Death Row Diaries: An Arizona execution forces a U.S. ambassador to request additional security

PHOENIX - Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories including this execution that caused a U.S. ambassador to request additional security protection.

 

JOSE ROBERTO VILLAFUERTE

Date of Birth: December 2, 1952

Executed: April 22, 1998

 

The crime:

On February 21, 1983, Jose Roberto Villafuerte beat his girlfriend Amelia Schoville. He also tied her to a bed in a trailer he was renting, gagged her then left her in a vehicle where she later died. 

Villafuerte was found sleeping near a car in a dry creek bed

The next day Villafuerte was found intoxicated by a deputy near Ash Fork who was investigating a disturbance call. Villafuerte was found sleeping near a car in a dry creek bed. That car belonged to Amelia Schoville.  

The next day while being questioned by police, who were unaware of the Schoville murder, Villafuerte told deputies that he and his girlfriend had a fight in their trailer the day before. They had been drinking and she attacked him with a knife.  He claimed that in the course of fighting over the knife she was hit several times in the head and also hit her head on an air conditioning unit.

He told the deputies that he loosely bound her, to keep her from calling police, and he left her there. 

When Phoenix police arrived at the trailer, Schoville was found bound to the bed wrapped in a bloodstained bed sheet with a ball, made from a strip of bed sheet, stuffed in her throat.

 

The trial:

He instructed them to unbind her when she “calmed down”

While Villafuerte admitted to hitting and tying up Schoville, he repeatedly claimed there were two other friends (Roberto and Fernando) there and he instructed them to unbind her when she “calmed down.”

Attempts by police and Villafuerte’s attorneys to find the two were unsuccessful, as Villafuerte could not or would not provide descriptions of the two friends. 

Galen Wilkes, an assistant attorney general said Schoville died of asphyxiation because of the ball of cloth lodged in her throat. Lab tests turned up seminal fluid in her vagina, but it was not tested to determine whose it was.

Honduran President calls into an AZ Clemency Board hearing

International uproar:

Part of Villafuerte’s appeal was that the Honduran consulate was not notified when he was arrested; he was a Honduran national. They said this omission violated the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs.

Last minute appeals were made by a letter from Pope John Paul II and a call from Honduran President Carlos Fuerte who called into a hearing of the Arizona Clemency Board. 

In Honduras, protests outside the American embassy forced the U.S. ambassador to request police protection.

The protests were heightened due to the execution on April 14 of Paraguay national Angel Francisco Breard in Virginia.

 

The execution

April 22, 1998

 

Last meal: 

1 broiled chicken

9 corn tortillas

2 tomatoes

1 plate of rice

1 can of jalapenos

2 cans of Pepsi

 

Last words: 

Witnesses said he seemed to be in "good spirits" as he was on the gurney. He had maintained his innocence to the end saying that he "loved everybody," and "I'll be with the lord."

Information gathered from AZ. Dept. of Corrections, AZ. Attorney General’s Office, AP,  IPS Inter Press Service and

State v. Villafuerte, 142 Ariz. 323, 690 P.2d 42 (1984).

 

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