Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one where a man kicked flaming gasoline onto another man after an argument over money and beer.
Eldon Michael Schurz
Date of Birth: August 8, 1963
Sentenced: September 21, 1990
It was on the evening of December 1, 1989 when three friends were drinking beer in a stairwell of a motel in Phoenix. Eldon Schurz and two of his friends walked by and asked for some beer, but they were refused. Schurz grabbed the beer and he and his friends left and drank the beer. He later told his friends they should go back to the motel because the other group was sure to have more beer and money.
Meanwhile, a man named Jonathan Bahe came upon the first group carrying a plastic jug of gasoline since he ran out of gas. He was informed about the robbery and Bahe told the group that if had been there he would have done something about it.
Schurz and his friends, apparently hearing this, returned and Schurz began arguing with Bahe. The argument soon turned into a fight. As some people left to call the police, Bahe was on the ground crawling under a chain link fence trying to escape.
Schurz picked up the plastic jug and smelled the gas inside and poured it on Bahe. He ignited a small puddle of gasoline but the flames failed to get to Bahe, so Schurz kicked the fiery puddle toward Bahe, catching him on fire,
As Schurz and his party fled, Bahe managed to get out from under the fence. Firefighters came and extinguished the fire. Though burned over 90% of his body Bahe was still conscious as he was taken to the hospital. He lived an additional four and a half hours and even tried to communicate with police, but due to the damage to his mouth and tongue his answers were, "nearly impossible to understand."
Schurz later told one of his friends, "He wouldn't give me the money or the beer, so I burned him."
He held a lighter flame to the man's neck
About 90 minutes after the burning, Schurz and his compatriots were picked up by a man looking to buy some cocaine. Schurz directed the man to a housing project, got money from him and left the car. He returned but without the cocaine. Schurz then told the man he was robbing him. He held a lighter flame to the man's neck and the driver complied.
Schurz and company fled again but were arrested a few hours later.
Schurz and one of his friends were charged with first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery, but prosecutors reached a deal with Schurz's friend trading a guilty plea for the robbery for his testimony against Schurz for the killing.
Schurz argued that it was his friend that killed Bahe, saying that, "his intoxication made it impossible for him to form the intent required for the offenses."
Schurz's friend said that about five hours before the burning of Bahe, Schurz and his friends shared about 24 cans of beer and a bottle of wine. Schurz also told a doctor that he ingested cocaine that day as well and could not remember the events around the burning. However, he later told another doctor that he did remember the events and that he lied about his memory lapse to police.
On June 11, 1990, Schurz was convicted of first-degree murder. Three months later he was sentenced to death for the killing and twelve years for the robbery.
Schurz remains on Arizona's death row as his appeal process continues in federal court. He is also a part of the on-going court battle over lethal injection in Arizona.