Roger Garfield, who shot a homeless man to death in his antiques store in 2006, has completed his prison sentence following two convictions and a labyrinthine legal case.
Garfield called us Tuesday to let us know our article last year about his plea deal erroneously stated he'd be in prison about two years more than he ended up serving.
He sounded rather ticked off -- revealing a touch of the infamous temper that we wrote of in our 2010 feature article about the case, "Shoot to Kill."
We apologized to him. The error was based on a statement from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office about the terms of the plea deal Garfield took. Perhaps we should have figured out the error at a later date, and perhaps he or his lawyer should have let us know about the problem after the March 20 article was published online.
In any case, here's what we both want you to know: His original sentence of seven years had been reduced to four, and now he's free for good.
He was released on Friday.
As our feature article detailed, in 2006 Garfield traded his long career as a Valley insurance agent to fulfill his dream of running an antiques store. In 2006, he opened a store in the old strip mall on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and McDowell Road, a property owned by former state Attorney General Tom Horne. (Horne later sold the property, and the new owner completely re-developed the site.)
Days after the store opened, Garfield had a gruff encounter with Cain, a 49-year-old, mentally-ill transient whom other business owners in the area called "Santa Claus" because of his white beard. The two men became enemies, resulting in some tense moments over the next several months. Garfield claimed Cain threatened to kill him. Cain reported to police that Garfield had pulled a gun on him once in the store, but Garfield lied to police and told them it had been a toy gun. In fact, he'd purchased a real gun -- a .32-caliber Kel-Tec -- because of his fear of Cain, and told one employee he might shoot the transient if he came into the store again.
On April 9, 2006, that's just what happened. Cain entered the store, yelling for Garfield and spooking customers, some of whom fled out the front door, sensing trouble. Cain told Garfield he had a right to go into the store and advanced on the store owner. Garfield shot him four times with the little gun. A fifth shot barely missed a store employee. Cain collapsed on the floor and died.
Employees and other antiques dealers who rented space in the store from Garfield told New Times that Garfield had a short fuse and occasionally yelled at them. Some of them later provided testimony about the shooting that proved damning for Garfield.
Phoenix police ultimately made a case against Garfield. He claimed he'd been in fear of his life from Cain, but the man had been unarmed at the time he was shot. (Though he had a pocketknife in a pocket.) Both men were about the same size. A grand jury indicted Garfield on a second-degree murder charge. Here's our synopsis of the legal maze the case then entered:
He served five months in county jail awaiting sentencing but was freed that summer after the Arizona Legislature tweaked the state's self-defense statutes in an effort to help Harold Fish, a retired Glendale teacher who'd claimed self-defense after shooting a man on a hiking trail near Clint's Well. Fish died in 2012 of an illness.
The new legislation reversed a nine-year-old law, shifting the burden of proof in self-defense cases to the state. But the Arizona Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional in 2010. Garfield went back to jail for a few months, then was transferred to state prison after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Cari Harrison sentenced him to seven years.
A year later, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned the appellate court decision. Garfield was released from prison and granted a new trial.
Garfield was out of prison for about two years before taking a plea deal to a manslaughter charge. The plea deal by the county attorney's office stipulated that Garfield would serve another four years. But at the sentencing hearing, which we were unable to attend, the judge declared there were many mitigating circumstances in the case, according to Garfield. The original sentence was knocked down from the original seven years to four.
Because he'd served more than two years behind bars already and had 15 percent of his sentence reduced for good behavior, Garfield ended up serving only another 13 months in prison following the March 2014 hearing.
The long ordeal was stressful on Garfield and his family, emotionally and financially. Garfield spent tens of thousands on his defense, went broke, and had to sell his store. While out on bail before last year's sentencing, Garfield had a heart attack. He knew he wouldn't survive too many years in prison and decided to plead guilty, he says.
"Life is more important than making a point," he says of giving up efforts to prove the shooting was self-defense. "It was a totally pragmatic decision."
Reiterating what he told us in 2012, Garfield says, "I feel bad for the victim and for the victim's family."
Now almost 63, Garfield says he may get back into antiques.
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He also wants to alert the public to bad medical care for inmates at the state Department of Corrections. He says he didn't personally suffer in prison, but he claims he saw negligent or neglectful medical care of others. Last year, a lawsuit against the DOC resulted in promises by the agency to shape up.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.