Death Row Inmate Dies Of Natural Causes At Age 94

PHOENIX (AP) -- Deaf, nearly blind, confined to a wheelchair and suffering from dementia and mental illness, the oldest death row inmate in the United States has died of natural causes at age 94.

Viva Leroy Nash died late Friday at the state's prison complex in Florence, said an Arizona Department of Corrections spokesman.

Nash was still officially on death row, but spokesman Barrett Marson said Sunday he did not know if Nash died in his cell or in a medical facility at the prison.

Nash had been imprisoned almost continuously since he was 15, said one of his appellate attorneys, Thomas Phalen. In many ways, Nash was a throwback to the Old West, using words like "bushwhacked" in conversation that had long been lost from everyday use.

"He was born in 1915 and he was sent to prison in 1930," Phalen said. "Think about it - he had 15 years of life in southern Utah, at a time when Utah and Arizona was the wild, wild West - and he went to prison in 1930, and he remained in prison for the next 80 years, more or less."

Nash had suffered a series of heart attacks, the most recent early this month. His jailers recently removed him from the death row cell block on their own initiative because he was so mentally unfit, Phalen said.

At the time of Nash's death, state prosecutors were appealing a federal appeals court ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court that concluded he might not be competent, Phalen said.

Phalen said his research shows that Nash grew up in southern Utah and was sent to the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., in 1930 for an armed robbery.

In 1977 Nash was sentenced to life for having murdered postal carrier David J. Woodhurst, but escaped from a prison work crew in 1982 where soon after he went into a coin shop in Phoenix, Arizona, and shot an employee dead.

He was sentenced to death in 1983.


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  • by Upset Location: Eastern NC on Feb 15, 2010 at 09:23 PM
    How mean you people are! Poor, old, blind, dementia, bad heart and still on death row....that is just terrible. YEAH RIGHT......He should have died years ago. All of you that are so upset are probably the same ones so upset about the dead horse with the blue tarp over his head. Get a life and let those that take the lives of others get a needle in their vein but, when they stick the needle in, please make sure it is a clean needle because we would not want these convicted criminals to catch anything just before they die.
  • by sd Location: wv on Feb 15, 2010 at 06:09 PM
    On death row for 27 years??? What the heck took so long????!!!
  • by ED Location: KISTNER on Feb 15, 2010 at 05:53 PM
    To Braun, It is liberal attitudes toward murderers, like yours that put many ANIMALS like this "dear old man" back out on the streets to kill innocent HUMAN BEINGS.
  • by sue Location: greenville on Feb 15, 2010 at 04:50 PM
    to Braun: if you call a murder a human being you're nuts. He was a monster, not human at all. To bad he didn't die younger and save us tax payers some money.
  • by James Location: Creswell on Feb 15, 2010 at 03:49 PM
    GOOD !!!!!!!!!!!!
  • by Braun Location: Near the old Ziggie's on Feb 15, 2010 at 03:48 PM
    Oh! OH! You people are horribly INSENSITIVE to this dear old man's plight in prison! How can you be so BRUTAL and UNFEELING? Oh! It's just OUTRAGEOUS! OH! This man was a HUMAN BEING, and he needed LOVE just like we all do. My partner Dirk and I are FURIOUS at the uncaring attitudes displayed by you people! Oh! How can you TREAT a PERSON like that? He was a HUMAN BEING, people! Oh! OH!
  • by Anonymous on Feb 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM
    Tax money is all you people talk about. I can assure you that we are paying tax money for some of your family members also.
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Feb 15, 2010 at 12:04 PM
    Thank God, the state won't have to spend another of my tax dollars to keep this one up. A quick trip to the gas chamber all those years ago would have saved a lot of tax dollars.
  • by Deathpenaltysupported Location: nc on Feb 15, 2010 at 11:41 AM
    Braun-why should this guy be paroled? He most likely has no family or relatives that are living, so that means he would have to go to a nursing home. Which means guess what-the state will continue to pay for him! Yes a person should be given the benefit of a doubt to the fullest extent of the law, by no means should an innocent person go to death row. Read these peoples comments, he was a BAD man. Yes it is cruel that he was 94 years old and feeble, but I guess the saying goes, "if you CANT do the time, DONT do the crime" Maybe this will be of some inspiration to all of those thug wanna be's. I say bring back the OLD form of punishment and abolish the new way. Whats the point of going to prision if you get 3 square meals, a free education, and cable television?
  • by fed up Location: gvll on Feb 15, 2010 at 09:24 AM
    Jethro i'm with you! I think instead of all of these criminals being releases on bond, and getting out early because of over crowded prisons now, go back to what the BIBLE says eye for an eye. start not only giving stiff convictions but enforcing the law to the fullest and cutting off fingers or hands for roberies and other body parts for rape and child porn, it would teach people lessons and stop some of this unruly behavior. RIGHT IS RIGHT AND WRONG IS WRONG, i do not think in the court room or prisons there should be any grey. they came form a broken home, 90% of children now come from a broken home, does that give them the right to break the law. NO, This poor man if he had commited the crimes he did even 50 years later he would have already been out of jail.
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