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Death Row Diaries: Man injected with battery acid in 1991 murder

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Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one where a man is injected with battery acid before being strangled to death.

ROBERT CHARLES TOWERY

Date of birth: July 20, 1964

Sentenced: November 20, 1992

Executed: March 8, 2012

The Robbery:

For weeks, Robert Charles Towery and Randy Allen Barker discussed and planned ”pulling off a robbery" on an acquaintance of Towery.

Jones was a 68-year-old man with a transplanted heart

On September 4, 1991, they decided to rob Mark Jones at his home. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne would later talk about Jones saying, "Jones was a 68-year-old man with a transplanted heart who knew Towery and had previously lent him money," Horne said. "Towery and his accomplice targeted Jones to rob him." He also called Jones a philanthropist, as he would give money to college graduates for their continuing education.

Randy Barker, who testified at trial as a witness for the state after receiving a reduced charge of second-degree murder, described what happened that night.

He said he and Towery drove to a Denny's restaurant where they called a cab, which dropped them off at Jones' home. They knocked on the door telling Jones that their car broke down and they needed to use the phone. Jones let them in, and as Barker faked a phone call, Towery opened a briefcase containing a gun, gloves, plastic ties, handcuffs and a large syringe filled with battery acid. 

Jones was handcuffed as Towery went through the house taking car keys, money, jewelry, and electronic equipment and loading them into Jones car.

Drugs or Zip Ties: 

(He) was placed face down on the bed and injected with battery acid

Jones was taken to the master bedroom where he was asked if he wanted to be tied up or be given a sleeping drug.

Jones chose to be put to sleep and was placed face down on the bed and injected with battery acid. Jones pretended to sleep, but Towery was determined to kill him and made a noose out of the plastic ties and strangled Jones. He made choking sounds but did not struggle. Not convinced it was working, Barker testified that Towery, "made another noose like the first one, popped it over the head, and pulled it tight with a 'zip' sound."

The two left in Jones' car and returned to the Denny's to retrieve Barker's car before going back to their Scottsdale apartment complex. They were seen in the apartment complex parking lot by a security guard, who later identified the two in a photo lineup.

Jones body was found the next day by two golf club employees who were looking for Jones since he was a regular golfer. It took over two years for police to locate his car which was found on September 12, 1993, as a result of a Silent Witness tip. 

The Trial:

At trial, Towery disputed Barker's account, saying he went to an adult bookstore where he met a female friend and talked with her in the car for about two hours. The female friend testified in court via videotape and backed up Towery’s story.

In the end, the jury chose to believe Barker and not Towery and his friend, as they convicted him of first-degree murder on August 14, 1992. Randy Allen Barker was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison being released in September 2001. 

"I love my family. Potato, potato, potato"

The Execution: Towery was executed on March 8, 2012, by lethal injection. The one drug protocol was administered at 11:17 a.m. and the execution was completed 9 minutes later.

Towery’s Last Meal: Porterhouse steak with sautéed mushrooms, baked potato with butter and sour cream, steamed asparagus, clam chowder, Pepsi, milk, and apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

Towery's Last Words: "I would like to apologize to Mark's family and friends for what I did to them. I would like to apologize to my family," Towery said. "So many times in my life I went left when I should have gone right, and I went right when I should have gone left. It was mistake after mistake after mistake." He started crying before he said his last words, "I love my family. Potato, potato, potato."

It is believed that this was intended as a message to family members.