber was telling the truth? Which "truth" are you talking about?  The story he told my sister or the story he told the cops? WHICH?  Yes.. jurors are human but 24 jurors in 2 trials?  Come on!  You keep saying the government fucked up...tell me how you THINK the government screwed up. What evidence do you think was with held?  What makes you think you know anything about this case?  To do what my sister is charged with...(tamper with evidence) it would have taken a lot of people covering up. Do you think all those people put their careers on the line...for what? What do you think the police embellished?  You've drawn many conclusions but have nothing to back them up..if Macumber was going to sue someone he would have done it already.  What is he going to sue for? He was found guilty TWICE by a jury of his peers.  He was sentenced to two life terms.  You people have no idea what you are talking about and you certainly have no evidence to back anything you believe except second hand information...hearsay.  Do you have excess to the trial transcripts?  What is it you are  trying to defend? Do you not think Larry Hammond might be trying to make a name for himself? 

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@Cozz @motherhemp420   Funny the ASSumptions people make...I Live in another state..haven't lived in Arizona for 35 years.  What makes you think I work for the County Attorney's office?   Why are you interested enough in Bill to make an ass out of yourself?  You all are talking about something you know nothing about...how insane is that?  You don't know him and you weren't there.  I was and it ruined my life on more than one level.  Again, why do you care? Why not care about what the families of the victims ...in the long run..that's who I care about..and yet I've seen no mention of them in any of these posts.  Why?

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

@motherhemp420

Nope, don't know Bill. But sure know how corrupt you assholes at the County Attorneys Office and MCSO are.

motherhemp420
motherhemp420

@Cozz @motherhemp420   Now, that was intelligent!  What's bullshit?  The fact this guy is out walking around is bullshit.  Ya know why they let him out?  Because  Bill is having multiple medical problems that will cost Arizona a bundle!  So, do you know Bill? 

 
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