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5/11/2013 12:15:00 PM
Clarkdale murderer Milo Stanley commits suicide at state prison
Milo Stanley of Clarkdale sentenced to death out of Yavapai County for 1st degree murder, was also serving a life sentence for 1st degree murder for the June 19, 1986, murder of his wife and daughter.
Milo Stanley of Clarkdale sentenced to death out of Yavapai County for 1st degree murder, was also serving a life sentence for 1st degree murder for the June 19, 1986, murder of his wife and daughter.

The Arizona Department of Corrections reported that inmate Milo Stanley, 50, died Friday from an apparent suicide by hanging.

All inmate deaths are investigated in consultation with the county medical examiner's office.

Stanley, sentenced to death out of Yavapai County for 1st degree murder, was also serving a life sentence for 1st degree murder. He came to ADC custody on October 6, 1987, and was housed at ASPC-Eyman in Florence.

"Milo Stanley was sentenced to death for the terrible and senseless murder of his 5-year-old daughter because that little girl witnessed him murdering his wife. Although Mr. Stanley is now dead, it was likely not accomplished in the most humane of ways, according to the procedures utilized by the Arizona Department of Corrections in such matters. As prosecution professionals, we strive to have sentences carried out appropriately, according to the laws of this state. Therefore, his suicide, although achieving the same result, is ultimately something of which we cannot approve in our professional capacities," said Dennis M. McGrane, Chief Deputy, Yavapai County Attorney's Office.

Stanley, who was from Clarkdale, killed his wife, Susan, and his daughter, Selest, on June 19, 1986, after an argument about his drinking and drug use. He confessed the next day and was convicted on July 10, 1987 after jurors deliberated for less than three hours.

On Sept. 25, 1987, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge James Sult sentenced him to life imprisonment for the killing of Susan and to death for taking Selest's life, calling him "... a man so depraved that he could kill his helpless 5 year old daughter ... for no other reason than to eliminate her as a witness."

Less than two weeks later, he became the property of the Arizona Department of Corrections and has resided at the Eyman prison complex in Florence ever since. An initial round of appeals produced no relief and an execution date was set for July 8, 1992. After a round of appeals and denials, defense attorney J. Douglas McVay entered the fray and happened upon a circumstance that has kept Stanley's case, and the man himself, alive.

Two days after the murder, Stanley was interviewed in jail by psychiatrist Dr. Karleen Hammitt. She wrote that Stanley was "anguished, sobbing, not able to relate properly." That was to be expected, she believed, coming from a man who "...had sobered up for the first time in a long time to a nightmare."

But the next thing he told her was less common.

"He told me that he experienced the sensation that he was watching, like he wasn't there," Hammitt wrote, describing the disassociative state that would provide the basis for nearly 20 years of appeals.

Several months later, Hammitt herself dismissed the "out-of-body experience" during an interview with county prosecutor Chick Hastings and defense attorney Ken Freedman.

"I thought it probably had something to do with whatever state of intoxication he was involved in at the time as well as the fact that most people don't ever believe they themselves are going to be in the situation like he found himself in when he sobered up," she said, adding that Stanley was suffering from grief over the deaths, but that "Nothing he said indicated to me any degree of remorse per se."

Freedman opted not to use Hammitt's assessment during the trial or during sentencing proceedings, and Hastings recalls that as being a "reasoned trial strategy" that didn't happen to work.

"Ken pretty much touched all the bases," Hastings said. "He did pretty well with what he had to deal with."

But McVay pounced on Stanley's description of his state of mind and alleged Freedman's decision not to use it was "...not a reasoned trial strategy. It was ineffective assistance of counsel."

His argument was strong enough to convince two other psychiatrists involved in the case to modify the opinions they gave during the trial, and that was enough to lead the appeals court to order the case returned to Yavapai County in December 1994 with a petition for post-conviction relief. But with Sult leaving the Superior Court bench in preparation for his new job in the Court of Appeals, the file languished for more than two years before Judge Robert Brutinel picked it up and promptly denied the petition. Shortly thereafter, the Arizona Supreme Court declined review of the case and a second execution date was set, for April 1, 1998.

That date was quickly quashed through a request for stay in federal court, where attorney Gilbert Levy took up Stanley's case and drove it all the way to the 9th Circuit, but not without a delay of more than four years, during which time Arizona was working out death penalty issues of its own.

According to Assistant Attorney General Kent Cattani, all of Arizona's death penalty cases that were in the federal appeals process were stalled from late 2001 until mid-2006 while state attorneys successfully took on two other 9th Circuit decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Once that process was complete, the 9th Circuit again took up Stanley's case and, in a March 2010 split decision, remanded the case to the district court for further review on the matter of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Hastings, who prosecuted Stanley's case during his second term as Yavapai County Attorney, recounts the tale of Dennis Dilda, a county resident in the 1880s who committed two murders. He was arrested in December and hanged on the first of April, with all his appeals complete.

"Maybe four months from arrest to hanging is too quick," Hastings said, noting that many of those involved in Stanley's case have passed away themselves, "but 24 years is too long. Maybe there's a middle ground somewhere."

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Related Stories:
• Editorial: Justice never served for Milo Stanley
• Milo Stanley: Justice delayed
• One down on death row, Clarkdale man still waiting


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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Article comment by: Gary Dean

Compassion for the tortured soul????? How much compassion did he have towards his wife and daughter? How much harm could a 5 year old have done to him? Don't forget, he confessed.

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Article comment by: Manuel Gonzales

Once convivicted with Capitail 1st Degree murder knowing your intentions, the sentence should be Death, on the 1st Conviction. They should have one appeal and if Convicted on your appeal for the second time, they should carry out the execution within 72 hours. The problem this criminals they have more rights, all the medical care, education, , no care in the world. They don't live in prisons they live in "Resorts" You do the crime you pay with Death

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Article comment by: Rich Hillyer

Apparently Christian bigotry is alive and well in the Verde Valley. Granted, it's not my place to grant forgiveness- that's up to the family of the deceased and God, but a little compassion might be in order for the tortured soul.

Posted: Sunday, May 12, 2013
Article comment by: Lisa Brown

Wow. Yes it is too bad!!

Posted: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Article comment by: Dennis Lockhart

Our legal system takes entirely too long at the taxpayers expense. Four months? Not too long at all. Get it done and over with while all the details are still fresh in the minds of everyone concerned. He should have committed suicide years ago.

Posted: Saturday, May 11, 2013
Article comment by: Worked With and Knew Susan

I worked with and knew Susan at the time of this horrific incident. She had often brought her little baby girl, Celest, in also. So I had met her too. This was a horrible crime that affected many lives. The friends and loved ones of Susan snd the family of the convicted Milo Stanley. This was a crime that should not have happened to such a beautiful Mother and her daughter. Milo not only confessed but was convicted in court and should have to pay the ultimate price. For this to have been drug through the system as long as it has, is wrong towards all involved. A happy medium? Yes maybe 4 months is too short, but why should tax payers be responsible in keeping this person fed and supported for 24+ years? Do the crime, Pay the fine. "Eye for an Eye"

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2013
Article comment by: not too sad

Too bad more death row inmates don't do this so we don't have to pay for years and years for them to be fed, housed and court fees.



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