Plea deal allows convicted AZ killer to walk free after 37 years - CBS 5 - KPHO

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Plea deal allows convicted AZ killer to walk free after 37 years

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(Courtesy of Arizona Dept. of Corrections)  Bill Macumber was convicted in the 1962 shooting deaths of two people in Scottsdale. (Courtesy of Arizona Dept. of Corrections) Bill Macumber was convicted in the 1962 shooting deaths of two people in Scottsdale.

A judge has accepted a change of plea that released a man who has spent nearly four decades in prison for the deaths of two people in a Phoenix suburb.

Bill Macumber was convicted in the 1962 shooting deaths of Joyce Sterrenberg and Tim McKillop in the open desert of north Scottsdale, but he has maintained his innocence. [View Macumber's DOC profile]

Macumber pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree murder Wednesday in Maricopa County Superior Court under an agreement with prosecutors and received a sentence of time served and walked free for the first time in 37 years.

The crime was unsolved until a Maricopa Sheriff's clerk told deputies Macumber confessed to the crime.

During his trial, county prosecutors said Macumber's palm print and bullet casings from his gun were found at the crime scene.

Macumber, who had no prior criminal record and was the father of three young boys, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The Justice Project has been advocating for his release in recent years, saying no DNA evidence links Macumber to the crimes and that another man had confessed to the killings. However, one of the victim's cousins said he is upset over the release. [Read Justice Project profile on the case]

"How do you take a blow in your stomach? How do you describe that? We know he's guilty. We know in our hearts that man killed those two young people," said cousin John McCluskey.

The state's clemency board had recommended Gov. Jan Brewer reduce Macumber's life sentence in 2009, but she denied that. When Macumber's case came before the board again earlier this year, it did not recommend commutation.

Macumber is 77 years old.

Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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