A man who burned his 2 1 /2-year-old daughter to death in 1999 will stay on death row for now after a judge determined Wednesday he is not mentally retarded.
Shawn Grell, 29, of Phoenix received a second chance at avoiding the death penalty when the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in April 2003 that he didn’t have the opportunity at his 2001 capital sentencing to adequately prove he is mentally retarded.
The state Supreme Court ordered the new sentencing in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the execution of the mentally retarded.
In her ruling Wednesday, Judge Barbara Jarrett of Maricopa County Superior Court found that although Grell has a low IQ, his "adaptive behavior" wasn’t impaired, meaning he functioned socially and with the independence expected for someone his age.
Jarrett said the only doctors to diagnose Grell as retarded were two hired by the defense.
The case returns to the Arizona Supreme Court to move through the appeals process.
On Dec. 2, 1999, Grell picked up Kristen Salem from day care.
He then went to a store, bought a gas can and gas and took her to a remote area east of Mesa where he set her in a drainage ditch, poured the gas on her and set her on fire.
Jarrett found him guilty of first-degree murder in a nonjury trial in 2001.