On Nov. 7, 1974 Kelly Kardell and Jeffrey Schlosser, both 12 years old, were found shot at a Tempe apartment complex. The boys were found stripped naked and shot in the head, execution style. It was a crime that shocked Tempe and Arizona.
Soon after discovering the boy’s bodies at 5 a.m., Tempe Police focused their attention on 30-year-old John Richard Hatton. According to court records, Hatton was seen with the two boys at approximately 1:30 a.m. near the scene of the crime. Their time of death was estimated at between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. At approximately 1:45 a.m. Hatton “was seen entering and leaving his apartment carrying a bundle which could have been clothing.”
After police questioning, Hatton fled Arizona.
According to a Nov. 17, 1975 Scottsdale Progress newspaper story, Hatton was arrested for the murders in Florida on Dec. 28, 1974.
Following a lengthy trial Hatton was found guilty of both murders. But instead of being sentenced to death or giving him two life terms to be served consecutively, the judge sentenced him to what amounted to a single life sentence that allowed parole after twenty-five years.
Last Monday was Hatton’s 14th parole hearing before the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency.
After serving 38 years behind bars, there was a chance he’d be set free.
The board notified Tempe police of Hatton’s upcoming hearing. The detectives who worked the case had long ago retired. The department responded to the board’s notice.
In an April 16 letter to the board, police outlined the heinous nature of the crime and Hatton’s lack of remorse. The one family member Tempe police officers were able to locate told them, “Hatton deserves no clemency and should remain in prison for the remainder of his life.”
Unfortunately it takes more than the sentiments of a surviving family member to keep someone locked up forever. In Hatton’s case it was necessary to demonstrate to the board he presented a continuing danger to the community.
Police officials then located the retired Tempe officers who investigated the murders decades ago. Investigating officers, including Sgt. Bob Hanna and Lt. Mike Wilkins, were told of the hearing and Hatton’s potential release.
The retired lawmen then took it upon themselves to re-read hundreds of pages of old case files, review evidence and talked back and forth about the case that consumed their lives so long ago. They were going to the hearing to represent the murdered boys, their families, the people of Tempe and the State of Arizona at Hatton’s parole hearing.
According to Wilkins it was their “duty” to get involved and do all he could to insure Hatton stayed behind bars. Wilkins who once oversaw criminal investigations at the Arizona Department of Corrections, the agency that confines Hatton, knew all too well what could happen if this “kid killer” was ever set free.
Retired Tempe officers testified at the hearing in precise detail about how Hatton committed the murders while making it very clear to the board the danger Hatton undoubtedly still presents to the community. Sgt. Hanna, a former street cop with a statewide reputation for toughness and diligence, told me his testimony went into great detail about the dangers Hatton presented.
Retired Deputy County Attorney George Mount, who prosecuted Hatton in 1975, also presented testimony as to why this double murderer should not be released into society.
In the end the board voted 5-0. There would be no parole and clemency.
Hatton got his clemency almost 40 years ago when the judge didn’t sentence him to the gas chamber.
Unfortunately Hatton will be up for parole again in six more months.
We all owe a debt of thanks to those law enforcement officers from the Tempe Police Department and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office who did so much for us years ago and for what they did for us this week.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org