Gavin Macfarlane, the gunman who opened fire at a Phoenix strip club in 2010, leaving two dead and two others injured, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Unless, that is, the Psychiatric Security Review Board at the Arizona State Hospital someday finds that his mental illness is in remission and he probably won't hurt anyone else. If that happens, he'll be freed, says the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
In February, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery withdrew the request to have Macfarlane put to death, resulting in an emotional bail hearing in which family members of the victims told of their pain. The hearing was held in the courtroom of Judge Sherry Stephens just prior to the day's proceedings in the high-profile trial of boyfriend-slayer Jodi Arias, but only New Times noticed.
The murder case may be no media sensation, but the details are horrific: Macfarlane, who has a history of mental illness, somehow obtained a gun, hoping to prove to himself that he had what it takes to shoot people.
On the evening of December 26, 2010, Macfarlane sat inside the Great Alaskan Bush Company in Phoenix watching the dancers. For no reason other than to "test" himself, February testimony revealed, he went to his car at about 11:30 p.m. and retrieved his handgun.
When Macfarlane walked back in the club, he shot the first two people he saw, 34-year-old Adam Cooley, a bouncer, and patron Antonio Garcia, 20. They both died. Macfarlane kept shooting until his magazine ran dry. One victim was left a paraplegic. A dancer suffered a non-life-threatening wound to one arm. He then began hitting another patron with the gun until he was tackled by others.
In mid-June, Macfarlane was found guilty but insane. Judge Stephens sentenced him to natural life in the Arizona State Hospital and to be moved to prison if he's found to be no longer mentally ill. However, as Debbie MacKenzie of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office explains it, the sentence does carry the possibility that Macfarlane could be set free:
"Gavin Macfarlane is in the State Hospital under the supervision of the Psychiatric Security Review Board. He will remain there for the rest of his natural life unless one of the following occurs:
1) If the PSRB determines that he is in stable remission, is no longer a danger and doesn't have a propensity to reoffend, he may be conditionally released for supervision within the community; or
2) If the PRSB determines that he is no longer in need of on-going treatment for a mental disease, but is dangerous or has a propensity to reoffend, he shall be transferred to DOC to complete his sentence."
Janine Rodriguez, Adam Cooley's sister, says she plans to attend hearings of the PRSB every two years to urge the board not to release MacFarlane and remind board members what he's capable of, even though she thinks he'll likely remain behind bars forever.
She would have preferred he got the death sentence, but she "respects the justice system."
Rodriguez says MacFarlane is very "high-functioning" when he takes his meds and made a good living in computer work before the slayings.
"ASH will be kind of a nightmare for him because he'll be around people who are not up to his level," she says with noticeable relish.
Rodriguez and her mom share a birthday on the date of Cooley's death. Cooley has another sister.
"My brother had his own home, paid his bills," she says, adding that he didn't have a wife. "It was just a dog and him."