An Arizona death-row inmate convicted of killing a man and a teenager after raping and torturing is asking a state clemency board to show him mercy and change his death sentence to life in prison.
Daniel Wayne Cook, 49, decided not to attend Thursday’s hearing because he said he’ll become “overly emotional” when his attorneys talk about the extreme physical and sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
His attorneys will argue that Cook only recently was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and organic brain dysfunction as a result of the abuse, and should never have been sentenced to death.
Cook is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the state prison in Florence on Tuesday, exactly one week since Arizona’s most recent execution of Eric John King.
Cook himself wrote a letter this month to the clemency board, saying he is “so very sorry” for the murders, apologizing to the victims’ families, and asking for mercy and a sentence of life in prison.
“I am asking that you show me mercy and allow me to live because I want to live,” he wrote. “I hate the things that I have done and I can say with complete certainty that regardless of all the years that have passed since the murders, the severity of it all has not faded or tarnished in my head or in my heart.”
Cook was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the gruesome July 19, 1987, killings of 16-year-old Kevin Swaney and 26-year-old Carlos Cruz-Ramos.
Court documents say that Cook and his roommate and co-worker, John Matzke, were drunk and high on crystal meth when they decided to rob Cruz-Ramos, who lived with the men and worked with them at Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant in Lake Havasu City.
The two got $97 from the Guatemalan immigrant but didn’t stop there. They overpowered, gagged and tied Cruz-Ramos to a chair, and over the next six hours, Cruz-Ramos was cut with a knife, beaten with fists, a metal pipe, and a wooden stick, sodomized by Cook and burned with cigarettes, according to court documents.
The men waited until midnight, what Cook referred to as the “witching hour,” to kill Cruz-Ramos. Matzke first tried to strangle him with a sheet, and when that didn’t work. Cook and Matzke both pressed down on his throat with a pipe until Matzke stood on it, finally killing Cruz-Ramos, according to court documents.
Swaney, a 16-year-old runaway and sometime guest at the apartment who also worked at Bob’s Big Boy, showed up at the men’s apartment about two hours later.
Cook and Matzke then tied him to a chair and gagged him. Matzke then told Cook that he wouldn’t participate in the teen’s torture and fell asleep in a chair. He awoke to see the teen crying, and Cook told him that he had sodomized Swaney and that they had to kill him, according to court records.
The two tried to strangle the boy with a sheet, and when that failed, Cook said: “This one’s mine,” and strangled him by hand, Matzke said. They put Swaney’s body in the closet on top of Cruz-Ramos.
Cook was arrested after Matzke went to police. Matzke later testified against Cook to get a lighter sentence; he was released July 16, 2007, three days before the 20-year anniversary of the killings.
When he was first brought into the police station, Cook told officers that “we got to partying, things got out of hand. Now two people are dead,” and immediately admitted that he killed Swaney and that Matzke killed Cruz-Ramos.
At Cook’s sentencing, Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn said he didn’t believe that there was a connection between Cook’s mental problems and the murders.
“I almost relish giving you the death penalty because I believe that what you did was so awful,” Conn told Cook. “Society should take your life away from you just as an expression of its revulsion toward the conduct that you have engaged in.”
Several family members and friends of Cook wrote to the clemency board asking that he not be sentenced to death, citing a childhood rife with abuse.
The families of Cruz-Ramos and Swaney did not write to the board, although James Swaney, Kevin Swaney’s father, told a police detective in December 1987: “These animals — just take them off the face of the earth. I want to see justice done.”