On March 6, 2003 Robert Louis Cromwell was sentenced
for the following:
MARICOPA COUNTY CR-2001-095438, Count 1, First Degree
Murder (of Stephanie Short), committed on October 8, 2001, sentenced to
DEATH by Lethal Injection.
At approximately 03'51 hours October 8, 2001 Phoenix
Police Department received a 911 call from a hysterical female stating
she was trying to locate her daughter who was taken by a man who had
The female (later identified as Ella "Michelle" Speaks) told
the dispatcher she was beaten with a stick by a man at her home located
at 3208 E. Flower Street and that she believed this man ran off with her
Shortly there after the Phoenix Police Department dispatch
received a second 911 call from a Hispanic male who said he heard
someone yelling for help and that they thought there was a dead baby at
3208 E. Flower Street, Apartment #205.
During the investigation it was determined that
through a one time meeting, spending the evening together drinking and
doing drugs Ella "Michelle" Speaks left Robert Cromwell at her residence
with her 3 daughters while she left for a few minutes to pickup another
friend, Kim Jensen.
Upon returning to 3208 E. Flower Street Michelle and
Kim were greeted at the door by Robert Cromwell who struck Kim Jensen
with a pool stick as she stepped into the apartment doorway.
Michelle Speaks attempted to stop Robert Cromwell but when Kim was stuck in the
head and fell to the floor Robert Cromwell turned on Michelle Speaks and
began hitting her until the pool stick broke. Robert Cromwell ran from
the residence. Injuries sustained by Michelle Speaks and Kim Jensen
required medical attention.
Michelle Speaks, who was shaken up over the incident,
took off in her vehicle after Robert Cromwell as she believed Robert
Cromwell had taken her daughter, Stephanie Short. While driving to
Robert Cromwell's residence Michelle Speaks called 911 to report the
The police made contact with Michelle Speaks in her
vehicle and returned with her to her residence.
Upon searching the
residence at 3208 E. Flower Street they found the body of her 11 year
old daughter, Stephanie Short, in the master bedroom, unclothed and
Stephanie Short had 13 stab wounds to her back, a
fractured skull and broken jaw and had appeared to have been sexually
assaulted. Stephanie was transported to the Good Samaritan Hospital
where she was pronounced dead. Cause of death was determined to be
multiple blunt force and stabbing injuries.
Robert Cromwell was later contacted at his residence
3329 E. Osborn Road, Apartment #9 in Phoenix on October 8, 2001. Robert
Cromwell was interviewed, taken to the Phoenix Police Department and
Inmate Cromwell is also convicted of the following:
Maricopa County CR-2001-095438
Count 2, Sexual
Assault and Dangerous Crime Against Children (of Stephanie Short),
committed on 10/8/01, sentence lifetime without the possibility of
parole until 35 years have been served.
Counts 3 Aggravated Assault
(Ella "Michelle" Speaks), committed on 10/8/01, sentence 10 years.Counts 4 Aggravated Assault (Kim Jensen), committed on 10/8/01, sentence
The fact that Robert Cromwell
called out to Ella Speaks to ask if she was a hooker the first time he
met her didn’t stop the two of them from becoming chummy one fall night
in 2001. In a whirlwind romance that lasted several hours, the two of
them hooked up, smoked some meth, ate some fast food and went to a
couple of bars.
Then she left him to care for her children, one of whom he raped and
murdered. He also assaulted Ella Speaks and a friend with a pool cue.
Last week, the Arizona Supreme
Court upheld his conviction and death sentence, rejecting his claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel and judicial abuse
“He seemed so nice,” Ella said, describing him several times as “kind”
Ella was walking from her house in a rough section of Phoenix when she
saw Cromwell sitting on a bench. He called out to her, “Hey, are you a
prostitute or a police officer?”
Ella replied, “I’m neither one. I’m a mother and I’m having a bad day.
Leave me alone.”
