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Oldest Death-Row Inmate in United States Dies of Natural Causes in Arizona Prison

The oldest death-row inmate in the United States escaped his court-determined date with death, when he died Friday of natural causes at the Arizona state prison in Florence.

Viva Leroy Nash was 94 and had been on death row for more than 20 years.

In 2008, Nash was the subject of a New Times feature titled "Nation's Oldest Death Row Inmate Will Never be Executed." Check it out here.

Turns out we were right.


Nash was a career criminal, who had been doing time on and off since he was 13 years old. Keep in mind, when Nash was 13, it was about a decade before the United States got involved in World War II.

Nash was serving two consecutive life sentences for two murders he committed in Salt Lake City, when he escaped from prison in 1982.

While on the run, Nash shot and killed Gregory West -- owner of a Phoenix coin shop. He was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, and armed robbery. He was sentenced to death in 1983.

The national average cost of detaining a death-row inmate is about $35,000 a year. For anyone keeping score, based on those numbers, Nash cost the state of Arizona about a million dollars before he ultimately kicked the bucket without the help of an executioner's needle.

So much for try 'em and fry 'em.

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James King
Contact: James King