Edward Harold Schad, Arizona’s oldest death row inmate, was executed Wednesday for the 1978 murder of Lorimar Leroy Grove. He was 71 years old.
According to CBS News and the Associated Press, Schad was lethally injected with a dose of pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to sedate inmates, and pronounced dead at 10:12 a.m. local time. His execution took place two hours after the Arizona Supreme Court denied a final appeal to stay his death.
Schad, who was twice convicted of first-degree murder in Grove’s death, served nearly 35 years in prison. His victim, a 74-year-old Bisbee man who had been driving to Washington to visit his sister, went missing during the trip. His body was later discovered in underbrush along a stretch of U.S. 89, badly decomposed and tied to a piece of rope.
Shortly afterward, Schad was pulled over by police for speeding while driving Grove’s Cadillac, but he was let go after he said the car belonged to a friend named “Larry Grove.” But more than a month later, he was arrested after a Utah man reported hearing Schad brag that he had stolen the vehicle. This time when he was pulled over, police found Grove’s credit card in Schad’s wallet, USA Today reported.
The arrest was Schad’s second. He also served time years earlier in a Utah prison for a second-degree felony murder charge relating to the death of a fellow soldier in 1968. The soldier and Schad had both been AWOL when they engaged in a sexual act that ended when the other soldier died of strangulation. Schad claimed that the man had died of autoerotic asphyxiation, but admitted to taking his credit card and using it to buy a plane ticket back to Germany, where he was arrested.
Schad denied up until his death that he had killed Grove, but a Yavapai County prosecutor told the Arizona clemency board that juries had dismissed his claims twice. "He doesn't take any responsibility for what he did," Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said. "Accidents two times, died of strangulation? I don't think so."
When asked what his final words were, Schad said, "Well, after 34 years, I'm free to fly away home. Thank you, warden. Those are my last words,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
His pastor, the Rev. Ronald Koplitz, said the phrase was a reference to a Gospel song he had given the inmate weeks ago, titled “I’ll Fly Away.” "He was not your typical inmate," Koplitz said afterward. "He was a good guy. Whether he did the murder or not, I don't know. He always told me he didn't, like he told everybody else."