Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories, including this one that launched the state's largest manhunt.
The execution of the LaGrand brothers in 1999 put Arizona in the international spotlight after they were arrested with the help of an inquisitive bank employee.
KARL HINZE LaGRAND
Date of Birth: October 20, 1963
Executed: February 24, 1999
WALTER BURNHART LaGRAND
Date of Birth: January 26, 1962
Executed: March 3, 1999
In the morning of January 7, 1982 Walter and Karl LaGrand drove from their home in Tucson to Marana, Arizona where they planned to rob the Valley National Bank. The brothers had recently been released from prison after a series of armed robberies of Tucson supermarkets in 1981.
They arrived in Marana early and drove around town to pass the time. They were already in the parking lot when Dawn Lopez arrived for her shift at the bank.
She walked by LaGrand’s car when Walter came out of the car and asked her what time the bank opened. She told him "ten o'clock.” When she went into the bank she saw the bank manager, 63-year-old Ken Hardstock, standing next to the bank vault with Karl Legrand. Karl was dressed in a coat and tie and was carrying a briefcase.
Karl commanded her to sit down as he opened his coat to reveal a gun. This gun was later discovered to be a toy pistol.
Walter then entered the bank also and said to Karl, “If you can’t open it this time, let’s just waste them and leave.”
There was no way Hardstock could open the vault, because he only had one-half of the lock combination.
The two victims were bound with electrical tape, gagged with bandanas and taken to Hardstock’s office. Walter put a letter opener to the throat of Hardstock and threatened to kill him, because he didn’t believe Hardstock’s story regarding the lock combination.
Sensing something wasn’t right, she wrote down the license plates numbers
Meanwhile, outside the bank, another employee, Wilma Rogers, arrived and saw two strange cars in the parking lot. Sensing something wasn’t right, she wrote down the license plates numbers and called the bank. The brothers allowed Lopez to answer the call. Rogers asked to talk with Hardstock but was told he wasn’t there, but Rogers had already seen his car in the parking lot.
Rogers told Lopez that her headlights were on, which in fact they were, and if she didn’t come out to turn them off, she would call police.
The brothers allowed Lopez to go to her car and turn off the lights, but first they threatened her by saying, “If you try to go, if you try to leave, we’ll just shoot him and leave.” Lopez complied, as she turned off her headlights and returned.
Lopez was again bound by the hands. Soon thereafter, she heard sounds of a struggle and fearing that Hardstock was being assaulted, she stood up, broke free from the tape binding her hands and went to help him.
Lopez said, this is when Walter LaGrand came up and stopped her by stabbing her several times. She fell to the floor and was only able to see Hardstock lying down and the shuffling of feet. She did hear one of the brothers say,” Just make sure he’s dead.”
After the brothers left the bank, Lopez called for help.
When authorities got to the bank, Hardstock was already dead, having been stabbed 24 times. Lopez, who was stabbed six times, survived her injuries and was able to testify against the brothers in court.
Police used the license plates numbers, written down by Wilma Rogers, to track down the owner of the car who was the father of Walter LaGrand’s girlfriend, Karen Libby.
The police descended on the apartment where Libby and the LaGrands were hiding, when they left, police arrested them. Police found the briefcase with the toy gun, black electrical tape, a red bandana in a desert bush.
After the arrest Karl took responsibility for the stabbings, telling police that Walter was out of the room when they happened.
The LaGrand brothers were tried, convicted and on December 14, 1984 sentenced to death together.
The last Arizona prisoner to die in the gas chamber was Donald Harding in 1992. His 11 minute death was considered so gruesome that Arizona voters demanded that condemned prisons sentenced after November 1992 be executed by lethal injection.
Those sentenced to death before 1992, like the LaGrands, were given the choice of execution by the gas chamber or lethal injection.
Initially both brothers chose the gas chamber, hoping to be spared their lives on grounds that it’s cruel and unusual punishment. Karl LaGrand was able to switch to lethal injection at the last moment. The same offer was given to Walter but he refused.
The executions brought international attention to Arizona because the LaGrand brothers were German nationals. Germany does not have the death penalty and fought to have their citizens spared from death.
The LaGrand’s were born in Augsburg, Germany and moved to Arizona as children.
Germany appealed to the international court and to Governor. Jane Hull. The United Nation’s Court urged the United States to use “all the measures at its disposal” to prevent the execution. However, the World court has no enforcement powers.
In the U.S., the Supreme Court overturned lower court appeals and the executions were allowed to go through.
KARL HINZE LaGRAND EXECUTION:
On February 24, 1999, Karl LaGrand became the first German citizen to be executed in the United States since World War II.
His last words: in his last words Karl LaGrand apologized to the family of Ken Hardstock and to the woman injured in the robbery attempt, Dawn Lopez.
KARL HINZE LaGRAND LAST MEAL:
Two Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato sandwiches on white bread with Mayonnaise
4 fried eggs, over-easy
Medium portion of hash-brown potatoes
2 breakfast rolls with small portion of strawberry jelly
One half pint of pineapple sherbet ice cream
One 22-ounce cup of hot coffee, black
One medium slice of German chocolate cake with coconut-caramel icing
One 12-ounce cup of cold milk
WALTER BURNHART LaGRAND EXECUTION:
On March 3, 1999, Walter LaGrand became the last man to die in Arizona by use of the gas chamber.
His last words:
"To all my loved ones, I hope they find peace," he said. "To all of you here today, I forgive you and I hope I can be forgiven in my next life."
WALTER BURNHART LaGRAND LAST MEAL:
Six fried eggs, cooked over-easy
16 strips of bacon
One large portion of hash-browns
One pint of pineapple sherbet ice cream
One "breakfast steak" well done.
One 16-ounce cup filled with ice, 1 7UP, 1 Dr. Pepper, 1 Coke
One portion of hot sauce
One cup of coffee, two packets of sugar and four Rolaids tablets.