Roberto Arguelles


Roberto Arguelles

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 4 +
Date of murders: 1992
Date of arrest: May 2, 1996 (confessed)
Date of birth: 1962
Victims profile: Margo Bond, 42 / Stephanie Blundell, 13 / Tuesday Roberts, 15, and her friend Lisa Martinez, 16
Method of murder: Strangulation / Stabbing with knife
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on July 20, 1997. Died in prison on November 23, 2003

While serving a sentence for child molestation, Robert Arguelles, 34, confessed to being a serial killer. On May 2, 1996, four years after the disappearance of three teen-age girls from the Salt Lake City area, Robert confessed to their murders after he received a letter saying that he was a father.

The repentant slayer said: "I realise these girls were just little girls like mine.... I started to understand just how much it would hurt to have someone do what he had done". In return for fessing up, Arguelles asked for a private cell, a color TV and the death penalty.

Arguelles confessed that on March 1992 he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and strangled 15-year-old Tuesday Roberts, then stabbed her friend, 16-year-old Lisa Martinez, to death with a wood chisel.

Earlier that month, he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed 13-year-old Stephanie Blundell. He also pleaded guilty to the February 1992 abduction and strangulation of 42-year-old Margo Bond, a janitor at a junior high school where Arguelles said he was hunting for girls.

Originally he claimed to have merely witnessed the dumping of the bodies of two of the dead teenagers. Later, in a tearful seven-hour session with his lawyer and a police investigator he broke down and admitted to the four killings.

On May 12, 1997 Arguelles -- who has spent all but three years of his adult life behind bars -- pleaded guilty to the murders and said he wanted to be executed as soon as possible.

On June 20 Third District Court Judge David Young handed down the death sentence for Roberto. In a strange courtroom exchange the judge bluntly asked Arguelles: "You're asking me to sentence you to death?" To which he replied: "I am because as many years as I've been through this, no one's going to help me with this condition... I would elect to be executed by firing squad," if possible without a hood, Arguelles added.

On April 7, 2000, Arguelles told Judge David Young he was fed up with the competency hearings to determine if he is fit to die. "I'm tired of waiting," Arguelles said, "I'm having a lot of problems at the prison. A lot of people are trying to tell me I don't want the death penalty."

The killer, who was sentenced to death June 20, 1997, for the brutal murders of four Salt Lake County women, was ordered to undergo a competency evaluation after he tried to hang himself with a laundry bag in his cell at the Utah State Prison on August 12, 1998. Arguelles has repeatedly stated he wishes to die for his crimes and will fight any effort to appeal his death sentences.

Roberto Arguelles, 41, was on parole in March 1992, when he kidnapped 15-year-old Tuesday Roberts and her 16-year-old friend Lisa Martinez. He sexually assaulted and strangled Tuesday and stabbed Lisa more than 40 times, then buried their bodies at a pig farm.

Earlier that month, Arguelles had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed 13-year-old Stephanie Blundell. He also abducted and strangled 42-year-old Margo Bond, a janitor at a junior high school where he had been hunting for teenage victims. The three teens were killed after accepting rides from Arguelles.

During a hearing at which the judge signed the death warrant, Lisa's grandmother, Rose Edwards, was removed from the courtroom briefly after she shouted at Arguelles during his health-related complaints. "That's nothing compared to what you did to my granddaughter," she said.

The execution of serial killer Roberto Arguelles, which had been scheduled for June 27, 2003 has been stayed until his competency can be determined. Third District Judge Michael Burton signed the stay on Tuesday after prosecutors agreed to the delay.

The action came one day after the Utah Department of Corrections notified Burton that there was good reason to evaluate Arguelles. "The bottom line is, we cannot legally or constitutionally execute someone who is incompetent," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Brunker said. "The prison ... has concluded this is an issue that needs to be adjudicated."

In their filing, prosecutors contended that the Corrections' action invalidated requests filed in Arguelles' behalf last week by attorney Ed Brass. Brass sought to vacate the execution order and extend the time to appeal it, stay the execution and arrange a competency evaluation.

Arguelles' last court-ordered evaluation was in 2000, after he tried to hang himself with a laundry bag and was briefly in a coma. Two psychiatrists and a neuro-psychologist determined he was competent.

However, in March 2001, Karen Stam, an attorney who formerly represented Arguelles, wrote to the Utah Supreme Court that Arguelles "continues to deteriorate mentally, collecting and eating feces regularly." That behavior was among several reasons cited by Brass last week in seeking a new evaluation. Technically, Arguelles has no attorney, as he has fired Brass and other court-appointed public defenders.

At a May 1 hearing, Arguelles repeatedly requested that Stam be called. She initially was appointed to represent him, but in 1996, she and other members of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association were disqualified because an employee had a potential conflict of interest. Brass has asked that an attorney be appointed for Arguelles.

The prosecutors argued Tuesday that unless Arguelles is ruled incompetent, he has the right to not have an attorney. In a response Tuesday, Brass contended that courts have the authority to appoint counsel for defendants "who defy basic procedural rules or who fail to maintain proper courtroom decorum." He said that at the May 1 hearing, Arguelles "was clearly and wildly inappropriate and also (appeared) to be incompetent. He simply cannot be allowed to represent himself at this point."

