Death Row Diary: Robert Moormann executed for killing mom while on furlough from prison

Death Row Diary: Robert Moormann executed for killing mom while on furlough from prison
Posted at 11:32 AM, Apr 16, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-26 18:02:53-04

Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one that launched the state's largest manhunt. 

Robert Moormann killed and dismembered his mother, disposing of the body parts in dumpsters throughout Florence; 28 years later he was executed.


Date of Birth: June 4, 1948
Executed: February 29, 2012

The crime:

Robert Moormann was in prison in Florence serving a sentence of 9-years to life for kidnapping.

In January of 1984, his adoptive mother Roberta traveled to Florence to see him during a 3-day furlough he was granted. They stayed at the Blue Mist Motel. 

On the morning of Friday January 13, Moormann bought a buck knife, a steak knife and some food. He later went to a pizza place where he knew the owner and told the owner that he was on furlough visiting his mother and that she wasn’t feeling well.

Around 9 a.m., Moormann went to the motel desk and told them he didn’t want to be disturbed and asked that the maid not make up the room. He also asked for some disinfectant spray.

Roberta’s friend came by the motel later that day to drop off Roberta’s suitcase, but Moormann told her his mother was already gone, even though the friend saw Roberta’s purse in the room. Moormann asked the friend if she would throw away some garbage bags, but the suspicious friend refused his request.

Moormann continued throughout the day to try to get cooperation in disposing of the garbage bags from the motel owner and the pizza parlor owner saying they were filled with spoiled meat and animal parts. They all refused his request.

The suspicious pizza parlor owner contact Florence police who went to the motel room around 10:30 p.m. that night. They asked Moormann how his mother was, because they had heard that she was ill. Moormann told the police that she was feeling better and had actually left to vosit a woman around 6 p.m. He also told police he was concerned because he hadn’t heard from her since then.

The police ;later watched Moormann’s room; the man came out of the room and told officers that his mother still hadn’t returned and he was concerned because she was on medication.

Still looking to dispose of the body, Moormann contacted a lieutenant at the prison and told him that his cousin had dropped off some dog bones a couple of days earlier and that he needed to get rid of them since his mother was out visiting and that the dumpster at the motel was full."

The lieutenant agreed to help and brought his truck over to the motel where a box was put in the bed of the truck.

The lieutenant was later contacted by police who told him that Moormann was acting suspiciously and his mother was missing. The lieutenant told them about the box and when they looked inside they saw what looked like human remains.

It was early the next morning when Moormann left the room to use a pay phone that the police moved in under orders not to allow Moormann back into the room. Moormann was asked to stay in the patrol car. 

Soon other officers, once they had confirmed the bones were human, arrested Moormann.

After his arrest, Moormann made statements to police indicating an incestuous relationship. He said, “(he) lost his cool" when his mother made him "take his father's place" and "do things he just couldn't handle." However, there was no physical evidence that anything sexual took place that night.

In the room police found blood stained bedding, floors and walls, and “Roberta's brassiere hanging in the closet with five hundred dollars in cash safety-pinned to it."

In trash dumpsters near the motel police found the rest of Roberta’s remains.

In Moormann’s prison cell, officials found bizarre writings and a will supposedly from Roberta that left all her assets to Moormann.

Incidentally in the woman's real will, she had already left her estate to Moorman, but said he was incompetent to handle his affairs and left the money in a trust.

The trial:

During Motormann’s trial there was conflicting expert testimony regarding Moormann's mental state.

One psychologist concluded that “Moormann suffers from organic delusional syndrome, pedophilia, and schizoid personality disorder, and that he was unable to appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions when he killed his mother.”

Two other psychiatrists testifying for the estate concluded that Moormann suffered from “pedophilia and antisocial personality disorder“ but that he was able to understand the nature of his actions.

In the end, the jury found Moormann guilty of first degree murder and rejected Moormann’s insanity defense.

The executionFebruary 29, 2012

The convicted killer was executed by lethal injection. The one drug protocol was administered at 10:23 a.m. and the execution was completed 10 minutes later.

"Justice was carried out against convicted murderer Robert Moormann today, approximately 28 years after he brutally murdered and dismembered his adoptive mother, following a sentence of nine years to life for kidnapping an eight year old girl," Attorney General Tom Horne said.

"We have been working hard to help reform a system in which delays between verdict and execution are so long. Families need to see justice done in a timely manner. The average delay for the Ninth Circuit, which includes Arizona, is 18 years. We are working hard to reduce that delay," Horne added.

Horne also stated: "There has never been any doubt as to Moormann's guilt for this heinous crime. While Moorman was offered a 72 hour compassionate leave to visit his adoptive mother, he bound, gagged, strangled and stabbed her to death. He then dismembered her body and attempted to dispose of the parts by passing them off as animal remains or simply putting them into trash containers. There is no rational reason for justice to have been delayed 28 years."

Last meal: 

Double hamburger (2 – ¼ pound patties) with two slices of onion, three leaves of lettuce, and three slices of tomato with French fries and four ounces of ketchup. Two ground beef burritos, two containers of rocky road ice cream and three RC colas. 

Last words: 

"I hope that this will bring closure and they can start the healing now, and I just hope they will forgive me in time, and that's it."

Information gathered from AZ. Dept. of Corrections, AZ. Attorney General’s Office and

426 F.3d 1044

Robert Henry Moorman, Petitioner-Appellant,
Dora B. Schriro, * Director, Arizona Department of Corrections, Respondent-Appellee.

Docket number: 00-99015

Federal Circuits, Ninth Circuit