Ketchner gets death, plus 57 years

Darrell Ketchner

Darrell Ketchner

KINGMAN - Mohave County Superior Court Judge Rick Williams virtually eliminated any chance Darrell Bryant Ketchner will ever walk free again when he formally sentenced the convicted killer to death.

For good measure, Williams earlier this week tacked on 57 additional years.

The death sentence came as no surprise, as a jury on March 25 decided Ketchner should be executed for the brutal killing of 18-year-old Ariel Allison on July 4, 2009.

The 57 years the judge added to the death sentence regards the attempted murder of Ariel's mother, Jennifer Allison, three assault charges and a count of burglary.

According to testimony during the trial and a separate penalty phase, Ketchner, 55, and 38-year-old Jennifer Allison had a long but troubled relationship that produced three children.

Ariel Allison was Jennifer Allison's oldest child from a prior marriage. Jennifer Allison was widowed at 20 when her husband was killed in a traffic accident.

Jurors and Williams heard how Ketchner stabbed Ariel Allison

eight times in rapid succession.

She had intervened when Ketchner barged into the family's Pacific Avenue home and attacked her mother with a knife.

The blade ultimately pierced Ariel Allison's lungs and heart, but Allison, according to witnesses, lay dying when she heard Ketchner shoot her mother.

The shot came from Jennifer Allison's own pistol and the bullet entered the back of her head.

Jennifer Allison last month told the Miner she has "good days and bad days." She considers her survival divine intervention from God.

"He saved me so I could raise my children," she said at the time.

Jennifer Allison said she was pleased with the jury's decision to sentence Ketchner to death row.

She spent months in hospitals and then in an assisted living facility as she slowly healed.

Jennifer Allison will never fully recover. Her injuries, both physical and emotional, will linger for the rest of her life.

Ariel's tragic, brutal and too-soon death, however, is why she wants Ketchner executed.

Ketchner, who violated a protective order when he committed the crime, was captured the next day, passed out at Cerbat Cliffs Gold Course, still wearing the same blood-soaked clothes he wore the night before.

That Ketchner was guilty of murder and maiming wasn't an issue at trial. His defense attorneys sparred with prosecutor Megan McCoy over the issue of intent.

McCoy said the crime was premeditated. John Napper and David Shapiro argued Ketchner had not planned to kill anyone. The argument was pertinent as the outcome was the difference between a verdict of first-degree murder or second-degree murder, which would have taken the death penalty off the table.

During the penalty phase, Napper portrayed Ketchner as the son of an abusive father who taught him how it was OK to behave badly. Getting caught was the sin.

He was on his third stint in prison when the trial began in early March, but Ketchner's experience with incarceration is about to get less comfortable.

According to the Arizona Department of Corrections website, Death Row is in the Browning Unit just outside of Florence.

The following is a verbatim description of life on Death Row:

"All inmates are in single cells which are equipped with a toilet, sink, bed and mattress. Each Death Row inmate has no contact with any other inmate. Out-of-cell time is limited to outdoor exercise in a secured area, two hours a day, three times a week, and a shower, three times a week.

"All meals are delivered by correction officers at the cell front. Limited non-contact visitation is available. Death Row inmates may place two ten-minute telephone calls per week. Personal property is limited to hygiene items, two appliances, two books and writing materials, which can be purchased from the inmate commissary. Health care is provided at the Health Unit; medication is passed out at the cell front. Clergy contacts are provided at the cell."

Including Ketchner, 123 men and two women are now on Arizona's Death Row. The sentence of a third woman, Debra Milke, was overturned in March along with her murder conviction for hiring a man to kill her 4-year-old son in 1989.

A federal court has ordered a new trial in her case and the state has appealed the opinion.

Ketchner, like all Death Row inmates, will be afforded a lengthy and expensive appeals process. The average length of stay for an Arizona Death Row inmate, from conviction to execution, is 12 years. Maricopa County last year set aside $4 million just to fund death row appeals.

Thirty-four men have been executed in the state since 1992 after the federal government lifted a ban on the ultimate punishment in 1976. Five of them were executed last year, the last in December.

Ketchner is one of eight Death Row inmates convicted in Mohave County.

Executions are conducted in the Central Unit, which is in Florence.