During that hearing, Arguelles yelled, screamed and spewed profanity. Burton had him removed from the courtroom three times. Brass' motion suggested a competency evaluation should stretch back to before Arguelles pleaded guilty in 1997. Prosecutors said, "The only inquiry is whether defendant has become incompetent since the last adjudication of that issue."

Roberto Arguelles died

Utah killer who was convicted of the 1992 murders of a woman and three teenage girls, who had volunteered for execution at the hands of a firing squad, and even had a June 2003 execution date set that was later halted by a judge, died suddenly on Nov. 15, 2003 at the state penitentiary in Draper, UT of undetermined causes at the age of 41.

In Utah, a Notorious Killer's Death on Death Row Leaves Mixed Emotions

December 14, 2003

Roberto Arguelles will never face the firing squad that he chose as the means of his execution after he was convicted of kidnapping and killing four people.

Mr. Arguelles, who was considered Utah's most notorious inmate, did die on death row last month in what some relatives of his victims say was an unfair reprieve: Five months after a judge postponed his execution, Mr. Arguelles died at age 41 in Utah State Prison of what investigators said were natural causes.

''I can't believe he just passed away; it was like nothing,'' said Lorraine Martinez, whose 16-year-old daughter was one of Mr. Arguelles's victims. ''I wish he could have lived longer and suffered more.''

The path that led Mr. Arguelles to death row began with a string of crimes that started when he was 16 and he sexually abused a 10-year-old girl. By age 18, he had been convicted of attempted capital homicide of one 15-year-old girl and aggravated sexual assault of another.

In the winter of 1992, while he was on parole, he went on a killing spree. Mr. Arguelles confessed to killing one woman and three teenage girls. Most of his victims were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then strangled.

''I was driving when I heard about the murders,'' said George Haley, a lawyer who had argued against parole for Mr. Arguelles. ''I pulled over and cried. They let this mad dog out and he murdered four people.''

Mr. Arguelles was 30 years old and working as a laborer at a metals processing plant when the killings began. His first victim was Margo Bond, a 42-year-old janitor at a junior high school. Three weeks later, Mr. Arguelles kidnapped and murdered Stephanie Blundell, 13, who was on her way to school.

A week later, he offered Tuesday Roberts, 14, and Lisa Martinez, 16, a ride to a mall. He handcuffed the girls together and tried to sexually assault Lisa. When she resisted, Mr. Arguelles stabbed her to death with a wood chisel. Mr. Arguelles then sexually assaulted and strangled Tuesday.

The deaths remained unsolved until 1996, when Mr. Arguelles confessed while in prison for sexually abusing two young children.

''I can just see Lisa screaming and fighting him,'' said Mrs. Martinez, her mother. ''I can hear her yelling in the car.'' When she heard that Mr. Arguelles died in prison, Mrs. Martinez said, she cried all night.

When inmates are sentenced to death in Utah they are given the option of lethal injection or a firing squad. Mr. Arguelles would have been the third person executed by a firing squad, after Gary Gilmore in 1977 and John Albert Taylor in 1996.

Use of a firing squad is also legal in Oklahoma and Idaho, but those states have never exercised the option.

Mr. Arguelles had been set to face the firing squad on June 27. The procedure, as described by a prison official, is simple and precise: he would have worn a black jumpsuit with a white cloth pinned over his heart and a black hood over his head. At the shouted command of ''ready, aim, fire,'' state-sanctioned riflemen would have fired at the white cloth.

''This is quick, clean, and simple,'' said Jack Ford, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections. ''It is a lot more humane than the way his victims died.''

The execution was postponed after the director of the Utah Department of Corrections told a judge Mr. Arguelles might not be mentally competent.

In 1998, Mr. Arguelles tried to hang himself in prison. After that, he began eating his own feces, Mr. Ford said. He also ate pieces of paper and plastic.

To protect officers, Mr. Arguelles was strapped in a wheelchair whenever he appeared in court and a mesh mask covered his face to prevent him from spitting.

In the end, Mr. Arguelles died without Utah's help. He was taken to the hospital twice with intestinal blockage but refused treatment, Mr. Ford said.

On the evening of Nov. 15, officers on routine patrol noticed Mr. Arguelles had glassy eyes and was unusually subdued, and he was taken to the prison infirmary.

His death came quickly. ''17:05 Inmate Arguelles unresponsive,'' said Clint Friel, warden of the Utah State Prison, in a sterile tone. ''17:10 called for an ambulance. 17:27 pronounced dead.''

Karen Stam, Mr. Arguelles's former lawyer, said she had been concerned about his deteriorating mental state and the attention he received from the prison staff.

''In the situation where somebody is obviously mentally ill, which Roberto was, you don't ask them if they want treatment, like they are a normal person,'' Ms. Stam said. ''You treat them.''

Mr. Arguelles insisted he was being mistreated. During a court hearing, he said prison officers broke his neck and back bones, according to transcripts. He also yelled a litany of profanities.

Mr. Ford said there was no evidence of any broken bones or mistreatment.

The results of a toxicology report and autopsy are expected in a few weeks, said the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating Mr. Arguelles's death.

For Mrs. Martinez, his death did not bring peace.

''He gets to rest, but I'm still out here in the world,'' she said. ''I still have to live with losing my daughter.''