August 27, 1986 Carson City back

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 (room 10)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.