If all goes according to plan, death row inmate Robert Towery will die tomorrow, moments after Arizona authorities inject him with a lethal poison.
Towery has been residing on the row at the state prison in Florence for two decades, since being sentenced in the horrific September 1991 Paradise Valley murder of philanthropist Mark Jones.
The robbery/murder (which involved an accomplice who turned state's evidence against Towery in exchange for a reduced sentence) had many distinct similarities to last month's high-profile murders of Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro.
Both cases involved elderly victims who were accosted, beaten, kidnapped, robbed (their cars and other items and money) and eventually killed in their own Paradise Valley homes. The Shapiros, however, were shot to death, and Towery strangled the 69-year-old man to death with a flex-cuff after injecting him ("three or four times" in the arms, according to the cohort) with battery acid.
The battery acid allegation is what the general public from that era remembers most about Towery's crime.
"They had known each other really good in order for the trust to be like that," Towery's accomplice, Randy Allen Barker, told police. "The guy [Jones] was really cool the whole time we was in there."
The duo were caught after someone called Silent Witness. Akin to the current Shapiro case, police found items belonging to Mr. Jones in Towery's possession.
Towery went by the moniker of "Chewie" in those days, and he was a hardcore druggie--methamphetamine was a favorite--with a bad-ass penchant for the strong-arm robbing of people when it suited him.
He knew Mark Jones from when he worked at a car-repair shop, and that was how he talked his way into the older man's home fully intending to rob and probably to kill.
It doesn't get a whole lot worse than that.
Late last year, we contemplated an in-depth story on the recently late-blooming relationship between Robert Towery and his son, a University of Arizona student. Towery had gone off to prison shortly after the young man's birth, and the pair didn't communicate at all for years.
But they did forge a terribly strong bond in the last few years, which included prison visits and letters, and we contacted both men after we learned of the situation, thinking of what used to be known as a "human interest" story--Phoenix New Times-style, that is.
Towery was game, and we were game-planning with him (via the U.S. Postal Service) how best to work the story, especially logistically.
Alas, the son, an aspiring writer himself, got cold feet, telling us that he wanted to write a first-person story about him and his dad and didn't feel comfortable having someone else, i.e. us, tell it.
It was disappointing, especially because we had done a ton of background work about Towery and his crimes, and we don't like to waste our time.
Hate to say it, but these things happen in this biz--thankfully not every day.
With Robert Towery's execution one day away, we decided to take another look at his letters to us.
For the record, Towery today is not the Towery of yesteryear.
Also for the record, that's not to say he should be forgiven for what horrors he perpetrated on a good man more than 20 years ago.
Towery was (sorry for the past tense, but it's sure looking like he's a dead man walking) exceedingly courteous and a decent writer to boot who really wanted to talk about his son, a nice young man who hasn't had it easy in this life.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
"For years, I was seeking any word I could on how he was," Towery wrote of his son. "Prior to his mother (and my beloved) passing away, I heard much about him. I received his graded school papers, report cards and certificates. But after she died, I lost contact.
"I was about ready to give up on my appeals. I had even instructed my lawyer to do no more. Then, about two weeks later, I got my first letter from my adult son, and since then it's been a true blessing from God."
Towery wrote to us that he had connected his son with members of his family who also had lost touch with the kid.
"He now knows he will never be alone again," Towery wrote. "Despite what they are about to do to me, he has people who love him."