According to court documents Jason Walton and two accomplices would force their way into a home where they would shoot and kill three people: Steven Fridella, Bobby Martindale, and Gary Petersen
Jason Walton would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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|WALTON, JASON D
|Initial Receipt Date:
|Current Release Date:
Jason Walton Case
On June 18, 1982, police discovered the bodies of three men killed by shotgun blasts lying face down on the living room floor of the home shared by two of the victims. The victims’ wrists had been bound with duct tape. Victim Steven Fridella’s eight-year-old son, who summoned police, had been bound and locked in the bathroom but was otherwise unharmed. Six months after the murder, Fridella’s ex-wife supplied police with information that led to the arrest of one of appellant’s codefendants, and subsequently to the appellant, with whom she was romantically involved.
Following his apprehension, appellant initiated a conversation with detectives who were transporting him from the courthouse to jail. Although the detectives responded that appellant’s attorney had admonished them not to discuss the case with appellant, appellant informed the detectives that he wished to talk and signed a waiver form. He then told the detectives that he did not shoot the victims. In response to a detective’s further inquiry as to whether appellant wished to give a statement, appellant replied, “Well, yes, I would like to but I don’t really want to,” and answered the detectives’ subsequent questions. Appellant told the detectives that he and codefendants Terry Van Royal and Richard Cooper planned to rob the victims of money and cocaine and entered the victims’ house wearing ski masks. Appellant stated he carried a handgun and Van Royal and Cooper armed themselves with shotguns as “insurance”; that they did not intend to kill anyone; that when appellant entered the house, one of the victims asked, “Is that you, J.D.?”; that Fridella’s son was placed in the bathroom so he would not be harmed; that he ransacked the house and, failing to find money or cocaine, returned to the living room where he observed Van Royal and Cooper pointing shotguns at the victims, who were lying face down on the floor; that he stated, “Let’s get out of here”; and that he heard several gunshots as he exited the house. Appellant concluded his statement by noting that Fridella had been involved in a custody battle with his ex-wife, and that she told appellant she and Fridella might reconcile. Appellant repeated his statement on tape.
After appellant gave this statement, codefendant Cooper revealed that appellant’s brother, Jeffrey McCoy, also took part in the incident. After obtaining a waiver of rights, detectives interrogated appellant concerning his failure to mention McCoy’s participation in his earlier statement. Appellant responded that McCoy had bound the victims but was in the car when the shootings occurred. Appellant then admitted that he had initiated the idea for the robbery and also stated that before entering the house, he tested his weapon but that it had misfired. Both statements were introduced at trial. The jury found appellant guilty of all three counts of first-degree murder.
In the penalty phase of the trial, the state introduced the written confessions of codefendants Cooper and McCoy, who were awaiting trial on related charges, but did not call them as witnesses. Both confessions indicated that appellant had pointed his gun at Fridella’s head and pulled the trigger several times. Cooper’s statement also indicated that when appellant’s gun failed to discharge, appellant ordered Cooper and Van Royal to shoot the victims, and they complied. Cooper’s statement further reflected that when he left the house, appellant called him back to shoot Fridella again. Cooper’s former cellmate, who was called as a witness for the state to corroborate Cooper’s confession, testified that Cooper told him appellant was the “ringleader” and that appellant informed *1199 Cooper prior to their arrival at the victims’ house that they were going to “eliminate them.” The state also introduced evidence that appellant had sold two ounces of marijuana and that appellant had been in possession of several bales of marijuana allegedly taken during a sheriff’s department warehouse burglary.