December 15, 1985
Three men break into the house of Fred Harmon (88), beat him, stuff him in a deep freezer, and leave him to die
Terry Wilson (20), Robert Walls (20), and Tommy Thomas (18) met each other in a St. Louis, Missouri halfway house while awaiting parole for various offenses. The trio walked away from the facility and decided to steal money and a car to aid in their escape. Wilson mentioned he used to work as a handyman for Harmon who lived in Maplewood about 8 miles (13 km) away.
The events after the escape differed between accounts. According to Walls, Wilson and Thomas broke into Harmon’s house while Walls remained outside. He later entered the home from a side door to find Thomas kicking Harmon in the head with the toe of his boot. According to Wilson, he helped lift Walls into a window before Walls let Thomas in through a door. The group then wrapped a sheet over Harmon’s head as he slept and Walls beat him with a roll of duct tape.
At some point, Harmon recognized Wilson and said the group could take whatever they wanted. The three men restrained Harmon using neckties instead. They opened a large deep freezer unit and shoved Harmon in head-first. Harmon reportedly told the group, “I’m already dead, let me die,” before they closed the lid to the freezer. To ensure Harmon could not free himself, several heavy objects including a chair, television, and typewriter were placed on the lid. The men also turned on the burners of Harmon’s gas stove and extinguished the pilot lights, hoping the leaking gas would lead to an explosion. The group stole approximately $100 in cash as well as Harmon’s car and fled the state.
I’m already dead, let me die.Fred Harmon
Harmon’s neighbors became concerned when they had not seen him in a few days and called police on December 19. Responding officers noted a disturbance in the home — including blood on the walls and bed, and the telephone cord ripped from the wall — and searched the home for Harmon. Four hours later, they found his nude, frozen body which had been covered with a sheet. Harmon’s autopsy revealed he had died of blunt force trauma (specifically, trauma to his head and limbs, broken ribs, a bruised spleen, and a head injury which had separated his scalp from his skull), oxygen deprivation, and hypothermia. The medical examiner conducting the autopsy estimated Harmon had been in the freezer for up to an hour before he died from either hypothermia or suffocation.
Walls was arrested on an unrelated burglary charge in Santa Monica, California, roughly 1800 miles or 2900 km from Harmon’s home. He confessed he and two others had robbed Harmon, but stated he was only interested in stealing the car. “My goal was never to kill this man,” Walls said. “I told them, ‘Don’t do it. Leave him alone.’”
Walls’ accomplices were soon arrested and charged as well. Thomas pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, robbery, and burglary and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Wilson was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life term. Walls was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, and also received consecutive terms of life and 30 years for first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, respectively.
Walls was executed on June 30, 1999. Just before his lethal injection, Walls stated, “I’m sorry for the victim’s family. I love my family and will miss them. I hold nothing on anybody over this. Goodbye.”
“Missouri Executes Convicted Killer.” Associated Press. June 30, 1999. https://apnews.com/article/974f1e62603fd85364b1fc64c176b071
WALLS v. BOWERSOX. 151 F.3d 827. No’s. 97-1936, 97-1978. August 6, 1998 (archived: https://www.casemine.com/judgement/us/59148078add7b04934473d72)
State of Missouri v. Robert Allen Walls. 744 S.W.2d 791 (Mo. banc 1988) (archived: https://missourideathrow.com/2008/12/walls_robert/)
State v. Wilson. 755 S.W.2d 707 (1988). STATE of Missouri, Respondent, v. Terry Edward WILSON, Appellant. No. 53257. Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, Division Five. July 26, 1988 (archived: https://law.justia.com/cases/missouri/court-of-appeals/1988/53257-0.html)
“Man sentenced to death after aged victim freezes.” The News-Leader [Springfield, Missouri]. December 20, 1986
“Death Urged.” The Daily Breeze. November 9, 1986
Rose, Louis J. “Officer Tells Of Finding Victims’ Body In Freezer.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch. November 6, 1986
“3 accused of murder in freezer.” The Daily Dispatch [Moline, Illinois]. March 15, 1986