A Texas man convicted of killing a Marana couple three years ago was sentenced to death Wednesday afternoon.
The sentence was imposed by the same Pima County jury that on Aug. 31 convicted Michael Carlson, 56, of first-degree murder in the 2009 deaths of Rebecca Lou Lofton, 52, and Kenneth "KR" Alliman, 49.
During closing arguments Monday, Deputy Pima County Attorney Nicol Green told jurors Carlson deserved 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.
During his trial, 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.
Jurors were shown a television interview in which Carlson confessed to killing the couple because he believed they were disrespecting the Mendens. He also confessed in gruesome detail to killing eight other people, murders authorities determined never happened.
What kind of a person fancies himself a killer and matter-of-factly provides in-depth details of imagined slayings? Green asked the jurors.
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 have 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, he said.
The defense attorney also said the jurors could consider Carlson's protective nature, desire to be part of a family and his expressed remorse over Lofton's death as mitigating circumstances.
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, and Carlson became attached to the Mendens.
After the death sentence was announced, Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Nichols met with the jurors and told them that at the same time Carlson confessed to killing the victims, he confessed to killing his sister, Maria Thoma, 51, in 2003. She was shot to death in Tucson.
The Pima County Attorney's Office dismissed all of the charges in that case after Judge Christopher Browning threw out the taped interview because detectives violated his Miranda rights.
Jurors didn't hear Carlson's confession to detectives in the Alliman-Lofton case for the same reason.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or email@example.com