Tags Articles tagged with "murder"

murder

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

At a procedural hearing Monday, an attorney for a local man being tried for a double murder was accused by the county’s prosecutor of violating ethical standards for comments he made to the media regarding the case.

Public Defender James Mannato, legal counsel for Jose Valenzuela, appeared in a Pinal County courtroom with his client July 17 for a status review hearing when the allegations of unethical conduct were lodged by special prosecutor Gary Husk.

Husk alleged statements made to a Pinal County newspaper regarding certain “sealed” subpoenas exceeded the ethical boundaries of legal counsel. The statements made to the newspaper, Husk believes, could have an impact on the objectivity of the public and potential jurors.

“We can try this matter in the press, or we can try this matter in the courtroom,” Husk said while addressing the court on Monday.

Mannato responded to the allegations of ethical violations by drawing attention to the fact then-Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu made public remarks about Valenzuela’s guilt at the time of his arrest. This, Mannato said, did much more to prejudice public opinion of his client than any of his statements to the newspaper.

“I have been trying to find ways to counteract that [Babeu’s statements] ever since,” Mannato said.

Mannato stated he is within the boundaries of section 3.6(b) of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which states legal counsel will not make any statements to media if the statements “have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.”

Specifically, Mannato invoked subsection (b)(2) of that rule, which states information that is part of the public record can be discussed with media.

Husk, undeterred by the explanation, expressed his intent to file a motion to have the subpoenas unsealed.

In an exchange between the two lawyers outside the courtroom Mannato said he never asked for the subpoenas to be sealed and anything discussed with the reporter was available in the case file.

Nonetheless, Husk claimed to have never seen the subpoenas, which were in regard to phone records of one of the victims, Michael Careccia.

Though unwilling to make a public comment about the allegations of unethical conduct, Mannato did state his intent to possibly file a motion to have the death penalty taken off the table.

Citing a pending case with the Arizona Supreme Court that aims to establish a uniform application of the death penalty in all Arizona counties, Mannato plans to follow the line of argument that capital punishment is unequally applied across counties and thus unconstitutional in its current form.

“You have a situation where you could commit the same exact crime in the same circumstance in one county and find yourself looking at the death penalty,” Mannato said “But, if you do it in the poorer county you won’t because they don’t have the funds to fund the prosecution of capital cases, because it’s very expensive.”

The next status review hearing was set for Aug 28 at 3 p.m. in Judge Kevin White’s courtroom in Superior Court in Florence.

A tentative trial date has been set for Jan. 23, 2018, at 9 a.m. at the same location.

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

The woman charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of 31-year-old Michael Agerter last December had a new lawyer represent her in a Pinal County Superior Courtroom Monday.

Florence attorney Bret Huggins made his first appearance defending Kathryn Sinkevitch, 32, whose trial is scheduled to begin in May of next year.

The former public defender for Sinkevitch, James Mannato, withdrew from the case in June.

In court documents, Mannato motioned to withdraw from the Sinkevitch case, citing “conflict of interest” under the authority of Arizona State Bar Ethical Rule 1.16.

Mannato said he could not make public comment about nor clarify his decision to withdraw.

Huggins entered his notice of appearance to the court on June 28, and represented Sinkevitch for the first time in front of Judge Kevin White Monday morning.

His work on the case is just beginning as Huggins works to collect evidence and documents first obtained by Mannato.

“I’m trying to get the discovery that the public defender had and I haven’t got that all together yet,” Huggins said.

Court documents show the prosecution, in preparation for trial, has called the Phoenix Police Department Crime Lab as witness to the case. There is also notice to the defendant of evidence including jail mail, forensic audio, forensic video reports and power of attorney.

In June, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office motioned for the taking of a sample of Sinkevitch’s hair and buccal swabs for evidence by Maricopa Police Department Detective Michael Dennison.

Buccal swabs collect DNA from the inside of a person’s cheek or mouth.

“Defendants hair and buccal swabs are needed in order for the Federal Bureau of Investigations to conduct a comparison examination,” the motion stated.

Hair samples will also be forwarded to the Department of Public Safety for comparison examination as well, according to another court document.

Sinkevitch is accused of shooting Agerter, her ex-boyfriend, in the garage of his Maricopa rental home in December. The two lived separately, but had an infant son together.

Agerter was reportedly attempting to gain parental rights to the child who was 1-month-old at the time of the murder.

Sinkevitch will be in court for a review hearing Aug. 28 at 9 a.m.

Arthur Eric Magana and Gustavo Olivo are charged with murder. PCSO photos

A trial date was affirmed in court Monday for two Maricopa teenagers accused of first-degree murder and armed robbery in the November shooting death of Wyatt Miller.

Gustavo Olivo and Arthur Eric Magana are set to stand trial before Judge Kevin White next year on April 10.

A status hearing for the accused will take place Aug. 28 at 9 a.m. at Pinal County Superior Court.

