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
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.