Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Story of Tony Cimo

Revenge Tastes Sweet
by Robert A. Waters

“For four years,” wrote Art Harris in the Washington Post, “[Tony Cimo] lay awake nights, haunted by the shotgun murder of his parents, grocery store owners, whose killer, he heard, laughed from Death Row as the courts ordered new trials and appeals dragged on and on.  ‘I dreamed constantly about him laughing while my mother begged for her life,’ he reflects. ‘Plain as the TV, I kept seeing my mother and father lying in a pool of blood.’”

It went down on March 18, 1978 when Rudolph Tyner, holding a shotgun, walked into the store.  Carlton Davis drove the getaway car.  According to Tyner, he asked for money and Bill said, “No.”  Tyner pulled the trigger, killing Bill instantly.  Myrtie began to scream and Tyner blasted her.  Two lives for $200.

For many years, Myrtie and Bill Moon ran the small grocery store near Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina.  Bill, Tony’s step-father, a retired Air Force master sergeant and Vietnam veteran, was known for his generosity when people couldn’t afford to pay for their items.

Cimo’s sister alerted him of the robbery and he raced to the store.  “I looked over the counter and my mother and father were laying in a pool of blood,” he said.  “My mother had a hole in her chest big enough to stick my fist through.  I felt her pulse, but she didn’t have any.  Neither did my dad.  All I could feel was my own heart pounding.  The cash register was open.”

The distraught son picked up a spent shotgun shell that lay on the floor, and vowed vengeance then and there.

Vengeance, he thought, would come in the courts.  Sure enough, Tyner and Davis were quickly caught.  They were tried and Davis sentenced to life in prison while Tyner got the death penalty.  The killer went to death row and Myrtie and Bill’s children awaited his execution.

It didn’t happen.  A year after he was convicted, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the decision on a technicality.  It was then that Cimo realized that the state had not executed anyone since 1962, and even if Tyner received the death penalty again, it would be decades before he would be put to death.

Cimo then began looking for a prison hit-man.  He found South Carolina’s worst serial killer, five-foot-two-inch Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins, who was serving 900 years for 8 murders.  The two began to plot Tyner’s murder in long distance phone calls, some secretly recorded by Gaskins.

After a couple of misfires (poisoning Tyner didn’t work), Gaskins told Cimo to send him three sticks of dynamite and it would be done.

Harris wrote that Gaskins “[rigged] explosives to a cup, topping it with a radio speaker and telling Tyner he would be able to talk through it if he plugged it into an extension cord beneath their cells.  Tyner put his cup up to listen.  Gaskins plugged in the cord and virtually blew Tyner’s head off.”

Cimo was quickly caught.  In his confession, he stated he had no remorse for what he had done, and would do it again.  He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder and was sentenced to eight years in prison.  He was released on parole after serving two-and-a-half years.

As he left prison, he told reporters, “I don’t feel the good Lord holds nothing against me for this.”

Cimo died in 2001, at age 54.

Pee Wee Gaskins was tried, convicted, and received the death penalty for Tyner's murder.  In an irony of ironies, South Carolina started executing people again and in 1991, Gaskins went to the chair.  Like Cimo, he never expressed any remorse for killing Tyner.