Charles Rumbaugh

Victim: Michael Fiorillo, 58

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: April 4, 1975

Crime location: Amarillo, TX

Crimes: Armed robbery & murder

Weapon: Pistol

Murder method: Gunshots

Murder motivation: Robbery

Sentence: Death

Incarceration status: Executed in 1985


Rumbaugh, a recidivist violent offender, murdered jewelry store owner Michael Fiorello during an armed robbery. He was arrested the next day and pulled a gun on an officer. Later, in December 1975, Rumbaugh and two other inmates escaped from the Potter County Jail. When a girlfriend of one of the escapees was found not to have a driver’s license during a routine traffic stop, Rumbaugh and his partners in crime were taken to a courthouse. There, Rumbaugh and his fellow escapees overpowered an officer and took his gun but were stopped by another officer.

Rumbaugh was convicted and sentenced to death in 1976. He later won a new trial, but the results were the same. In 1983, during a competency hearing, Rumbaugh lunged at a US Deputy Marshal with a makeshift weapon, but was shot and subdued. In 1985, Rumbaugh was executed.



Charles Rumbaugh, 28 years old, who was convicted as a teen-ager of robbing and killing an Amarillo jeweler, was executed by lethal injection early today in the Texas death chamber. The execution was the first in more than two decades for a crime committed by someone under the age of 18.

The planned execution had drawn protests from Amnesty International because Mr. Rumbaugh was only 17 when the crime occurred. The organization, which opposes capital punishment, had contended that the execution would violate international agreements, never ratified by the United States Senate, that bar the execution of people convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18.

Mr. Rumbaugh, who was the 48th person to be executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, was pronounced dead at 12:27 A.M., said Jim Mattox, the state Attorney General.

Jovial in Final Hours

Hours before the execution, Mr. Rumbaugh was ”cutting jokes and laughing” as he visited with friends and relatives in a cell a few feet from the death chamber, a corrections department spokesman, Sarah Grisham, said. He declined to eat lunch and ordered only a flour tortilla and glass of water for his final meal, she said.

Since it resumed executions in December 1982, Texas has executed nine prisoners, and more than 200 others have death sentences pending. Two face execution next month.

Among those on death row in Texas are eight other prisoners condemned to death for juvenile crimes.

Among Mr. Rumbaugh’s last visitors were his three sisters and a brother-in-law, but his mother, who was in the prison, decided not to visit her son, a spokesman said.

Mr. Rumbaugh, who spent most of his life in reform schools, mental institutions and jails, compared his nine years on death row to serving a life sentence.

”It’s all a game I’m tired of playing,” he said.

”I believe in reincarnation,” he said. ”Whatever I did in my previous life must have been pretty bad to deserve this. Maybe when I come back next time, I’ll have learned something.”

His trouble with the law began at age 6, when he and an older brother skipped school and broke into a building in their hometown of San Angelo. At 12, he committed his first armed robbery, using a tire tool to rob a gas station and making his escape on a stolen bicycle.

On April 4, 1975, he walked into a jewelery store owned by Michael Fiorello in Amarillo, pulled a pistol and demanded money. He and Mr. Fiorello struggled, and the jeweler was fatally shot.

”He was awfully young and he had some tough breaks in life,” said Tom Curtis, the former District Attorney who prosecuted Mr. Rumbaugh. ”But Chuckie is very violent, a really hardened killer and society has to protect itself.”

Charles Rumbaugh’s minor notoriety as a killer and criminal only came after he committed the murder that put him on Texas death row.

On April 4, 1975, Rumbaugh shot and killed an Amarillo jewelry store owner, fifty-eight-year-old Michael Fiorillo, during a robbery. When he was arrested the next day, he pulled a gun on the officer who pulled his own weapon and shot Rumbaugh in the right hand.

Rumbaugh, who was only seventeen-years-old at the time of his arrest, was charged with capital murder. A few days prior to the jewelry store robbery, he used two pistols to rob a motel in San Angelo and got away with $350.

His troubles with the law started long before he was seventeen. At age six, he committed his first burglary and at age twelve, his first armed robbery. He was in and out of mental institutions, county jails, and reform schools before he was arrested for murder.

In May, one month after his arrest, Rumbaugh tried to commit suicide with a razor blade. One month later, he tried again by taking an overdose of drugs. (His prison record doesn’t indicate whether these were prescription or illegal drugs smuggled into prison).

In December 1975, Rumbaugh and two other inmates escaped from the Potter County jail by cutting an eleven-inch by eleven-inch square hole out of piece of steel 3/8-inch thick. From the hole they had cut, they tied bed sheets together to drop themselves down to street level where a girlfriend to one of the other inmates was waiting with a car.

The car with all four of them in it was later stopped during a routine traffic check near Snyder, Texas, approximately 200 miles south of Amarillo. Since the girlfriend had forgotten to bring her driver’s license, all four were taken to the courthouse. There, the three boys overpowered the officer and took his gun. As they were leading him back to their car, another officer, who was arriving at the courthouse, saw what was going on and pulled his own weapon. The first officer then broke free and overpowered the escapee who had his gun.

Following a short trial in April 1976, the jury recommended the death sentence for Rumbaugh, in part, after listening to tape recorded conversations of him after his escape in which he called himself an assassin, and said he would have killed the officer in Snyder—if he had had the gun.

A few days later, during his formal sentencing given by the judge, Rumbaugh was being transported from the jail to the courthouse when he threatened to murder the judge, the district attorney, the bailiff, and his own attorney. Later that same day, they found he was carrying a metal strip seven-inches long and one and one-half inches wide.

In 1980, Rumbaugh won a new trial in which he was again found guilty and again sentenced to death.

During a February 1983, during a mental competency hearing, Rumbaugh was shot in the chest in the courtroom after he lunged at a US Deputy Marshal with a makeshift weapon (a six-inch pick made from wire) while screaming “Shoot me!” He survived after a long hospital stay that involved a chunk of his right lung being removed.

The hearing was called by the American with Civil Liberties Union who questioned Rumbaugh’s mental state for trying to hasten his own execution. The lunge at the US Marshall was an attempt to enforce his own execution, his biographer, D.J. Day Stubben, told reporters. Although she had been friends with the murdered jewelry store owner, she became fascinated with Rumbaugh and his troubled youth and wrote a book about him, #555 Death Row. The number, 555, was his assigned death row number. Stubben, who was married, denied having any romantic interest in Rumbaugh.

In the months leading up to his September 1985 execution, Amnesty International protested his death sentence because he committed the crime while still a juvenile.

On the eve of his September 11 lethal injection, Stubben told reporters that Rumbaugh’s execution was preordained. “He was destined to end up where he is tonight,” she said. “If he hadn’t killed Mr. Fiorillo, he would have ended up killing someone else.”

When asked if he had a last statement, the twenty-eight-year-old said: “D.J. (Stubben), Laurie, Dr. Wheat, about all I can say is goodbye, and for all the rest of you, although you don’t forgive me for my transgressions, I forgive yours against me. I am ready to begin my journey and that’s all I have to say.”

Michael Fiorillo would have been sixty-eight-years-old. He was a bachelor.