73-year-old Phoenix man sentenced 32 years in murder of missing wife

  • In US
  • 2023-01-29 13:00:54Z
  • By AZCentral | The Arizona Republic
Derek Minor
Derek Minor  

An elderly Phoenix man will serve 32 years in prison for the murder of his estranged wife, possibly with a machete, after he was sentenced in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Derek Minor, 73, was found guilty by a jury on Nov. 17, of the second-degree murder of Cynthia Minor, 54, and of stealing Cynthia's car after the murder, which the prosecution said he used to flee the murder scene.

Cynthia was found dead on Sept. 6, wrapped in a quilt in the Phoenix apartment near Osborn Road and 24th Street that the two had shared. Her head had been brutally beaten while she lay in bed, according to court records.

During the trial, Maricopa County prosecutor Shaylee Beasley laid out the case against Minor, centering on a machete and a screwdriver found at the scene and his past conviction for the attempted murder of a previous girlfriend.

Minor's lawyer, David Cutrer, claimed that he was too old to have been able to commit the murder, that the relationship between Cynthia and Derek Minor had been loving, and that the car that Minor took belonged to both of them.

Minor pled not guilty at his arraignment in 2019 and maintained his innocence throughout his prosecution.

But, after an 11-day trial, the jury found him guilty of both counts and that the murder itself should be considered especially brutal and deserving of a stronger sentence.


Cynthia was reported missing on Sept. 6, 2018, and was found dead in her apartment on the 2300 block of East Flower Street later that day.

The prosecution alleged that Minor had fled the state after the murder and was trying to lease an apartment in California with a woman he considered his fiance.

In court, prosecutors cited Minor's prior conviction in Illinois of attempted first-degree murder of a prior girlfriend. They told jurors that Cynthia married Minor soon after meeting him and was likely unaware of his previous conviction.

When the relationship between the two fell apart, Cynthia tried to move out of their shared apartment.

Prosecutors argued that Cynthia had met with Minor in the afternoon of Sept. 5, 2019, at the apartment they used to share to talk about some money he owed her.

They alleged that Minor used a machete or a screwdriver to murder Cynthia since both were found in the bathroom of the apartment. Cynthia had been hit at least seven times on the head, blows so severe that investigators had to piece her skull back together. According to prosecutors, investigators could only confirm that she had been hit with a weapon but never clarified which one.

There were no other wounds on her body.

Investigators found Cynthia's blood and Minor's DNA on the screwdriver. They told the court that they believed that Minor tried to clean the weapons before fleeing in Cynthia's car.

Minor then drove to the Walmart to quit his job there and soon after drove out of town, according to court records.

Cynthia's daughter, Kourtney Williams, 14 at the time, reported her mother missing. Officers found Cynthia in the Flower Street apartment the next day.

Seven weeks after Cynthia was murdered, Minor was picked up in Los Angeles for sleeping in a city park and was soon extradited back to Phoenix, according to court records.


At sentencing, Cynthia's cousin, Sharrondarae Jones, spoke through tears, directly looking at Minor, asking him, "Who gave you the authority?"

Judge Steiner asked her to face her instead of Minor when making her statements, so she did and continued, "No one gave him that authority to take a life."

Cynthia's daughter, Williams, then 19, wrote a letter to the court, feeling too overwhelmed to speak in person.

"My mom was my best friend," she wrote, "We did everything together, and when she was killed it felt like my world was ripped away."

She asked Steiner to give Minor the maximum sentence.

Steiner had discretion to apply any of had three tiers of possible sentences, ranging from a minimum of 10 years in prison to a normal sentence of 16 years and up to a maximum of 25 years.

At neither trial nor sentencing did Minor speak at length. The only time the court heard his voice was when the judge asked if he had anything to say at sentencing.

"No," he said.

At the end of trial Minor's defense attorney, Cutrer, made it clear that Minor would maintain his innocence and planned to file for appeal. Curter said that presenting offsetting reasons to justify a lighter sentence or expressing remorse at sentencing could be taken as admitting guilt.

During sentencing, Steiner explained that the only mitigation or consideration she would make on his behalf at was his age. At sentencing, Minor was 73.

But the consideration of his age paled in comparison to the elements of the case that weighed in favor of a maximum sentence, according to Steiner.

"The crime in this case, to say the least, was egregious," she said. Then addressing Minor, she continued to talk about his lack of remorse and "the absolute horrific, horrific, treatment of a women who so very clearly loved and doted over you Mr. Minor."

Steiner said that she believed Minor could at that moment commit the same murder and added that she didn't know if in "25 years he couldn't do it again."

She sentenced minor to 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and another seven years for the car theft to be served after completing his murder sentence, for a total of 32 years.

"I can only hope that she did die immediately with one of those strikes. I can only imagine if she didn't the terror she must have felt, even a few seconds, waiting to stop breathing," Steiner said. "I can recognize the incredible emotional harm to this family, in particular to her daughter."

Why we are writing this

This reporting follows a crime The Republic began to cover in 2019 and is part of our commitment to tell the story from start to finish.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix man sentenced in wife's murder after fleeing to CA


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