Waddell Buddhist temple shooting

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Waddell Buddhist temple shooting
LocationWaddell, Arizona, United States
DateAugust 9–10, 1991
Attack type
Mass shooting, mass murder, robbery
  • Johnathan Doody
  • Allessandro Garcia

In the early hours of August 10, 1991, a mass shooting occurred at Thai Buddhist temple Wat Promkunaram (Thai: วัดพรหมคุณาราม; RTGSWat Phrom Khunaram) in Waddell, Arizona, killing nine people. It was the deadliest mass shooting in Arizona history.[1]


The shooting happened at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist temple during the early hours of August 10.[2] The victims were all linked to the temple and either Thais or of Thai descent: Pairuch Kanthong, the abbot; five monks, Surichai Anuttaro, Boochuay Chaiyarach, Chalerm Chantapim, Siang Ginggaeo, and Somsak Sopha; a nun, Foy Sripanpasert; her nephew, Matthew Miller, who was a novice monk; and a temple employee, Chirasak Chirapong.[3] Their bodies were found on August 10, 1991,[4][5] by a cook who entered the temple.[6]

The victims were shot in the back of the head and placed face down in a circle.[7]


Initial arrests[edit]

After the shooting, four men from Tucson, identified as Leo Bruce, Mark Nunez, Dante Parker, and Victor Zerate, were arrested. Mike McGraw, a patient in a mental hospital in Tucson, had called sheriff's investigators in Maricopa County, saying he knew who did it and providing names.[8]

The four people were interrogated, one for nearly 13 hours, and three confessed in writing following the interrogation.[6] One of the suspects, Zerate, maintained his innocence and was later released, after video evidence showed him working at a dog racing operation hundreds of miles away at the time of the murder.[9]

It was later discovered that the murder weapon did not belong to any of the four suspects.[8] Charges against the four, later dubbed the "Tucson Four" by the media,[10] were dropped, resulting in a major controversy over the investigation.[2]

Later arrests[edit]

Police found the murder weapon, a .22-caliber rifle belonging to a 16-year-old, in the car of a friend of 17-year-old Johnathan Doody, an ethnic Thai born in Nakon Nayok in Thailand.[11] That led the investigation to Doody and 16-year-old Allessandro Garcia (born June 12, 1975).[12] According to Garcia, he and Doody went with the .22-caliber rifle and his 20-gauge shotgun to the temple and robbed it of approximately $2,600 and some A/V equipment. Garcia claimed that Doody panicked, thinking that one of the monks had recognized him as a brother of a temple-goer, then shot all of the victims in the head with the rifle, while Garcia shot four of them again in the torso with the shotgun.[3][13] According to Garcia, the crime had been planned and leaving no witnesses was part of it.[13]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Both men were charged with the crime of armed robbery and first-degree murder. Garcia pleaded guilty in 1993 to avoid the death penalty,[14] and was sentenced to 271 years in prison.[8] Doody was convicted in 1994,[14] and sentenced to 281 years in prison.[8]

Doody's attorneys later appealed, claiming Doody's father had not been present during the interrogation, and that Doody's confession was not voluntary because authorities improperly administered the Miranda warning.[8]

Doody's conviction was overturned in 2008 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and again in 2011.[3] Doody's second trial resulted in a mistrial in 2013.[4]

The third trial concluded in January 2014 and found Doody guilty on all counts, including the nine murders. The jury based its findings on Garcia's testimony and circumstantial evidence. Doody was sentenced to 281 years in prison.[15] Jonathan Doody was imprisoned at the Arizona State Prison Complex – Florence.[16] [a]

Controversy over investigation[edit]

The investigation process into the murders is now viewed as botched.[17]

Tucson Four[edit]

The initial arrests of the Tucson Four have generated controversy over how the investigation was conducted.[18]

Initial suspect McGraw, while offering tantalizing details on the shooting for months,[19] was later found to be unreliable, as he had a history of making outlandish claims while he was in prison in 1988. The investigators, despite little evidence that linked McGraw the others anywhere near the crime scene at the time of the crime, deemed McGraw a reliable witness because they believed he was hospitalized as a psychiatric patient out of suicidal guilt over the killings.[20]

