State of Missouri v. Robert Allen Walls

744 S.W.2d 791 (Mo. banc 1988)

Robert Allen Walls was executed on June 30, 1999

Case Facts: On the night of December 5, 1985 Robert Walls, Terry Wilson and Tommy Thomas were together drinking and discussing ways to leave St. Louis. Wilson told them he had recently burglarized the house of an elderly man and knew they could get a car and some money from the victim.

The trio took a cab to Maplewood, Missouri in St. Louis County to the home of Mr. Fred Harmon. Wilson and Thomas entered through a window of the home while Walls remained outside. Walls later entered the house through a side door. Mr. Harmon, who recognized Wilson, told him he would give them anything if they would just leave him alone. Walls saw Thomas kicking Mr. Harmon in the head with the toe of his boot telling him to shut up. All three tried to tie Mr. Harmon up with neckties while he strongly resisted. During the struggle Walls held Mr. Harmon’s head down with his foot and suggested to the others that they tie the victim’s feet together.

The three men then dragged Mr. Harmon to the kitchen where they decided to put him into the freezer. Wilson started putting the victim in the freezer and asked the others to help him. All three lifted Mr. Harmon into the freezer upside down. Walls later opened the freezer and reported that Mr. Harmon states “I’m already dead, let me die.”

Walls went back in the bedroom for the keys to the car and when he returned a television and typewriter had been placed on top of the freezer. Wilson and Thomas also placed a chair on top of the freezer to further hinder any attempt by Mr. Harmon to escape. The three then drank some sodas, took Mr. Harmon’s money and left the scene in the victim’s car.

Three days later on December 18, 1985 the Maplewood Police Department found Mr. Harmon in the freezer after neighbors reported they had not recently seen the victim. The police also discovered that four stove burners were on and the pilot lights were extinguished. They observed that the telephone cord had been ripped from the wall and that there was blood on Mr. Harmon’s bed and the bedroom floor and walls. The police found Mr. Harmon’s nude body in the freezer covered with a sheet. An autopsy revealed that Mr. Harmon sustained numerous blunt trauma injuries to his head and limbs, had broken ribs and a bruise on his spleen. Death was attributed to a combination of blunt injuries, hypothermia and suffocation.

Walls was arrested on December 20, 1985 in Santa Monica, California for burglary with Terry Wilson. The victim’s car was recovered near the scene of the burglary and both Walls and Wilson were charged with the murder of Mr. Harmon. While in California Walls made a statement to the police concerning the crime.


Legal Chronology:

1984

10/22 – Robert Walls was sentenced to three concurrent seven year sentences for three counts of burglary second degree in St. Charles County, Missouri.

1985
12/15 – Robert Walls, Terry Wilson, and Tommy Thomas murdered Mr. Fred Harmon.

1986
3/15 – Walls was charged with first degree murder, burglary and robbery in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
11/8 – Walls is found guilty by a jury on all charges and recommends the death penalty on the murder first degree conviction.
12/18 – The court sentenced Walls to death.

1988
2/17 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Wall’s conviction and sentences.
5/5 – Walls filed a motion for post-conviction relief.
10/3 – The United States Supreme Court declined review of Walls’ case
12/9 – The circuit court denied Wall’s motion for post-conviction relief.

1989
11/14 – The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Walls’ motion for post-conviction relief.

1990
3/26 – The United States Supreme Court declined review of Walls’ post-conviction claims.
3/30 – Walls filed federal habeas corpus petition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

1997
2/27 – The federal district court granted the writ of habeas corpus.

1998
8/6 – The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the judgement of the district court granting the writ. The court ordered that habeas relief be denied.
4/19 – The United States Supreme Court declined review of Wall’s habeas claims.
5/4 – The State filed a motion to set an execution date with the Missouri Supreme Court.
5/28 – The Missouri Supreme Court scheduled Walls’ execution date for June 30, 1999.