Death Row Diaries: Tortured man Daniel Cook tortures coworkers

Death Row Diaries: Tortured man Daniel Cook  tortures coworkers
Posted at 5:01 AM, Jun 25, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-26 18:46:36-04

Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories including this execution. Does a man who, as an adult, tortured people in a similar manner to the way he was tortured as a child, deserve death? You decide. 



Date of Birth: July 23, 1961

Executed: August 8, 2012


The Crime:

On July 19, 1987, Daniel Wayne Cook stole money from his roommate, Carlos Ramos, who was also a coworker of his at a restaurant in Lake Havasu City. When Ramos, a Guatemalan national, began searching for the money, Cook lured him into his bedroom where he and another roommate, John Matzke, tied Ramos to a chair and began a night of horrifying torture. 

Over the span of six to seven hours, Cook and Matzke beat Ramos with a metal pipe and a wooden stick, Matzke cut Ramos across the chest with a knife while Cook sodomized him, burned his genitals with a cigarette and stapled his foreskin to the chair. Ramos remarkably lived through the torture before having his throat crushed by both Cook and Matzke as they pushed on it with the metal pipe.

Later that night, another coworker, 16-year-old Kevin Swaney, arrived at the home and was forced upstairs to see Ramos' body. While Matzke slept, Cook sodomized Swaney and after Matzke woke, they strangled Swaney with a bed sheet. 

We got to partying, things got out of hand

On July 21, Matzke turned himself in to the Lake Havasu Police Department. Police arrested Matzke and Cook after finding the bodies of the victims in Matzke's closet.

After his arrest, Cook was asked how the bodies got into the closet and he told police, "We got to partying, things got out of hand,
                                                                                                            now two people are dead."

The Trial:

The trial started on June 27 and lasted ten days. Matzke pled guilty to a second-degree murder charge and testified against Cook.

Cook was initially represented by a public defender, however prior to trial, Cook decided to waive his right to counsel and to represent himself. The trial judge strongly advised Cook against this but accepted his waiver of counsel as "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily" given, and appointed Cook's former counsel to continue in the role of trial advisor.

On appeal, Cook's appeal lawyers accused the trial lawyer of being drunk and incompetent, thus forcing Cook to represent himself. In his appeal, he reported that his attorney did virtually no investigating, and developed no "theory of defense" or "plan for mitigation." Cook also said he smelled alcohol on his breath in court.

They also said that when Cook asked to represent himself the judge never asked him why or informed him of his option to retain a different lawyer.

Cook's appeal attorneys won a short reprieve in April 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the execution to consider a claim saying that he "did not have effective legal counsel." Lawyers said previous counsel failed to present evidence that he was physically and sexually abused by family members and a foster care worker when he was a child. However, the supreme court later dismissed the appeal, clearing the way for him to be executed.

He endured a childhood replete with sexual and physical abuse

In paperwork filed at his clemency hearing Cook is shown as "a seriously mentally ill individual because, in part, he endured a childhood replete with sexual and physical abuse." It goes on to describe the abuse he suffered, "The horrors that Dan (Cook) suffered were the same horrors that Kevin and Carlos suffered. Dan’s grandparents tied him to chairs as punishment; he was repeatedly raped as a child; his father burned his genitals with cigarettes; his sexual abuser had him circumcised as a teenager; and he was beaten with belts, boards, and fists. Each of these acts was done to one or both of the victims."

In his adult life, his attorneys reported, Cook covered his pain with drugs, alcohol and self-inflicted injuries. Cook spent some time in the U.S. Army Reserves, but he was honorably discharged. They reported that Cook lacked the ability “to adjust to the stress of military life, as evidenced by his self-inflicted injury.”

In his clemency hearing it was reported that the prosecuting attorney Eric Larsen said: “Had I been informed of this mitigating information regarding Dan’s severely abusive and traumatic childhood and his mental illnesses, I would have not sought the death penalty in this case.”

His attorneys pleaded with the clemency board to reduce his sentence to life imprisonment without parole, but they were unsuccessful.

Red Robin, yum. I'm done. I love you

The Execution:

August 8, 2012, the one drug protocol was administered at 10:26 a.m. and the execution was completed 37 minutes later.

Cook’s last meal: 

  • Eggplant lasagna
  • Garlic cheese mash potatoes
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Broiled asparagus
  • Ice cream
  • Root beer

Last words:

"I'd like to say sorry to the victim's family. I know that's not enough…(significant pause)…Where am I? To my lawyers, thank you. Red Robin, yum. I'm done. I love you".


Information gathered from AZ. Dept. of Corrections, AZ. Attorney General’s Office,  170 Ariz. 40 (1991) 821 P.2d 731 Arizona V. Cook, and Application for Executive Clemency, Daniel Wayne Cook, ADC# 069007