It was also discovered that the investigation was beginning to focus on Doody and Garcia, following the discovery of the murder weapon. But that part of the investigation stopped after McGraw's phone call led to the Tucson Four's arrest – the actual murder weapon sat in a detective's office for weeks before being tested.[8]

Eventually, it was discovered that the men were coerced into confessing,[21] with investigators extracting false confessions by exaggerating evidence, badgering them with leading questions, and threatening the death penalty.[18] A homicide chief for Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at the time said the interrogators hammered on the suspects until their will was broken, and that "after a while, they were willing to say anything."[8]

The initial suspects, excluding McGraw, later filed lawsuits against Maricopa County, and in 1994, Bruce and Nunez received $1.1 million each, while Parker received $240,000.[8]


Interrogation techniques similar to those used on the Tucson Four were also used against Doody and Garcia,[8] and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Doody's confession was illegally coerced.[8] Gary L. Stuart, a lawyer with deep knowledge of the case, said Doody's confession never should have stood up in court.[8]


The investigation led to public outrage over then Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos. It eventually turned into a campaign issue when Joe Arpaio, who was a former DEA agent at the time, campaigned on a promise to restore credibility to the office. Agnos was eventually defeated by Arpaio in the November 1992 general election.[18][17][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doody was not eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the murders.[6] Execution of anyone for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18 was held to be unconstitutional in 2005 with the Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons. At the time of Doody and Garcia's original conviction, controlling case law was still Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), which allowed the execution of perpetrators over the age of 16 if they committed a capital offense.


  1. ^ Vandell, Perry (August 20, 2018). "27 years later, Waddell Buddhist temple commemorates victims of 1991 temple massacre". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Philip (December 11, 1991). "The Sheriff's Suspects". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Michael Kiefer (January 23, 2014). "Jurors find Johnathan Doody guilty in Buddhist temple massacre". azcentral/ The Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Laurie Merrill, Miguel Otarola (October 24, 2013). "Judge declares mistrial in temple killings retrial of Johnathan Doody". azcentral/ The Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  5. ^ Teen-ager convicted in Buddhist temple massacre, The Day (July 13, 1993).
  6. ^ a b c Enea, Joe (August 8, 2016). "Old Time Crime: Two teenagers held responsible for a mass murder that caused international outrage". KNXV-TV. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  7. ^ "Johnathan Doody who killed nine people, including six monks and a nun at a Phoenix temple gets 249 years in prison". News.com.au. Associated Press. March 15, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hermann, William (August 14, 2011). "Valley Buddhist temple massacre has had lasting impact". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  9. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 121.
  10. ^ Gary L. Stuart (12 July 2017). "Innocent Until Interrogated". The University of Arizona Press. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  11. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 258.
  12. ^ Profile – Allessandro Garcia, MUGSHOTS.COM. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Laughlin Laura (January 7, 1993). "Youth Pleads Guilty to Buddhist Massacre : Murder: He agrees to testify against accomplice in deal that spares him the death penalty. Slayings in Phoenix temple had been well-planned". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Egeland, Alexis (August 6, 2016). "On the 25th anniversary of infamous Buddhist temple murders, community honors victims". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  15. ^ David Schwartz (March 14, 2014). "Arizona man gets nine life terms for Buddhist temple murders". Reuters. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  16. ^ "Inmate Datasearch". 2014-04-12.
  17. ^ a b Montini, EJ (August 8, 2016). "Montini: Arpaio tweets a reminder about how a mass murder made him sheriff". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  18. ^ a b c Sahagun, Louis (February 13, 1993). "Arizona Murder Probes Put Wrong Men Behind Bars : Crime: Experts say the interrogation techniques used show how the innocent can be pushed into confessions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  19. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 120.
  20. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 122.
  21. ^ Smith, Kim (December 21, 2004). "Ex-sheriff Agnos commits suicide". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  22. ^ "Penzone wins Maricopa County Sheriff race; Arpaio loses bid for 7th term". KSAZ-TV. Associated Press. November 8, 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2020.

Coordinates: 33°31′50″N 112°25′47″W / 33.53064°N 112.42979°W / 33.53064; -112.42979