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Jose Valenzuela is accused of the June 2015 murders of Tina and Michael Careccia. PCSO photo

Jose Valenzuela stands accused of two counts of first-degree murder for the June 21, 2015, shooting deaths of Tina and Michael Careccia.

The trial for Valenzuela, 40, is set to begin April 24, but both sides are scheduled to sit down for a Jan. 24 settlement conference in an attempt to work out a plea agreement. It is a death-penalty case. Pinal County Superior Judge Christopher J. O’Neil said Monday, during a status hearing, he had expectations that some orders may need to be entered to allow some witness interviews.

At issue are defense interviews with Valenzuela’s wife and son.

Defense attorney Bobbi Falduto said she believes Gary Husk, special prosecutor in the case, had a stand of “wait and see how it goes” in the settlement conference before allowing defense attorneys to interview the family members. An attorney for the son told O’Neil she thought it was best not to interview the son in the event the settlement conference was successful.

“The state is not aware of any circumstance whereby the minor child or his mother has declined to be interviewed. An order at this point would be a bit premature,” Husk said.

O’Neil suggested Husk go ahead and arrange the interview with the child, but Falduto did not agree, saying the mother and the child are state witnesses.

“However, they are potentially mitigation witnesses – this is a capital trial – for us,” Falduto said. “There are some factual issues that we would have to ask both witnesses. Mr. Husk has asked to be present … however in our interest we have a constitutional duty to do everything we can to avoid a death penalty … We need to conduct an accurate investigation … In order to do that, we have to do it unfettered by not having the state present during this interview.”

She said it does not matter who arranges the interview. She said the mother has refused an interview with her and they have specifically avoided talking to her defendant’s son.

“So that we wouldn’t be involved in any type of a tainting,” she said. “Our side, the defense team, has the constitutional right to do that.”

Husk objected to the idea.

“There is no place in the rules that allow for defense to have independent interviews of the state witness. I think it is very telling that the mother of the child has refused to be interviewed,” Husk said.

Again, O’Neil directed Husk to arrange the interviews for the state with the mother and son. The judge also said the interviews should focus on the factual issues of the case and that both sides be present.

O’Neil said if there is no plea arrangement reached at the Jan. 24 conference, both parties should meet and confer if any follow up interviews are necessary.

If they cannot agree on additional interviews, he asked the attorneys to bring the matter to the attention of the court by filing briefs. O’Neil also ordered that the son’s name be redacted from any court document, transcript or record.

As things were winding down Monday, suddenly Falduto said she had concerns with the number of times attorneys from the prosecution have spoken with the son, a minor child.

“Psychologists indicate that multiple meetings on an issue like this with a minor child could lead to the possibility of a tainting that witness and the facts as they remember them,” Falduto said. “It seems to be some discourse if it is two or three (meetings) or five or six. I would like to have the documentation of when those meetings were, if we can’t find out what happened during those meetings.”

Husk objected immediately saying there are no records and there is no information to share. He said it was just part of the investigation.

“Counsel is now asking the state to produce documents that don’t exist,” Husk said.

Three more times Falduto asked the court to determine if the son is a tainted witness because he talked to members of the state prosecution team on many occasions.

Husk told the court Falduto, “was all over the map on this allegation” and he called it a “fishing expedition.”

O’Neil denied Falduto’s request and reminded attorneys of the Jan. 24 settlement conference and scheduled a status hearing for Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m.

Erin Darr is scheduled to be arraigned on 10 counts Friday. (PCSO photo)

A 35-year-old Maricopa woman stands indicted by a Pinal Grand Jury on 10 counts of child abuse.

Erin Darr was accused by the grand jury Dec. 27 after allegations of the woman making a girl eat her own vomit after she became ill from eating spoiled food.

Maricopa police originally arrested Darr last month for the allegations, which include physical abuse. A member of her family confirmed the allegations against Darr, though she denied them.

Darr is scheduled to be arraigned in Pinal County Superior Court Friday on eight counts of child abuse (class 4 felony) and two counts of child abuse classified as dangerous crimes against children, an enhanced class 2 felony.

Darr remains in the Pinal County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

Michael Boling (PCSO photo)

Michael Boling was arrested Friday by Maricopa Police for possession of prescription only drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Dec. 28, officers stopped a white Saturn sedan for a traffic violation on John Wayne Parkway and arrested the driver of the vehicle, Michael Lee Johnson, on two outstanding warrants.

During a search of the vehicle, officers located two Xanax pills on the passenger’s side where Boling was seated. One was on the passenger seat and the other was found on the passenger’s side door, according to the MPD cause statement.

Police stated that Bolin also had a black bag in his possession and drug paraphernalia was found in the bag, including hypodermic needles and a “glass methamphetamine pipe,” according to police documents.

Bolin was arrested and taken to the Pinal County Jail.

Dec. 29 Nadene Maxwell was arrested on suspicion of assault with intent to injure, criminal damage and disorderly conduct after she allegedly attacked her brother.

Maricopa Police report Maxwell got into a dispute with her brother that turned physical at a residence on West Michaels Drive.

Police state that Maxwell came to the residence to give presents to her children, who her brother takes care of. It began as a verbal argument at the front door when her brother would not allow her to see the children.

“Nadene hit [her brother]in the chest a few times when she tried to get past him into the house,” the police probable cause statement states. “[Her brother] and his roommate … pushed the front door of the residence closed preventing her from getting in.”

Police report Maxwell then broke the front window on the house with a rock and remained outside yelling until police arrived.

She was arrested and taken to the Pinal County Jail.

Sean Wilson is accused of 32 counts of vehicle burglaries in Maricopa. (PCSO photo)

 

Late Friday night, officers of the Maricopa Police Department may have found their man.

Sean Wilson, 21, believed to be a resident of Stanfield, was arrested by Maricopa Police in Casa Grande and charged for 32 counts of third-degree vehicle burglary and one count of trafficking in stolen property.

Wilson is charged with burglarizing motor vehicles between Dec. 22 and Dec. 28 in Maricopa.

MPD has investigated a total of 33 vehicle burglaries during the period, beginning with eight reported in the Maricopa Meadows area, according to the MPD probable cause statement.

The statement states that officers actually made contact with Wilson in the area on Dec. 22, the first day of the thefts. Only later did they identify him as a suspect in the burglaries.

“Upon contacting Sean (Wilson) he was asleep in his car after getting into a verbal fight with his girlfriend, but (he) refused to provide an address (where) he was at, or a name of his girlfriend,” the MPD report on the Dec. 22 incident states. “Officers were able to observe drug paraphernalia in plain view inside the vehicle and conducted a further search of the vehicle. Officers located other electronic items inside the vehicle and identified Sean had a pair of Vans shoes on the passenger floorboard.”

Wilson was released at that time pending a complaint on the possible drug charge. But the Vans would come into play later.

Two days later officers investigated a string of nine vehicle burglaries within a one-mile radius of the Cobblestone subdivision. Dec. 26, MPD received another 10 complaints of burglaries within a one-mile radius of Acacia Crossings.

After reviewing evidence in the case, including surveillance video from two different locations, they identified Wilson as a probable suspect based on the clothes and shoes the suspect was wearing in the video.

The shoes matched the Vans located on Wilson’s passenger floorboard that officers had seen back on Dec. 22, according to police documents.

Investigators also found Wilson had recently pawned items that were consistent with items taken in the burglaries.

Dec. 28, MPD officers responded to a report of a suspicious person wearing a red jacket in the Desert Cedars subdivision. A caller said the suspect was trying to break into cars about 6:15 a.m.

An officer came upon a parked car on North Soft Wind Drive and saw “someone’s legs hanging outside the door.”

The officer stopped and shined a light on the vehicle and the suspect exited. The officer, who was already aware of Wilson as a suspect in the burglaries, positively identified Wilson as the man exiting the vehicle.

Wilson fled the scene and escaped from officers, but police used his cellphone number to “ping” his phone’s location to the Maricopa Walmart. They could not find him there but located him later in Casa Grande by again “pinging” his phone. They went to Casa Grande and located him using his own cell phone as their guide, according to the probable cause statement.

Officers found several items believed to be taken in the burglaries in his car as well as clothing and the shoes he was believed to be wearing in video recordings of the burglaries.

During later interviews with investigators, Wilson allegedly admitted to committing the burglaries as well as selling and pawning some of the stolen items.

Wilson was taken to the Pinal County Jail and charged with the 33 counts and is being held on a $10,000 bond. He is scheduled in Pinal County Superior Court Friday.


The story has been corrected to reflect the correct spelling of Soft Wind Drive.

A Maricopa woman reportedly suffered stab wounds and her mother, the suspected assailant, was hospitalized after a possible overdose Saturday.

Residents reported a large gathering of first responders in the Tortosa neighborhood around 3:30 p.m. Maricopa Police Department was called to the scene on the report of “possible domestic violence with injuries.”

A 25-year-old woman was found with multiple stab wounds. She told officers she had tried to intervene when her mother had been threatening suicide with a knife. According to the MPD report, the mother “attacked the daughter with the knife, inflicint injury.” The daughter locked herself in a room and called police.

Police took the mother into custody, but she reportedly collapsed while being evaluated by Maricopa Fire/Medical personnel. She had minor injuries, according to MPD, “but is suspected to be overdosed on an unknown medication.”

Both are listed in critical condition at a Valley hospital. MPD continues to investigate the incident.

 

Students from Sequoia Pathway Academy donate items needed for the soon-to-open Maricopa Family Advocacy Center co-managed by Lt. Richard Aguirre (left). Students collected and donated blankets, stuffed animals, toys, juice boxes, snacks and personal care kits. Submitted photo

After more than three years of work, the Family Advocacy Center is about to open its Maricopa facility.

Mary Witkofski, community programs manager for the Maricopa Police Department, is a co-manager of the new FAC with MPD Lt. Richard Aguirre.

“One thing you need to know first is it is not a shelter. It is an investigational function of the police department,” Witkofski said. “It is a one-stop shop for a victim of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence or strangulation.”

It also helps victims of neglect and senior abuse. The center minimizes trauma and re-victimization by limiting the number of interviews and medical examinations.

She said victims go to this facility instead of going to the police department or a hospital.

“They come here, and they get a medical exam. The investigation is completed within this building. They also get victim services and victim advocacy while they are there,” she said.

The new FAC in Maricopa will serve western Pinal County, and not just the City of Maricopa.

“We work with the Pinal County Forensic Medical Office to provide 24/7 nurse response,” Witkofski said. “There are prosecutors who are located within the building if we need them to respond. The Department of Child Safety comes out if there are children involved. There are mental health professionals who can be involved at the same time.”

The remodeling of the building was paid for by a grant from the Ak-Chin Indian Community. Resources to sustain the operation of the center for the next five years are from the six financial stakeholders: Dignity Health, Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Casa Grande Police Department, Maricopa Police Department and Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation.

Community Alliance Against Family Abuse will have an office in the facility.

“A lot of the work done inside was provided through donated services, volunteers and local business support. Winged Hope will help with the fund-raising activity for the center for four years,” Witkofski said.

There are two other Family Advocacy Centers in Pinal County in Eloy and San Tan Valley. With the centers located so far away, victims of interpersonal violence have to drive 45 to 60 minutes for specialized assistance the centers offer.

“And that’s the reason for the center in western Pinal County,” Witkofski said.

She added the center will open “at some point in January,” and an exact date has not yet been determined.

The Family Advocacy Centers are a coordinated response involving several agencies and run through the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. It states is mission is to “protect and empower our most vulnerable by providing a victim-centered, team approach to investigating and prosecuting crimes of personal violence while facilitating recovery and healing of crime victims.”

The center incorporates a multidisciplinary team approach to abuse investigations and prosecutions. The staff consists of representatives from: Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Pinal County Police Agencies, Department of Child Services/Office of Child Welfare Investigators, Phoenix Children’s Medical Group, PCAO Special Victims’ Unit Prosecutors, Forensic Interviewers, Victim Advocates, Community Mental Health Providers and Children’s Justice Coordinator.

“There are a lot of local business that make this new center possible. We started working on this project in July of 2015,” Witkofski said.

Groups and organizations have been gathering donations for the center. Items still needed are onesies, T-shirts, adult clothes, clean new underwear, children’s snack items, toys and juice boxes.

“We are always accepting donations,” Witkofski said.

For more information or to donate to the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center contact the Maricopa Police Department at 520-316-6800.

 

Sidney J. Cowger (PCSO photo)

A 36-year-old Maricopa man was sentenced Dec. 21 for sexually molesting a young child.

Sidney Cowger was sentence to 27 years after pleading guilty to sexual conduct with a 10-year-old minor and attempted child molestation.

Cowger was arrested July 16 after the 10-year-old child described details of interactions. The child’s mother had contacted police July 15 with information she had learned from the child.

The child was taken to ChildHelp in Phoenix for a forensic interview and examination. A Maricopa Police detective attended the interview.

The child identified several places in Pinal County where sexual abuse allegedly occurred.

Cowger was arrested July 16 at his place of work in Stanfield.

Cowger was released from the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2014 after serving time for vehicle theft, possessing drug paraphernalia and promoting prison contraband.

Pinal County Superior Court Judge Jason Holmberg ordered he serve the full 27 years of the sentence, but he was credited for time served in the county jail.

He will also be placed on probation for life after prison and must register as a sex offender.

Veronica and Corey Masterson were indicted by a grand jury. PCSO photos

 

A Maricopa husband and wife have been indicted by a grand jury on three counts of child abuse.

The father, Corey Masterson, 36, was taken to the sheriff’s office adult detention center Dec. 19, the day of the indictments against him and his wife Veronica. At the time of his wife’s arrest a week earlier, he had been taken to a Casa Grande hospital complaining of kidney stones.

After the indictments, Maricopa Police Department officers served an arrest warrant on him Dec. 19 at 8:20 p.m. at his home on West Windrose Drive. He was taken into custody without incident, according to police documents.

The couple is being held in the Pinal County Jail pending a bond of $50,000 each. The indictments accuse the two of committing child abuse on Nov. 16. The charges are Class 4 felonies.

Veronica Masterson is scheduled to appear in Pinal County Superior Court Dec. 28. Corey is scheduled to appear next on Jan. 18.

According to the police probable-cause statement in Veronica’s case, three children were removed from the couple’s home. During an interview with Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), one of the children said, “When my dad wants us to shut up, he ties a rubber band around our head and then tapes our mouths shut. They’re always hitting us, and my mom kicks us.”

The child told investigators her parents smoked cigarettes and “something else” that she described as white. When asked by DCS investigators about the father she said, “I don’t like him. He is so mean to us. He is always hitting us and tells us to shut up. He ignores us and doesn’t want us to talk.”

The girl also told investigators when she was grounded, she was not allowed food or water and she hid a water bottle in her backpack. After talking to investigators, she pleaded with them not to tell her parents what she said as she didn’t want the water bottle taken away, according to police documents.

“They don’t feed us, and we get super starving,” one of the children told investigators.

In the probable-cause statement, the DCS also informed Maricopa Police the mother is currently pregnant, and both parents failed to consent to drug testing.

Other allegations included spankings with paddles and belts and the older children being forced to take care of the younger children while the parents were out all night “doing bad stuff,” according to the probable cause statement.

The couple lost an infant child in 2013, and Veronica Masterson’s four oldest children perished in a fire last year in Illinois.

Tiffany Marquez (PCSO photo)

Tiffany Marquez was arrest Dec. 13 for an outstanding warrant, but Maricopa Police discovered methamphetamine in her purse during the arrest.

She was charged with possession of a dangerous drug, methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Marquez was also charged with taking the identity of another after she told police she was someone else when stopped by officers at Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and Hartman Road about 10:30 that evening, according to the Maricopa Police report.

Police towed her vehicle and inventoried the contents of the vehicle.

Officers report she was read her Miranda warnings verbatim from a preprinted card and she admitted to possession of the meth and that it belonged to her. She was transported and booked into the Pinal County jail on the charges and the warrants.

 

Three children were removed from their home this week, and their parents were arrested. The 37-year old mother was jailed Wednesday on three counts of child abuse.

The woman’s last name is redacted on Maricopa Police charging documents to protect the identities of the children. She is called Veronica on the documents, but police list her aliases with the surname of Lollis and Shaw.

Her husband, named Corey in the documents, was also arrested for child abuse but he was reported to have been hospitalized for kidney stones at the time of her arrest and no charging documents are yet located in his case.

During an interview with Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS), one of the children said, “My family tortures us … my mom slaps us in the face almost every day. When my dad wants us to shut up, he ties a rubber band around our head and then tapes our mouths shut. They’re always hitting us, and my mom kicks us.”

The child told investigators her parents smoked cigarettes and “something else” that she described as white. When asked by DCS investigators about the father, she said, “I don’t like him. He is so mean to us. He is always hitting us and tells us to shut up. He ignores us and doesn’t want us to talk.”

The girl also told investigators when she is grounded, she is not allowed food or water and she hides a water bottle in her backpack. She pleaded with investigators not to tell her parents what she said because she doesn’t want the water bottle taken away, according to police documents.

“They don’t feed us, and we get super starving,” one of the children told investigators.

According to the report, DCS also informed Maricopa Police that the mother is currently pregnant and neither of the parents failed to consent to drug testing.

The probable cause statement states MPD launched a criminal investigation based on the findings of DCS. Police confirmed the children’s mouths were rubber banded and duct taped to prevent them from talking.

“It really hurts when you take it off,” one of the children told police, according to official documents. “It hurt my cheek and lips. He tapes our mouth and our hair gets in it.”

Other allegations like spankings with paddles and belts and the older children being forced to take care of the younger children while the parents were out all night “doing bad stuff,” according to the probable cause statement.

The children also told police their mother attempted to kill herself by leaving the car running in a closed garage and that she had attempted to set a fire in their house.

The probable cause statement states the mother and father were placed under arrest, and the father complained of kidney stones and was transferred to a hospital in Casa Grande. The mother is currently being held in the Pinal County Jail with a $50,000 bond. It is undetermined where the father is currently located.

Peter Dinsmoor (PCSO photo)

Peter Dinsmoor, 46, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after a bicyclist was hit by a vehicle late Sunday afternoon.

According to a Maricopa Police Department probable cause statement, Dinsmoor was driving a white pickup in the parking lot of Headquarters Lounge about 5 p.m. He was attempting to exit the parking lot when he collided with a man on a bicycle on John Wayne Parkway and then allegedly left the scene.

The man on the bicycle was described as a “Mexican male with a beard.” The man told police the driver looked at him after hitting him and continued down the roadway.

A witness at the lounge stated Dinsmoor had two beers while receipts indicated he had purchased four beers. A driving history showed his license was revoked for DUI in Oregon, and Dinsmoor told officers he was on probation for DUI.

The bicyclist sustained a bad ankle injury and was limping, according to the report. Dinsmoor consented to a blood alcohol test. Results have not been released.

 

Richard Tow (PCSO photo)

Richard Tow, 54, was accused of possession of a dangerous drug and drug paraphernalia Dec. 6 after officers stopped a vehicle he was driving on North John Wayne Parkway.

Maricopa Police officers smelt the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and asked Tow if he had a medical marijuana card. He said he did not and admitted to officers he smoked marijuana earlier in the day, according to the MPD probable cause statement.

During a search, a black case containing white crystals was located in his pocket by officers. A glass pipe was also located with white residue on it during the search. Tow was taken to the Pinal County Jail as the substance tested positive as methamphetamine.

Michael Lewis (PCSO photo)

Michael J. Lewis, 39, was arrested on an active warrant by Maricopa Police on Monday. Lewis was also allegedly in possession of a small amount of methamphetamine and an unused syringe.

Police conducted a traffic stop at 9:34 p.m. at Circle K located at 18141 N. John Wayne Parkway. A passenger in the front seat of the vehicle verbally identified himself as Michael Lewis, who was wanted on an active warrant with a bond amount of $4,006. He was placed under arrest.

According to the MPD report, the small amount of meth was located in a folded receipt along with the syringe in his pockets. Lewis confirmed to officers that it was meth and that he was planning to inject it using the syringe, according to police report’s probable-cause statements.

Lewis was booked into the Pinal County Jail for the active warrant, possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.

During the service of a routine protection order on Nov. 26, Jason Simpson of West Avella Drive, was found to be in the possession of two potentially prohibited weapons, according to the Maricopa Police Department.

The two firearms, a New England shotgun and Remington shotgun, were found to be too short to own.

The New England had a 13.5-inch long barrel while state law dictates an 18-inch long barrel is mandatory. The Remington had a total length of just 24 inches with state law requiring a total length of 26 inches.

MPD charged Simpson for possession of the firearms.

 

 

 

A man reportedly tried to fight two people on Bedford Drive early Sunday morning and was arrested on suspicion of assault and domestic violence.

Maricopa Police arrested Mathew Zak after he allegedly pushed his ex-girlfriend and another man and tried to force his way into her house, according to the report.

Zak arrived at the house at around 1 a.m., began ringing the doorbell and “tried to gain access,” the allegations state. Another man answered the door and refused to let Zak inside. Zak then allegedly “continuously pushed” the man forcefully in his attempt to enter the house.

The ex-girlfriend came to the door during the scuffle. According to the MPD report, Zak grabbed her arms “and began to push his way into the residence.”

The other man then grabbed Zak and pulled him off the woman, at which point Zak began shoving him again, the report states. The man allegedly punched Zak in the face “in self-defense.” Police then arrived and placed Zak in custody. He was booked into the Pinal County jail on recommended charges of assault per domestic violence and assault.

Saturday Maricopa Police charged Pedro Zabala with two counts of criminal damage when he was having an overnight stay at a friend’s house.

According to police records, officers responded to an address on North Celis Street at 1 a.m. Saturday after the female resident came home and became engaged in an argument with Zabala.

Reports indicate he threw clothing items on the front patio and was then locked outside by the resident. She found her washer overloaded with clothing and bleach. She said the clothing was hers and was taken out of her closet.

 She told officers that about $3,000 of her clothes were ruined in the incident.

At 7:40 a.m. Saturday she heard banging on her front porch and contacted police.

 Zabala was located walking south of her home by a neighbor. Officers located him and also found the windshield of the woman’s car smashed in three places, the driver’s door mirror was broken off, air was let out of a tire, the rear window was smashed and there were five dents in the driver’s door.

 Zabala allegedly was carrying a yellow baseball bat when stopped by officers. Estimated damage to the vehicle is $2,000.

 

 

John D. Forker was charged by Maricopa Police Friday evening with criminal damage, domestic violence assault, endangerment and disorderly conduct after allegedly pushing and hitting his girlfriend’s son at a residence on West Walker Way.

According to police records, Forker is accused of pushing his girlfriend’s son into furniture and then repeatedly punching him in the face.

According to records, Forker is said to have pushed him while the man was holding a 1-year-old girl. A lamp was also broken in the altercation, according to police reports.

 Officers reportedly found the victim with injuries and scratches as well as “spitting blood.”

 

Tiffany Yenis (PCSO photo)

 

On Nov. 5, Maricopa Police responded to a disturbance on North Kari Lane after a man called to report his wife, Tiffany Yenis, “woke up this morning and began yelling and acting out of control.”

He told officers his wife wanted to gather her personal belongings and leave with their two children. A second reporting party told officers she was also outside screaming and banging on the front door of the residence.

A police probable cause statement alleged Yenis then took a small television set and slammed it into the driver’s side window and door of a parked van. She was also seen slamming the television into the hood of the vehicle, according to the report.

 Yenis allegedly told officers she did grab the television and threw it against her husband’s van. 

 Yenis was placed into custody and transported to the Pinal County Jail.

Arthur Eric Magana (PCSO photo)

 

It took less than one hour Monday for a Pinal County jury to find Arthur Eric Magaña guilty of killing 20-year-old Wyatt Miller.

Magana was convicted of first-degree murder after shooting Miller 11 times in the back of the head and neck on Nov. 7, 2016. The jury also found Magaña guilty of armed robbery as Miller was killed during the theft of four ounces of marijuana.

Magaña, now 18, is accused of killing Miller inside his truck. The alleged murder took place in a rural area of Maricopa, according to court testimony.

Magaña was just 16 years old at the time of the murder but is charged as an adult due to the gruesome nature of the murder.

Magaña’s murder and armed robbery trial began Wednesday and was handed to the nine-woman, three-man jury Monday afternoon just after 2 p.m. The jury took under an hour to return the guilty verdicts. 

The jury was brought back into the courtroom at 3:45 p.m. to hear sentencing instructions and decide Magaña’s fate in the second phase of the trial.

Judge Kevin White said the jury will only determine the aggravated circumstances and not Magaña’s sentence. White will be the one to determine the 18-year-old’s sentence.

The state called two witnesses in the second phase of the trial including Maxine Medlock, Wyatt Miller’s mother.

“I’m not sure where to begin. Wyatt was the love of my life. He had such a good spirit. A loss of a child is so painful. The pain never goes away. Wyatt had his whole life ahead of him… I’m upset I have to live the rest of my life without him,” she said.

The state also called Travis Miller, Wyatt’s father. “We, as parents, aren’t supposed to bury our children,” he said. “My life has changed 180 degrees.”

The defense called no witnesses in the second phase.

The jury left the courtroom at 4:15 to determine if the first-degree murder charge would be enhanced due to aggravating circumstances. Attorneys were told to wait in the hallway as the jury decided.

The jury returned at 4:46 to hand down their aggravating circumstances endorsement.

Magana’s fate then rested in the hands of Judge White. He ordered Magaña held without bond and set sentencing for Dec. 17.

 

Arthur Eric Magana (PCSO photo)

Closing arguments began in Arthur Magaña’s murder trial Monday afternoon in Pinal County Superior Court, and the jury began deliberation within an hour.

Magaña, 18, is accused of killing 20-year-old Wyatt Miller by shooting him 11 times inside his truck on Nov. 7, 2016.

The alleged murder took place in a rural area of Maricopa during the theft of four ounces of marijuana, according to court testimony. Magaña was just 16 years old at the time of the murder but is charged as an adult due to the gruesome nature of the murder.

Magaña’s murder and armed robbery trial began Wednesday and was handed to the nine-woman, three-man jury Monday afternoon just after 2 p.m.

State opened closing arguments.

“What is the value of a life,” said prosecutor Patrick Johnson. “For this defendant, life is cheap. It was just the cost of doing business.”

Gustavo Olivo was also involved in the crime and has already pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and armed robbery.

“He (Magaña) fired 11 rounds into the back of his head, and Wyatt didn’t even see it coming. He took the cowards way out and never gave him a chance,” Johnson said in closing arguments.

Officers trained in tracking followed footprints to a house where the defendants were located, according to Johnson.

“They made it pretty easy for them… They led officers right to themselves,” Johnson told the jury.

Investigators smelled marijuana after entering the house and found the four ounces of marijuana, allegedly taken from Miller. More evidence was found in the freezer and their shoes matched the prints. Blood was also found on their shoes, according to Johnson.

“This isn’t a self-defense case,” Johnson said. “This is not a case where someone has no other choice but to use lethal force.”

Johnson said the 9mm semi-automatic HK handgun used in the murder was purchased by Magaña’s mother. He added that blood on Magana’s clothing matched Miller’s DNA.

“He never realized he had Wyatt Miller’s blood on him,” Johnson told the jury.

Johnson called the crime a planned armed robbery and execution.

“His body tells you what happened. Of the 11 wounds, not one was in the face. Wyatt Miller never saw it coming,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Magana also bragged about the murder and “was proud of what he did. He was the one who pulled the trigger 11 times and killed Wyatt Miller… Not only killed him he executed him…it was a cowardly execution.”

Defense attorney David Gregan reviewed the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” statute with the jury. He said Olivo and Miller knew each other, and that Olivo is the one who went around the vehicle and grabbed the marijuana after the alleged murder took place.

“The state wants to convince you that this was a planned robbery,” Gregan said. “But that’s not the case.”

He said it wasn’t a planned robbery because they didn’t take everything and didn’t have a plan of escape from the scene.

“The evidence you saw at trial dictated that something happened out there,” Gregan said.

Gregan told the jury to realize Magaña was just 16 years old at the time and was defending himself.

“Something happened out there before the shooting. What it was, we do not know… no one knows for sure,” Gregan said.

Gregan said there was a second 9mm gun inside the vehicle that was not tested by investigators. The untested gun raised uncertainty, according to Gregan.

During the State’s rebuttal, Johnson said, “We know exactly what happened before the shooting because he (Magaña) told us… He executed him by shooting him in the back of the head 11 times.”

Johnson said the two made posts on Facebook before the incident indicating this was a planned armed robbery and Magaña bragged about the murder on videotape while in custody.

Johnson called Magaña the mastermind behind the armed robbery and execution and that Miller’s life had value and meaning even if he was a drug dealer.

“Wyatt Miller’s life had more value than four ounces of marijuana,” said Johnson.

Judge Kevin D. White read jury instructions and sent the jury to begin deliberations on the two charges, first-degree murder and armed robbery.

Arthur Eric Magana is scheduled for trial next week in the death of Wyatt Miller.

The trial of Arthur Magaña, 18, on a charge of first-degree murder is set to begin next week with jury selection, but the judge had to rule on an important issue Wednesday in an evidentiary hearing.

Homicide Detective Joe Bonucci took the stand in Pinal County Superior Court to talk about the night Magaña was arrested after the shooting death of Wyatt Miller, 20. That was Nov. 7, 2016, exactly two years before this week’s hearing.

In pre-trial paperwork, Magaña’s counsel had filed a motion to suppress statements, claiming a Miranda warning violation during interrogation. Judge Kevin White asked to hear the detective’s account of that night during Wednesday’s hearing before ruling on the matter.

Two days earlier, Magaña’s one-time co-defendant, Gustavo Olivo, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after reaching a plea agreement with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. Olivo admitted to second-degree murder and armed robbery but said Magana was the gunman.

Magaña is charged with murder and armed robbery.

Wednesday, Miller’s father and Magaña’s mother attended the hearing.

Prosecutor Patrick Johnson asked Bonucci detailed questions about the night of the arrest in an effort to disprove the defense’s claims. Bonucci was the case agent and on-call detective. According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, a report of shots fired was logged at 7:30 p.m. and deputies arrived shortly after.

At 8 p.m., Bonucci was called by his supervisor and sent to the scene on a rural road south of Maricopa. While en route, he was informed there were two locations being investigated. Miller’s body had been found in a Chevy pickup truck on Cardinal Road “a hundred yards or so from the nearest residence,” and two suspects had been found at a home on Oak Road.

Bonucci testified no deputies interrogated Magaña or Olivo at the scene. He said one teen was placed in a PCSO vehicle while the other was placed in an Ak-Chin Police vehicle during the preliminary investigation. Eventually, both were placed in a PCSO posse vehicle, and an investigation team member placed a digital recorder in the vehicle. Bonucci said the suspects, who were 16 and 17 at the time, were not questioned in the car, either.

The detective said they later found the digital recorder to have been tampered with or the batteries removed.

Magaña and Olivo were taken to PCSO in Florence, arriving at 3:13 a.m. Bonucci said they were taken to the second floor and placed in separate interview rooms across the hall from each other.

Having learned on the trip back to Florence that the teens were under age 18, Bonucci said his team employed juvenile protocol, which included contacting a legal guardian for each before interrogation. In Magaña’s case, his mother arrived and was soon taken to the interrogation room to be with her son.

It was at that point, Bonucci testified, Magaña was read his Miranda rights. He opted not to answer questions without an attorney, he said.

Meanwhile, Olivo was allowed to have a phone conversation with a sister who was not his legal guardian. Bonucci said Olivo answered some questions before also invoking his Miranda rights, and the interview stopped.

Bonucci testified the teens were placed in one interview room where they could be monitored by video and audio while the investigative team tried to work out whether to book them into juvenile detention or adult detention.

“We knew they would be remanded and charged as adults,” he said.

During the disagreement among the authorities (the teens were eventually booked into juvenile detention), Magaña and Olivo apparently had a conversation while they waited. Bonucci said investigators did not talk to them, they were not interrogated, questioned, coerced or threatened, but they were recorded.

“It’s an interview room,” Bonucci said. “The interview room is recorded.”

What was said during that one-on-one conversation in the interview room was at the heart of the motion to suppress.

White ruled the situation was not a Miranda issue and several statements made during that conversation could be used as evidence during the trial. The judge disagreed with the defense counsel’s argument that the teens’ conversation took place in an “ad hoc continuation of the interview” and should have been part of the invocation of Miranda rights.

White also said there was no “custodial interrogation” and no indication Olivo “was acting as an agent of the state” or trying to make Magaña make incriminating statements.

Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday. White said he is confident the trial will be finished by Nov. 21.

Gustovo Olivo, 19, was sentenced to 25 years behind bars. PCSO photo

Travis Miller and Maxine Linette Medlock spoke emotionally of the dreams they had for their son Wyatt Miller in court Monday.

Gustavo Olivo, 19, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and seven years probation for his part in Wyatt’s death two years ago. The sentencing by Judge Kevin White came after a plea deal in Pinal County Superior Court.

Travis Miller placed a photo of his son on the counsel table for White to see because “I wanted to put a face on the victim.”

Wyatt Miller was 20 years old when he was killed Nov. 7, 2016. “I had plans, I had goals, I had dreams that included my two sons,” Travis Miller said.

Olivo, wearing an orange PCSO sweatshirt, mainly stared ahead or at the floor as the father spoke.

“I think you are an evil, selfish coward,” Miller told him.

Olivo and Arthur Magana, 18, are accused of planning the murder that involved shooting Wyatt 11 times. Magana has a hearing set for Wednesday before the same judge.

“It is so devastating and heartbreaking to lose a child,” Medlock said.

Miller said the family is getting a little bit of justice with the sentence of Olivo and hopes for more in the case against Magana.

“This is only a part of the nightmare,” he said.

In his plea, Olivo admitted to planning and participating in the murder of Wyatt Miller but said Magana was the gunman. The seven years of probation is attached to the second charge of armed robbery. Travis Miller said Olivo could have stopped the murder at any time but did not.

Miller said he hopes Olivo takes advantage of the programs in “big boy prison” and comes out a better man. He said the last thing society needs is another uneducated felon back in the community.

Judge White said though he considered Olivo’s age of 17 at the time of the murder and his remorse in his sentencing, it was not enough to override the aggravating factors or harm done to the family. White noted the investigation report that stated the defendants laughed after Wyatt was shot in the back of the head.

The night Wyatt was killed, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of shots fired at around 7:30 p.m. on West Cardinal Road in an unincorporated area south of Maricopa. Wyatt Miller was soon found dead in a Chevy truck. Money and other property had been taken. Deputies followed two sets of footprints to a home on South Oak Road, where the teens were arrested. They were indicted Nov. 16.

In early court hearings, Olivo and Magana appeared together, but their cases were severed in April this year. Olivo’s extended family members were in court as were several members of Wyatt Miller’s family to hear Wyatt’s parents.

“He was fixing to move to Texas,” Medlock said of her son. “He had goals and things he wanted to make changes on. So much has been taken away from our family.”

Raymar Arthur, 31, believed to be the “Wiggin’ Out Bandit,” was taken into custody by the FBI without incident at his home in Maricopa. He is charged with 10 bank robberies and three attempted bank robberies, which occurred between March 27 and Oct. 4 this year.

Maricopa Police Department helped close down a street in Rancho El Dorado during the activity.

The nickname, “Wiggin’ Out Bandit,” came from the various wigs that were worn during the bank robberies. At least one bank was targeted twice. The robberies averaged about one a month until a spree in August hit Chandler, Mesa and Queen Creek.

During the robberies, the suspect verbally demanded money or presented tellers with a demand note, then fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. No one was physically injured.

The FBI believes Arthur is responsible for the following robberies and/or attempted robberies:

March 27, at approximately 5:55 p.m., at the Chase Bank, 1021 N. Ellsworth Road in Mesa.

April 11, at approximately 4:14 p.m., at the Wells Fargo, 1951 W. Baseline Road in Mesa.

May 11, at approximately 6:53 p.m., at the MidFirst Bank, 4750 E. Chandler Blvd. in Phoenix.

June 1, at approximately 6:11 p.m., at the Wells Fargo, 1951 W. Baseline Road in Mesa.

June 25, at approximately 6:01 p.m., at the US Bank, 3185 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction.

July 16, at approximately 5:51 p.m., at the Wells Fargo bank, 339 E. Brown Road in Mesa.

Aug. 1, at approximately 7:02 p.m., at the Wells Fargo bank, 4970 S. Alma School Road in Chandler.

Aug. 2, at approximately 7:02 p.m., at the US Bank, 1960 W. Main St. in Mesa.

Aug. 16, at approximately 2:46 p.m., at the Wells Fargo bank, 339 E. Brown Road in Mesa.

Aug. 22, at approximately 7:00 p.m., at the Wells Fargo, 1122 N. Higley Road in Mesa.

Aug. 23, at approximately 5:55 p.m., at the US Bank, 18495 E. Queen Creek Road in Queen Creek.

Aug. 23, at approximately 6:30 p.m., at the Wells Fargo bank, 155 W. Combs Road in Queen Creek.

Oct. 4, at approximately 6:54 p.m., at the US Bank located at 1960 West Main Street in Mesa.

Surveillance photos of “Wiggin’ Out Bandit”

An anonymous tip from the public ultimately led to the identification of the suspect.

The day of his arrest, Arthur had a disposition in Maricopa Municipal Court on two charges in a DUI drug case from April. One charge was dismissed while he pleaded guilty to the second with incarceration ordered along with fines of more than $1,500.

 

Brandon Osife (PCSO photo)

Bo Runge, a Shell station clerk, was at work on the night of Oct. 13 when a man attempted to rob him, he told police. He said the man had his hands in his pocket and was, “trying to act like he had a weapon.” When the suspect attempted to go behind the counter, Runge grabbed a baseball bat. The suspect then fled on foot without obtaining money or merchandise.

Runge said the man claimed to have robbed the store before, which is at 19680 N. John Wayne Parkway. Maricopa Police took a still picture from the store’s video footage, which they circulated throughout the department. Officers identified the suspect as Brandon Osife, who was convicted of robbing the same store in an incident that occurred last year on Oct. 23.

