Death Row Diaries: Crime spree in TX, CO, AZ ends in officer killed, another handcuffed to tree

Death Row Diaries: Crime spree in TX, CO, AZ ends in officer killed, another handcuffed to tree
Posted at 7:18 AM, Feb 13, 2016

ABC15's "Death Row Diaries" takes a look at Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present.


Date of Birth: April 4, 1954

Executed: February 16, 2000

In September 1982, Anthony Lee Chaney and Deanna Jo Saunders-Coleman had already committed several burglaries in Texas and Colorado, before bringing their crime spree to Arizona.

It was Labor Day weekend when the couple crossed the border into Arizona, driving a stolen pick up truck and carrying 11 stolen guns.

They heard the Arizona Highway Patrol was setting up their usual holiday weekend DUI roadblocks. Not wanting to be caught, they found a place to camp outside Flagstaff until the roadblocks were taken down.

Coconino County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Cline happened to see the couple camping in an unusual area and went to investigate. Deputy Cline asked Chaney for his ID, and as Chaney went to the truck to retrieve it, Deputy Cline talked with Chaney's girlfriend, Saunders-Coleman.

Chaney soon emerged from the truck with a gun pointed directly at the deputy. Saunders-Coleman took Deputy Cline's gun and they handcuffed him to a tree. 

Little did they know, a dispatcher was trying to get a hold of Deputy Cline on the radio. When he failed to answer, the dispatcher sent another deputy to investigate.


Killing a Deputy

As Chaney and his girlfriend were leaving the area in the stolen truck, they crossed paths with reserve Coconino County Deputy, Dr. John Jamison.

Chaney jumped out of the truck, firing off more than 30 shots.  Using the screen of bullets as a shield, he pinned down Jamison and moved closer and closer to his target. Chaney fired 3 more shots at point black range; so close that gun powder residue was found on Jamison. He was hit with over 200 pieces of flying glass and metal.

Coconino County Sheriff Joseph Richards talked about the killing of his deputy saying "John (Jamison) is the prey and he (Chaney) is the hunter," said Richards, "This officer was pinned down, unable to unbuckle his seat belt, unable to disengage his weapon."

Chaney returned to the truck telling his girlfriend, "Murder one, reload."

As the couple left in the truck, Saunders-Coleman saw that the reserve Deputy Jamison was still alive and trying to drive away. He was still conscious when the medics arrived, telling them, "I'm dying and I can't breathe." 


Spared lives led to arrest

Chaney wanted to change vehicles, and soon found two boys in a truck. He sent his girlfriend to talk to the boys, while he snuck up and carjacked them at gunpoint. The boys were fortunate though, as Chaney spared their lives by telling them to run into the forest.

Once Chaney was gone, the boys ran out of the forest and called police with a description of the stolen truck.

Thanks to their quick action, the truck was quickly spotted and police quickly captured Chaney and Saunders-Coleman without anyone else being hurt.

Chaney was convicted on March 17, 1983.


Appeals denied

During a clemency board hearing, members heard from Deputy Robert Cline who was suffering from post traumatic stress. He testified he felt guilty, knowing that it was his 'call for help' that lead Jamison to his death. He told the board, "I cannot begin to describe the fear I felt at that moment."

Over the next 12 years, Chaney filed multiple appeal claims, but on December 28, 1995, a federal district court rejected all the claims.

Defense attorneys argued that Chaney suffered from a mental disorder that caused him to react violently when he saw reserve Deputy Jamison arrive in his patrol car that day in the forest.

They also said, Chaney wasn't given enough time to be properly tested for the mental disorder during his criminal trial. Prosecutors rebutted this, saying Chaney's attorneys were given adequate time to examine the possible mental disorder, and six experts testified over five days during the trial.

On June 17, 1999, the state requested that the Arizona Supreme Court issue a warrant of execution.

Deanna Saunders-Coleman testified against Chaney and plead guilty to second degree murder, receiving a 21-year prison sentence for which she served 14 years.  She was released from prison on January 31, 1999.

Chaney was executed on February 16, 2000. When asked if he had a last statement, he simply said, "no."


Chaney's Last meal:

2 Eggs over easy

4 Slices of bacon


1 Pint vanilla ice cream

1 Can of peaches

Strawberry jam