In the 1990s, a billionaire real estate developer from Tucson, Arizona left an upscale country club and got into his Lincoln Town Car. Just moments later, a bomb exploded, causing his immediate death. This story involves secrets, blackmail, conspiracy to commit murder, and a motive to obtain a hefty life insurance policy. While this may sound like a synopsis of a Hollywood film, it’s actually the true and tragic story of Gary Triano.
From Riches to Bankruptcy
Gary Lee Triano was born on November 6, 1943, and was a long-time resident of Tucson, Arizona. He attended Rincon High School and later earned a degree in accounting from the University of Arizona. Gary also attended the University of Arizona law school.
He was married twice and had a partner at the time of his death, Robin Gardner. His first wife was Mary Cram, with whom he had two children together, Heather and Brian. He married his second wife, Pamela Phillips, in San Diego, California on October 4, 1986. The couple had two children together during their marriage, Trevor and Lois. The couple went through a bitter divorce in 1993.
While Gary Triano was once living the life of luxury.
His ex-wife Pamela moved to Aspen, Colorado with the couple’s two children soon after.
It was the afternoon of November 1, 1996, and Gary had just finished a round of golf at the La Paloma Country Club, located in the Catalina Foothills of Arizona. He planned to drive home in a Lincoln Town Car that he had borrowed. At home, his friends and family were waiting to surprise him with a party for his 53rd birthday which was later that week.
When Gary got into the vehicle, he spotted a blue bag on the passenger seat. As he looked inside the bag, a nearby remote control detonated the bomb that was concealed, killing Gary instantly.
The heat from the explosion had melted Gary’s clothing onto his body. His abdomen had also been split, causing severe injury to his liver. Parts of his right hand were brought to examiners in a separate bag and only a stump was left behind. The sheer force of the explosion also caused parts of the car to fly more than 100 years away.
Within just a few short weeks after Gary’s death, authorities set their sights on his ex-wife, Pamela Phillips. Police discovered that she had taken out a $2 million life insurance policy on Gary just before his death with the couple’s two children being the beneficiaries of the policy.
However, since the children were underage, the policy was paid out to Pamela in 1997.
Evidence also pointed to Ronald Young, a small-time criminal who was known by police. Ronald had allegedly developed a relationship with Pamela while she was living in Aspen and authorities believed that she had hired Ronald as a hitman to kill her ex-husband so that she could collect the insurance money. In return, Pamela promised Ronald $400,000.
Shortly before the bombing occurred, a van that Ronald had rented was discovered abandoned in Yorba Linda, California. Inside the van were several documents pertaining to Pamela and Gary’s divorce, as well as a sawed-off shotgun and a map of Tucson. As Pamela was living in Aspen at the time of Gary’s death, police also considered the possibility of a mob hit against Gary.
Investigation Stalled for Nine Years
On November 19, 2005, the Gary Triano story was told on an episode of America’s Most Wanted. The episode profiled Ronald Young who was still wanted by authorities for embezzlement and forgery. Just two days after the episode aired, Ronald was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Ronald served a 10-month prison sentence for weapon possession and was then extradited to Aspen.
After Ronald’s arrest, investigators began looking into email correspondences and phone calls made between Ronald and Pamela in regard to Gary’s murder. Police discovered that Pamela had paid Ronald large sums of money around the time of Gary’s death, which led authorities to believe that he was a paid hitman. In 2008, both Pamela and Ronald were arrested for conspiracy and murder.
Charges and Sentencing
Ronald Young stood trial for the murder of Gary Triano in 2010. He was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder by a jury. The judge sentenced him to two life terms without parole. Pamela did not face her conviction and sentencing until 2014, nearly 18 years after she had hired Ronald Young to murder her ex-husband, Gary Triano.
During her trial, the one-time socialite proclaimed her innocence before being sentenced to spend the rest of her “natural life” in prison without the possibility of parole.
The defense team argued that Pamela and Ronald were innocent of the crime. They claimed that there was a criminal conspiracy of organized crime figures who had killed Gary over debts he owed. The defense team also cited information from FBI records dating from 1996 to 1997, including data that alleged that Gary had ties with the mob. However, the jury was not convinced and returned a guilty verdict in less than three days after listening to seven weeks of testimony.
Today, both Ronald Young and Pamela Phillips reside in Arizona Department of Corrections facilities. Ronald is at a facility in Tucson, while Pamela is at the Perryville complex in Goodyear. Pamela has always claimed her innocence in the murder, including telling the jurors after her conviction that she had no hand in the murder of Gary Triano.