Osife was arrested on suspicion of attempted robbery a short distance from the store at 12:29 a.m. on Oct. 14. He is in Pinal County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

Adam C. Fox (PCSO photo)

 

Adam C. Fox was arrested by Maricopa Police Department on suspicion of assault and criminal damage on the evening of Oct. 9 at 7:24 p.m. Both offenses are said to have occurred on Oct. 8 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The report alleges Fox became upset during a verbal argument with a woman and grabbed her by the throat.

“Adam then intentionally impeded the normal breathing of [the woman] by applying pressure to Jessica’s throat for approximately three to four seconds,” the report says. “[The woman] managed to free herself however Adam managed to grab her again.”

The reported victim said she didn’t feel safe leaving the residence on West Dutchman Drive until after Fox left the next day.

Rickey Alderidge (PCSO photo)

 

A Maricopa woman was loading groceries into her SUV in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter, 41650 W Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy Oct. 9 evening when a man approached her, demanding the keys to her vehicle before pulling a knife.

Her Jeep Cherokee Sport was already running with the keys in the ignition. When the man seemed to realize this, he “shoved [her] away from the vehicle and got into the driver’s seat,” according to a police report. She sustained lacerations and bruising on her legs, arms, hands and face.

The man reversed out of the parking spot, striking the woman’s grocery cart, which became lodged under the vehicle. Despite this, he successfully fled the scene.

The woman’s purse and cellphone were in the vehicle when it was stolen. Police were able to track the phone, locating the vehicle on North Canton Way north of State Route 84 in Stanfield. Rickey L. Alderidge was found in the vehicle and was placed under arrest at 11:22 p.m.

The victim was brought to the scene and identified Alderidge as the man who pulled the knife earlier. A knife matching the description given by the victim was found on him.

Once at the Maricopa Police Station, Alderidge said he was recently released from a prison in Texas and was homeless. When told he had been identified by the victim, he requested a lawyer and no further questions were asked by police. Alderidge faces charges of aggravated assault, armed robbery, theft of means of transportation and criminal damage.

He is in Pinal County jail on a $25,000 bond.

Randy Attson (PCSO photo)

 

A welfare check on a parked and running car in the early-morning hours led to a drug arrest Wednesday.

According to Maricopa Police Department records, a white car was parked on the dirt shoulder of Smith-Enke Road east of DR Horton Drive just before 4 a.m. The vehicle was running with its headlights on.

The man in the driver’s seat identified himself as Randy Attson, 41. The officer reported seeing a pint glass in the car’s cup holder containing liquid that looked like beer. Attson allegedly admitted the pint glass was from a bar he visited earlier.

The officer also observed a blow torch at Attson’s feet, indicating the implement is sometimes associated with illegal drug use. When the officer asked if there was a methamphetamine pipe in the car, Attson allegedly said it was between the driver’s seat and the center console.

A search reportedly turned up three glass pipes and about 2.5 grams of meth. A warrant check also revealed Attson’s driving privilege was suspended and he had an extraditable warrant out of West Mesa Justice Court for a traffic offense with a $1,300 bond.

Attson was booked at Pinal County jail, where he remains in custody. Recommended charges are possession of dangerous drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving with a suspended license.

Darien Alexa Dawn Huggins, 16, was reportedly last seen in Maricopa Sept. 15. She is reported to be with Amran Mohammad Dawlatzai, 24.

UPDATE: Darien Huggins is back home.


Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a Maricopa teenager who has not been seen since last night.

Darien Alexa Dawn Huggins, 16, is thought to be with 24-year-old Amran Mohammad Dawlatzai, who may be in the East Valley.

Huggins is described as 5-foot-4, 140 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. She was last seen at her home in Maricopa wearing a gray shirt and shorts, and her hair was in a ponytail. Dawlatzai is described as 6-foot-0, 250 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

He is driving a 1999 champagne-colored Ford F150 with Arizona plate CJN 9567.

If you have information, call 520-866-5111.

Timothy Campbell. PCSO photo

Maricopa Police arrested a man suspected of driving under the influence while transporting precious cargo last week.

Timothy Campbell, 38, is accused of carrying with him four children during a traffic stop Aug. 26 when he was tagged with seven varying counts of aggravated DUI and endangerment.

MPD arrested Campbell at approximately 3:55 p.m. at the Good 2 Go gas station at  John Wayne Parkway and Honeycutt Road.

A police report alleges prior to the arrest, one of the young passengers sparked the interest of an officer operating a patrol vehicle southbound on John Wayne Parkway.

“I observed a small juvenile female sitting on top of a person’s lap in the front passenger seat, (the child) then attempted to duck their head in a red Ford F-150 (truck),” according to the report.

The officer activated his emergency lights and pulled the vehicle over at the gas station. The ages of the four children observed inside the truck were withheld in the report, but all were reportedly under 15 years old.

Campbell allegedly told the officer he was driving on a suspended license and reportedly admitted to consuming intoxicating beverages.

Police dispatch informed the officer Campbell is also required to drive with an ignition interlock device, but there was no device in the vehicle, according to the report.

Campbell completed a standard field sobriety test with “poor results.”

MPD transported the DUI suspect to its headquarters where Campbell completed a second breathalyzer test with results showing a blood alcohol content of .162, more than twice the legal limit.

Officers forwarded seven counts against Campbell to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office: Aggravated DUI: Driving with a suspended driver license (class 4 felony); Aggravated DUI: Driving without an ignition interlock device (class 4 felony); DUI with four children inside the vehicle under the age of 15 (class 6 felonies); Aggravated DUI impaired to the slightest degree (class 1 misdemeanor); Aggravated DUI .08 BAC or above (class 1 misdemeanor); Aggravated DUI: .15 BAC or above (class 1 misdemeanor); Endangerment (class 1 misdemeanor).