The state’s highest court ruled Tuesday that a Marana man convicted of killing his girlfriend and her two children cannot be sentenced to death.
In 1984, James Granvil Wallace pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, and was sentenced to death on each count, which requires an automatic appeal, according to court documents.
Wallace lived with Susan Insalaco, his girlfriend, and her two children, 16-year-old Anna and 12-year-old Gabriel.
According to court documents, during their on-again-off-again relationship, Wallace and Insalaco fought about his drinking and drug use. On Jan. 31, 1984, Wallace came home drunk, and was told to move out.
The next day, Wallace stayed inside the home, and when Anna returned home, he was hiding behind the front door with a small wooden baseball bat. He struck her in the head 10 to 12 times.
Wallace used a pipe wrench to kill Insalaco’s son because he told police he didn’t want him to suffer like Anna.
After killing her children, Wallace was going to commit suicide, but couldn’t do it. When Insalaco returned home, he hit her with the pipe wrench, telling police he didn’t use the gun because neighbors would hear him.
In 1985, a superior court judge found that each murder was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner.
After being sentenced to death, Wallace filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging, an ineffective assistance from counsel in the penalty phase of his sentencing.
The state’s ruling said, “We therefore turn to Wallace’s argument that capital sentences are not warranted because the State failed to present sufficient evidence that the murders were committed with gratuities violence and thus were especially heinous and depraved, requiring trial court to enter a judgment that aggravating circumstances was not proven if there is no substantial evidence to warrant the allegation.”
State law allows someone to be executed only if “aggravating circumstances” make the crime different from other murders.
The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous, with Justice John Pelander, writing for the court, saying that means he has to be sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison.