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August 27, 1986 Carson City
In December of 1985, while in Nevada, I was shown two videotaped
confessions of a serial killer who a few years earlier had been extradited
there from Arizona. The killer, who I shall refer to from now on as Strunk,
was convicted of murder in the first degree for the killing of a young
prostitute whom I shall refer to as Tammy Timithson. Strunk presented no
evidence during the penalty hearing and requested that his attorney make no
closing argument. In explanation, Strunk told the district court: " I don’t
feel, your honor, that a response is appropriate here." Strunk was
sentenced to death.
The facts of the case are essentially undisputed. Early one morning, Strunk
checked into a motel in Las Vegas. The desk clerk on duty at that time
testified that ten minutes after checking into the motel, Strunk returned to
the front desk and purchased "Tums." (Strunk had stomach ulcers.) A
few hours later Strunk telephoned an escort service. A "phone girl"
on duty at that time testified that Strunk requested an attractive, young,
white woman. Timithson was the girl who was sent.
Tammy Timithson was twenty-five years old. She had been a prostitute at
Shirley’s Dude Ranch, a legal brothel outside of Fallon. But early in
October of that year Timithson quit and moved to Vegas with the bartender from
the brothel. The bartender testified that he and Timithson were in love and
had moved to Las Vegas planning to marry, but that, to get the couple out of a
financial bind, Timithson had taken the job with the escort service. That
morning was Timithson’s first day at work.
When Timithson arrived at Strunk’s room at 8:00a.m., she telephoned the
service to say that everything was okay. At 9:00 a.m. the "phone
girl" telephoned Strunk’s room to remind Timithson that Strunk had only
paid for a one hour "date." The "phone girl" testified
that Timithson " just laughed and told [her] that she was staying with
the gentleman for a longer period of time … that she liked him and that she
would be there for awhile." The "phone girl" telephoned Strunk’s
room once again at 10:30 p.m. and received no answer.
Shortly after 11 a.m. a maid entered Strunk’s room and found Timithson’s
naked corpse face up in the bathtub. The bathroom floor was wet and the
bathtub contained several inches of water. Timithson’s arms were tightly
bound behind her back with panty hose and thin strips of torn pillowcase
fabric. Her feet were also bound with thin strips of torn pillowcase fabric.
Around her neck was a loosely fitting ligature made from thin knotted strips
of torn pillowcase fabric.
Strunk admitted that he killed Timithson, however, he argued that it was
murder on the second degree, not murder of the first degree. Strunk stated
that after he and Timithson had had sexual intercourse, Timithson suggested
that they take a bath together. After bathing with Timithson he returned to
the bedroom and discovered that the room had been ransacked and his money
taken. Believing that the robbery had been performed by some third party in
complicity with Timithson, Strunk bound her and doused her in the bathtub,
killing her while trying to scare her into contacting her accomplice so as to
get back his money.
1. Strunk claims that he robbed a hotel when he was eleven years old.
2. Strunk claims that he killed a preacher when he was fifteen.
3. Strunk claims that he rolled a man and left him in the snow to die. He
claims to have served five years in prison for this.
4. Strunk claims that he once threw a man out of a car driving down the
highway at seventy-five miles per hour "just to watch him bounce down the
highway, that was fun."
5. Strunk claims that he stabbed a man and his wife in a bar.
6. Strunk kidnapped a man, drove forty miles to an Indian Reservation,
forced him to perform oral sex, made him strip and lie on the ground, kicked
him repeatedly, and, finally stabbed him twice in the back with scissors. At
the hearing for that case the man, who survived, said the following about how
Strunk appeared while kicking him: " I see kids at Christmas time with
brand new toys that were pleased. But multiply that by fifty times and you’ve
got a good imitation of him."
7. Strunk killed a barmaid.
8. Strunk was involved in a prison uprising.
9. Strunk shot and killed his wife.
10. Strunk Shot but did not kill his wife’s lover.
11. Strunk was convicted of the first degree murder of his wife and
sentenced to prison for life.
12. Strunk hired a black prostitute, murdered her, and buried her body.
13. Strunk shot and killed and robbed a man who picked him up hitchhiking.
Strunk claims that after shooting him once, the man begged him to take him to
the hospital. Instead of taking him to the hospital, Strunk told him "
‘you go to the hospital in the sky,’ and I blew his head off.’"
14. Strunk was convicted of armed robbery.
15. Strunk shot but did not kill a taxi driver and was subsequently
convicted of attempted murder.
16. Strunk killed Tammy Timithson.
17 Strunk claims that he has compiled a list of individuals he plans to
kill. One target is his ex-father-in-law because he did not purchase a large
enough headstone for his daughter, whom Strunk had killed.
18. "I try to escape everywhere I go." … " penitentiary
time doesn’t affect me at all." … " If you do something to me, I’ll
do something back. I might even do something greater." … " I want
the death penalty because of what I might do to somebody if I live." …"
[Timithson] wasn’t worth the powder it takes to blow her up."
On August 22, 1986 while at the Supreme Court of Nevada doing research on a
different subject for an opera; I was given the opportunity to go see the
maximum security prison on the following Wednesday. At one point while going
through the prison, quite by accident, I found myself looking into Strunk’s
Sealed cell. The following Conversation ensued.
He: "Ryan’s next door." (he thought that I thought that he was
Me: "Your Strunk?" (he was in his underwear wearing a skullcap
and smoking a cigarette. He was much fatter than in the video.)
He: " Yup," glad to be recognized.
Having at that point become part of this horrible history, August 27, 1986
–Carson City" is my attempt to try to understand a situation completely
removed from my own sense of reality. The piece breaks down as such:
1st Movement – The perspective of a third party objective
observer (myself). A reaction to all the events and information as it is
2nd Movement – The victim’s commentary after the fact.
3rd Movement – The murderer’s point of view starting at the
time of 4 minutes before the time of death, including a realization of the