Killer claimed he was a hero - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Killer claimed he was a hero

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Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 2:25 pm | Updated: 3:42 pm, Fri Jun 10, 2011.

Just seven years before Donald Beaty took the life of Christy Ann Fornoff in Tempe, he assisted a 17-year-old girl after a serious pedestrian-vehicle incident in Memphis, Tenn. — and 34 years later, the woman said Beaty harassed her while she was in the hospital.

On Aug. 18, 1977, just two days after Elvis Presley died, Beaty, then 22, was one of two men who ran over to Tammy Baiter, who was hit by a drunk driver while attending a tribute to Presley at Graceland. Two of the three women who were struck by the car were killed, but Baiter (now Tammy Mershon of Terra Haute, Ind.) survived after suffering a broken pelvis. She spent a number of months recovering in a hospital.

Mershon, now 51, shared the same birthday Presley did, and was running across the street to take a picture when she was struck by the car.

A news article about the event, featuring a picture of Beaty and another man leaning over Baiter, was posted on Beaty’s webpage on the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty’s website for several years. It was removed by a web hosting organization called NBCi about 10 years ago. Beaty claimed he had helped save Baiter’s life.

“Donald Beaty never helped save my life,” Tammy Mershon, 51, told the Tribune by phone from Terra Haute, Ind. “He put his hand on my knee, and that was about it. It was the paramedics who saved me. After he ran over to me and I was in the hospital, he expected me to marry him. He called me while I was in the hospital and harassed me.”

Beaty, 56, who has been on death row since July 1985 for Fornoff’s death, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Florence.

Baiter, who said she later worked as a prison guard at a correctional institute, said she did not know Beaty prior to the accident in Memphis.

“I’m no judge and juror, but I wouldn’t do anything to help him,” she said. “As God as my witness, I wouldn’t help him. He’s a murderer. He killed a little girl. He deserves to die.”

Beaty has never said he is sorry for Christy’s death and has been on death row more than twice the average time (12 years) someone spends there before being executed, according to DOC records.

In the article featured by the Canadian group, Beaty requested a pen pal, and maintained his innocence in the seventh-grader’s 1984 death. He claimed that police were quick to make an arrest and were not looking for the real murderer.

In a re-trial after a jury could not reach a decision as to whether Beaty was guilty, Beaty was convicted of sexual assault and first-degree murder in June 1985, and sentenced to death a month later.

Beaty, who had been housed at the Browning Unit of the DOC prison less than a mile away from the prison’s main facility, was scheduled to be transported to the death house Tuesday evening in preparation for his execution and last meal request.

When Beaty dies, he will become the 89th criminal executed in Arizona.

Death row inmates are not permitted to have contact with other inmates or “contact visitations,” but are allowed to have limited non-contact (separated by a window) visitors. They live in cells that are 11 feet 7 inches by 7 feet 9 inches wide, about the size of a small bedroom.

Mike Palmer, the lead Tempe police detective on the Fornoff case in 1984 who now works for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said once someone is found guilty of the crime and is sentenced to death, the outcome is inevitable.

“That is why we have the death penalty,” Palmer said. “When you are guilty and sentenced to death, that is the end result. It has to be carried out.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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