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Death Row Diaries: Woman buried alive in Superstition Mountains

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Posted at 10:54 AM, May 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-14 12:22:59-04

Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one where a woman was buried alive in the Superstition Mountains.

JESS JAMES GILLIES

Date of birth: October 18, 1960

Sentenced: September 28, 1981

Executed: January 13, 1999

Car trouble and horse stables:

It was January 28, 1981, when Suzanne Rossetti went to a convenience store in Phoenix near 52nd and Van Buren streets. When she returned to her car, she realized she had locked herself out. She then turned to two young men, Jess James Gillies and Michael Logan, for help to unlock her door.

The men were successful in opening the car door. To show her gratitude to the men, she bought them a six-pack of beer and offered to drive them to Weldon's Riding Stables, where they were employed.

Along the way the men sexually assaulted Rossetti at Papago Park and again at her apartment. While at her home, they stole items from her including her credit cards.

Assault at Fish Creek Hill:

She was alive for about 15 minutes while buried under the rocks

Gillies and Logan drove her to Fish Creek Hill in the Superstition Mountains, where she was thrown 40 feet off a cliff. They went down the cliff and found Rossetti still alive and begging to be left to die in peace. 

Instead, she was struck in the head with rocks until she lost consciousness, and then buried her with rocks.

The medical examiner would later say that she was alive for about 15 minutes while buried under the rocks. Police reported that when they found her body, one of the rocks on top of her was so heavy, it took two men to remove it.

Confessions to friends:

The next day she was reported missing by her parents who were expecting her to pick them up and drive them to the airport.

Over the next few days, Gillies and Logan used her ATM card twenty-eight times because the bank limited the withdrawals to only $250 a day.

Gilles spoke about the murder to several friends which lead to his and Michael Logan's arrests. Logan cooperated with authorities, showing then where the body was buried and testifying against Gillies in exchange for a life sentence. He remains in prison today.

Gillies was convicted on August 27, 1981, and sentenced to death one month later.

 

The Execution:

"Let’s get on with it"

Jess James Gillies was executed on January 13, 1999.

Last meal: Gillies last meal consisted of New York Steak (rare), sliced mushrooms, two eggs, ten strips of bacon, toast with butter, strawberry preserves, milk, apple juice, and a 32-ounce chocolate milkshake.

Last words: Gillies offered no last words. He just motioned with his hand, as the death warrant was read, as if to say, "Let’s get on with it."