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Todd Lee SMITH





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: August 1, 1995
Date of birth: December 23, 1960
Victims profile: Joe Tannehill, 72, and Elaine Tannehill, 73
Method of murder: Cutting their throats
Location: Coconino County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 24, 1997

Supreme Court of Arizona


opinion CR-97-0389-AP


Date of Birth: December 23, 1960
Defendant: Caucasian
Victim: Caucasian

On August 1, 1995, Smith robbed and killed 72-year-old Joe Tannehill and Mr. Tannehill's 73-year old wife, Elaine in their trailer at a campsite in Coconino County.

Smith bludgeoned them repeatedly with a gun, then slit their throats before leaving with a television set, seven necklaces, and approximately $130 in change.

The victims let Smith in their trailer because he had wrapped a shirt around his hand to make it look like he had cut himself.


    Presiding Judge: Honorable H. Jeffrey Coker
    Prosecutor: Camille Bibles
    Start of Trial: March 31, 1997
    Verdict: April 24, 1997
    Sentencing: September 24, 1997

Aggravating Circumstances:

    Multiple murders
    Victims over age 70
    Pecuniary gain

Mitigating Circumstances:

    No statutory mitigating circumstances
    Impaired mental capacity
    Lack of prior criminal history
    Family support
    Long-term addiction to drugs and alcohol
    Cooperation with law enforcement
    Behavioral and personality disorders
    New-found religious beliefs
    Dysfunctional family background
    Controlled conduct during court hearings


State v. Smith, 193 Ariz. 452, 974 P.2d 431 (1999)



State v. Todd Lee Smith, 193 Ariz. 452, 974 P.2d 431 (1999)


The defendant was convicted in Superior Court (Coconino) of two counts of first-degree murder, both felony and premeditated murder for each count, armed robbery and first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to death for the murder convictions, and to consecutive eighteen-year sentences for the noncapital crimes. This is his automatic, direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.


(F)(5) (Pecuniary Gain) - UPHELD
It is undisputed that the defendant went to the victims' trailer to rob. He had no money and no job. He was armed with a knife and a gun. He attacked the victims, stole their property, beat them and slit their throats. His desire for pecuniary gain infected all his other conduct, and he killed the victims when he believed that they were resisting his efforts to rob them. The defendant argued that his only motive was to rob and that he killed the victims only after they attempted to resist him, and that this aggravator should not apply in this situation. He cited no authority for that proposition and the Court rejected it.

(F)(6) (Heinous, Cruel or Depraved) - UPHELD

Cruel: Upheld (as to Mrs. Tannehill). The trial court found that the state had proven cruelty beyond a reasonable doubt for Mrs. Tannehill, but not for Mr. Tannehill. The Court here agrees with that ruling. The evidence did not establish that Mr. Tannehill was conscious after the initial blows to his head. A surgically implanted plastic plate in Mr. Tannehill's head was shattered in the attack, but the medical examiner could not pinpoint when during the attack this would have occurred. It could have happened with the first blow, rendering the victim unconscious or killing him outright. This victim did not have any defensive wounds. Thus, there was insufficient evidence to prove cruelty for Mr. Tannehill. However, there was sufficient evidence to prove cruelty for Mrs. Tannehill. The defendant stated that he only knocked her down initially. She had defensive wounds indicating that she was alive during the attack and had the opportunity to fear for her life and her disabled husband's life. She would have watched as her elderly husband tried to defend them by grabbing at the defendant's gun. She would have seen the defendant beat her husband with the gun before she herself was beaten. The defendant himself stated that he beat her again when he saw her getting up from the first beating. Cruelty can be found where the victim experiences mental anguish over the uncertainty of her own fate, and where a victim witnesses the killing of a family member before she herself is killed.

Heinous or Depraved: Not addressed

(F)(8) (Multiple Homicides) - UPHELD
The defendant did not challenge the trial court's (F)(8) finding. The defendant killed two people at the same time and in the same location.

(F)(9) (Victim Seventy or More Years of Age) - UPHELD
The defendant argued that this aggravating circumstance is unconstitutional because it considers whom the victim killed as opposed to the propensities of the defendant. However, the defendant cited no authority to support this proposition. The Court found the age of the victim to have a rational basis, and therefore, is an appropriate aggravating circumstance. By adopting the (F)(9) circumstance, the legislature determined that the young and the old are especially vulnerable, should be protected, and their murders are more abhorrent than other first-degree murders. This information is relevant to the propensities of the defendant because those who prey on the very young or the very old are more dangerous to society than other murderers. The defendant does not dispute the finding that both victims were more than seventy years old.


The Court found that the following mitigating circumstances existed, but were not sufficiently substantial to call for leniency:

Mental impairment [not "significant" impairment]
Behavioral and personality disorders
Long-term effect of head injuries
Chronic substance abuse
[long-term addiction]
Lack of criminal history
Cooperation with law enforcement
Family ties
[love for his son]
Good conduct in court hearings
Newfound religious beliefs

The Court found that the defendant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of the following mitigating circumstance:

(G)(1) - Significant Impairment - [Mental or Alcohol/Drugs]

JUDGMENT: Convictions and sentences affirmed.


Todd Lee Smith



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