A Texas man convicted of killing a Marana couple three years ago was sentenced to death this afternoon.
A Pima County jury convicted Michael Carlson, 56, of first-degree murder Aug. 31 in the May 25, 2009, deaths of Rebecca Lou Lofton, 52, and Kenneth “KR” Alliman, 49.
He will be sentenced separately on two kidnapping charges on Oct. 29.
Prosecutors presented evidence Carlson shot the couple to death and burned their bodies in trash pits located on property owned by the Menden family in Marana.
During the trial, jurors watched an interview Carlson gave a local TV reporter during which he confessed to killing the couple because he believed they were disrespecting the Mendens. He also confessed in gruesome detail to killing eight other people, but authorities said none of those claims turned out to be true.
During closing arguments Monday, Deputy Pima County Attorney Nicol Green told jurors Carlson was deserving of the death penalty because he killed multiple people, has a past violent criminal history and was on parole at the time.
Green urged the jurors to take Carlson’s character into consideration when determining his fate. He threw the victims into the trash pits as though they were trash and reduced their remains to thousands of bone fragments, she said.
What kind of a person fancies himself a killer and matter-of-factly provides in-depth details of imagined slayings? Green asked the jurors.
Larry Menden may have expressed frustration with the victims, but not even Carlson has said Menden asked him to kill them, Green said.
“He took it upon himself folks,” Green said.
The defense has tried to portray Carlson as a victim of a dysfunctional family and brutal Texas prison system, but Green suggested that he wasn’t a victim, but a manipulator.
Incidents of self-mutilation in the military and prison could’ve been attempts to get attention and not evidence of mental illness, Green said.
The few assaults Carlson was a victim of were relatively minor and he didn’t report an alleged rape until after he was facing the possibility of going back to prison for violating his parole, Green said.
Carlson’s three brothers grew up in the same family and have led law-abiding, normal lives, Green said.
Defense attorney Harley Kurlander blasted Green’s closing argument saying she was improperly appealing to the jury’s emotions. He said he lost track of the number of times Green said “trash” and said there was no reason for Green to show the jurors photos of the victims’ remains.
The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst and Carlson doesn’t qualify, Kurlander said.
Carlson suffered an abusive childhood that left him with mental health issues and yet the state wants to kill him, Kurlander said.
The state may make light of it, but Carlson has lived in the depths of hell, Kurlander said.
Kurlander reminded jurors a prison expert and forensic psychologist testified Carlson isn’t likely to be dangerous in prison. In fact, Carlson might be able to help other inmates; he has a history of volunteer work.
The jurors can consider Carlson's protective nature, desire to be part of a family and his expressed remorse over Lofton’s death as mitigating circumstances, Kurlander said.
One of the doctors who examined Carlson said people who are treated poorly as children can become irrationally attached to those they feel they can trust, Kurlander said.
He became attached to the Mendens and if the jury believes Larry Menden participated in the slayings, they can use that fact to spare Carlson’s life, Kurlander said. Especially since Menden has never been charged, he added.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org