Death Row Diaries: Body parts found in separate graves in Northern Arizona

Posted at 4:50 AM, Oct 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-29 07:50:18-04

Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one where a man uses a meat tenderizer to kill two men.

Michael Joe Murdaugh

Date of Birth: January 9, 1954
Sentenced: November 16, 2001

Crime #1:

In May 1995, Michael Joe Murdaugh was living with his girlfriend and another man named Douglas Eggert. Murdaugh suspected that Eggert was stealing from him and intended to kill him. He first tried sedating Eggert by getting him to drink a mixture of beer and Valium.

He then beat Eggert with a meat tenderizer

When that failed, he forced Eggert into the large tool box that stretched across the bed of his truck. When they arrived at the edge of the Central Arizona Project Canal, he got Eggert out of the box, putting him on his knees at the brink of the canal. He then beat Eggert with a meat tenderizer pushing his body into the canal. Eggert's body was found several days later. 

Crime #2:

On June 26, 1995, Murdaugh's girlfriend met David Reynolds at a gas station. They had a conversation because she was looking for a job. During the conversation, Reynolds propositioned her by offering to pay her for sex. She declined and went home. 

She told Murdaugh what happened with Reynolds and Murdaugh decided to, "teach him a lesson." He had his girlfriend invite Reynolds over for a 'party' with her and another female friend.

About fifteen minutes after Reynolds arrived, Murdaugh and a friend stormed into the home with guns. While Murdaugh was berating Reynolds for propositioning his girlfriend, his girlfriend was unloading Reynolds' van. Murdaugh then yelled at her not using gloves and instructed her to clean the van of fingerprints, but first, he asked for the baseball bat that was in the van.

Murdaugh asked her if she wanted to take a swing at Reynolds' head, but she declined.

After dinner, Murdaugh forced Reynolds into the trunk of his car until he could 'figure things out.'

They decided to ditch the van near a cemetery in Wittmann, AZ. On the way home they ran into a friend who gave them some drugs and then they all returned to Murdaugh's home to use the drugs. The next morning, Murdaugh let Reynolds out of the trunk to urinate. As he did, Murdaugh struck him in the head with a meat tenderizer. He also continued to hit him with a jackhammer spike.

After the murder, Murdaugh covered the body and blood with horse manure, leaving him that way for the rest of the day.

(He) threatened him by saying he would, "peel the skin off his children"

As one of his friends left the home the next morning, Murdaugh wanted him to keep silent about the murder and threatened him by saying he would, "peel the skin off his children."

Later that night, Murdaugh and another friend loaded the body into a horse trailer with two of his horses and Murdaugh instructed his girlfriend to clean the garage of the bloody horse manure.

He towed the trailer to a campsite in Yavapai County. Once there, Murdaugh dismembered the body, and seeking to keep Reynold's identity secret, he removed the finger pads from his hands and pulled out all of his teeth. He later threw them out of his truck as he drove down a forest service road. He buried the dismembered body in two different shallow graves.

In the meantime, Reynolds' family had reported him missing. In checking his cell phone records, police saw several calls to Murdaugh's girlfriend. They contacted her, and she agreed to come to the police station to look at photos of Reynolds, but she never did.

The next day, June 29, police located the abandoned van and were contacted by a resident of Wittmann who told them about a murder in Murdaugh's garage. That information leads them to the friend of Murdaugh who witnessed the murder.

The Capture:

Back at the campsite, Murdaugh was cleaning one of his horse's hooves when his knife slipped, severely cutting his leg. Murdaugh, unable to stop the bleeding, took himself to the emergency room of the Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

Meanwhile, police were searching Murdaugh's garage and home where they found the blood-stained horse manure. They put out a bulletin to statewide law enforcement agencies to be on the look out for Murdaugh. The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office contacted them saying Murdaugh was at the emergency room getting treatment for his cut leg.

"Then you have to do me in"

Police contacted him at the hospital, where Murdaugh asked them if his garage had been cleaned. When told that it wasn't, Murdaugh said, "Then you have to do me in." He provided detectives with a map to his campsite where police found the graves.

Because of the similarities between the murders of Reynolds and Eggert, police asked Murdaugh if he was involved in both crimes. He admitted to police that he also killed Eggert with a meat tenderizer and threw his body into a canal.

On January 10. 2000 Murdaugh plead guilty to both homicides. He was given a life sentence for the murder of Eggert and sentenced to death for the Reynolds' murder.

His murder conviction was upheld by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2013, but his death sentence was vacated and a new sentencing hearing was ordered since he was sentenced to death by a judge and not a jury.

Murdaugh remains on Arizona's death row in the Eyeman prison in Florence.