After Cromwell chased after her and apologized, Ella forgave him and the
two struck up an conversation. In fact, as she was walking toward a
store, “Ella saw some men off to her left and was ‘almost relieved’ that
Cromwell was going to walk with her to the store,” the Arizona Supreme
Court wrote last week.
Cromwell walked Ella home and
helped her put transmission fluid in her car. Afterward, she invited him
to get fast food with her and her daughters. On the way to the
restaurant, Cromwell entertained the children by singing songs with
them, Ella testified at his trial.
The group ate hamburgers and then
Cromwell and Ella set out for the bars. At one point, while they were
drinking in the bar, Cromwell tried to kiss Ella on the lips, but she
turned her head and he pecked her on the cheek.
“I can tell you didn’t like it,
but I will do it again,” Cromwell reportedly said.
“I don’t think you will,” Ella replied, and she noticed that Cromwell
smiled as if he understood, and he apologized. After shooting some pool
and filling out a couple of job applications, Ella and Cromwell went
back to her place.
It was about 1 a.m.
Since they were getting along so
well, when Ella received a phone call a few minutes to come to the aid
of two friends who were having an argument, she felt comfortable enough
to leave Cromwell alone with her three children, 11-year-old Stephanie
Shortt and Stephanie’s younger siblings, Amanda and Heather.
Cromwell told Ella he would just stay in her room while she was gone;
she was out of the house for more than an hour.
While her mother was out of the
house, 9-year-old Amanda woke up when she heard Stephanie make a noise
as if “she was really hurt,” the girl testified later.
In the bathroom, Amanda saw Stephanie standing in the bathtub,
unclothed, while Cromwell, with socks on both of his hands, washed her
with soap. Cromwell “angrily” told her to get back to bed each time.
Amanda saw Cromwell take her sister into her mother’s bedroom, and
watched him emerge several times. “During one such trip, Amanda heard a
noise like ’silverware shatter,’ and while Cromwell and Stephanie were
in the bedroom, she heard noises that made her think Stephanie was
hurt,” the unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court reads. “She then heard
a ‘big bang’ that sounded like a television dropping to the floor.”
Around 2 a.m., Ella and a female
friend returned to her apartment where Cromwell attacked them both. He
ran from the apartment being chased by Ella. When Amanda saw her mother
chase Cromwell from the apartment and the friend, lying on the floor
with massive head trauma, she and her younger sister went to look for
They found her in her mother’s bedroom, a blanket covered her unclothed
body from the waist down and the television set was resting on her head.
The two girls removed the set then ran to get help from the landlord
When police arrived, they found
Stephanie’s bloody and bruised body. She had “visible wounds on her face
and blood coming out of her nose and lips and out of her mouth.” The
bedding was also blood-stained.
The responding officer checked to
see if Stephanie was breathing and if she had a pulse, feeling a weak
pulse in her neck. He also felt her chest rising, indicating that she
was breathing. Visible evidence of severe vaginal trauma indicated that
Stephanie also had been sexually abused.
She stopped breathing by the time
paramedics arrived. The EMTs saw that she had suffered a massive head
wound and at least 11 stab wounds to her back.
She was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. The
medical examiner performed an autopsy on Stephanie’s body. Based on the
injuries, he determined Stephanie had received a minimum of five blows
to the head and thirteen stab wounds to the back.
Cromwell was quickly arrested,
indicted, and tried. He was convicted in February 2003 and sentenced to
During his appeal, he claimed that
the trial judge erred when he refused to allow Cromwell to fire his
court appointed attorney. Apparently he felt the attorney didn’t have
his best interests at heart.
The attorney “has no intention of
defending me zealously,” Cromwell said. “He has much said in court and
on the record that there would be a guilt phase during the trial and he
quickly corrected himself in front of you last time I was here, but (he)
said no uncertain terms that not only would I be found guilty, but I
will die. Those were his exact words to me.”
The court found that the attorney
was fulfilling his responsibilities and refused to replace him.
That decision was upheld on appeal.
Robert Louis Cromwell