Attorney for Olivo, John Schaus requested in court Monday that a future settlement hearing be scheduled in the fall. That date has not yet been set.

Last November, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said Miller was found dead inside his truck of numerous gunshot wounds outside of a residence on Cardinal Road north of Interstate 8.

PCSO said deputies tracked Olivo and Magana to a residence on South Oak Road using two sets of footprints they said matched the patterns on the bottom of the suspects’ shoes.

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

The man accused of stabbing to death is wife, Olivia Cecelia Julian Figueroa, with a sword in December may not see a trial.

Attorney Paula Cook represented defendant Miguel Figueroa in court Monday for a hearing that was expected to produce a trial date and possible change of plea. However, Cook told Judge Kevin White she has “submitted a proposal to (the prosecutor) for her to consider to resolve this without a trial.”

Cook requested Monday’s hearing to be re-set to provide time for the prosecution to go over the proposal details.

Outside the courtroom, Cook said she would not comment on those details. Cook also represents Figueroa on a probation violation case.

If the murder case is set for trial, Cook told the judge it could begin in March of next year. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office announced earlier it would not be a death-penalty case.

Figueroa’s next hearing will take place at Pinal County Superior Court on July 17 at 9 a.m.

Figueroa was indicted by a grand jury in December on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

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

A Pinal County judge struck down a motion Thursday aimed at returning one of Maricopa’s most high-profile murder cases to a grand jury on the grounds that jurors were prejudiced by prosecutors’ actions and their declared intent to seek the death penalty.

Public Defender James Mannato, representing alleged double-murderer Jose Valenzuela, filed the motion to remand the case to another grand jury based on potential bias and what he called “unintentionally false” facts presented to the grand jury which ultimately “reduced their objectivity.” Had his argument been successful, it would have been the third grand jury in the case.

Valenzuela, 40, is accused of murdering Michael and Tina Careccia in June 2015. Mannato already had the first indictment thrown out, forcing Pinal County to convene a second grand jury last year for a re-indictment.

Thursday, Mannato argued three factors contributed to the potential bias of the grand jury, none of which convinced Judge Kevin White that Valenzuela was denied any “substantial procedural right.”

The first indication of potential prejudice, Mannato argued, was a public disclosure by then-County Attorney Lando Voyles regarding his intent to seek the death penalty, which could have weakened the grand jury’s objectivity.

White said that assertion was “speculative on defense’s part.”

Second, Mannato said, by walking the grand jury through the first-degree murder conviction process, jurors were unfairly pushed to consider first-degree murder as the only charge, when in fact the jurors can and should consider all possible charges, including lesser forms of homicide such as manslaughter.

White said Mannato’s point does not indicate bias per precedent, stating improper proceedings do not call for remand unless “the testimony prejudiced or damage defendant,” which White does not believe happened.  

The third point Mannato made, was regarding questions posed to law enforcement officers by county prosecutors that may have “misled” the grand jury into believing one of the victims, Tina Careccia, was shot at point blank range in the back of the head when in fact the entry wound was located on top of her skull, according to police statements

White said any potential misstatements or “misleading” questions based on the exact location of the victim’s wounds do not detract from the fact the medical examiner declared the wound to have been made at point-blank range, indicating possible premeditation.

Valenzuela’s trial is set for Jan. 23. The prosecution is being conducted by special prosecutor Gary Husk after Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer recused his office.

 

 

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

By Michelle Chance

The Maricopa man accused of killing his wife with a sword in December will not face the death penalty.

According to court documents, state prosecutors have until May 5 to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Miguel Figueroa Sr.

However, Pinal County Attorney’s Office spokesman James Tanner said the state is not pursuing a capital case, and could not provide an explanation behind its decision because the case is still ongoing.

Inside a county courtroom Monday, 45-year-old Figueroa stood clothed in a jumpsuit and shackles alongside defense attorney Paula Cook.

Judge Kevin White approved Cook’s request to extend the date of a future hearing, which will determine Figueroa’s trial date.

Cook said she could not comment on the details of the case.

In December, Maricopa Police arrested Figueroa after he allegedly used a sword to kill his wife Olivia. That night, police found the victim’s body with multiple stab wounds in a desert area near the Heritage District.

Figueroa was later indicted by a grand jury on four felonies, including first-degree murder, kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault.

Figueroa’s trial date will be decided in court on June 12 at 9 a.m.

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.
By Michelle Chance
A trial date was set Monday for the Tempe woman charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Michael Agerter inside the garage of his Maricopa rental home in December.
Trial will begin for Kathryn Sinkevitch on May 8, 2018, at the Pinal County Superior Court House in Florence.
Public Defender James Mannato announced in court that, in agreeance with the prosecution, the trial will last four weeks with a 12-person jury. Sinkevitch will not be facing the death penalty.
Prosecutor Sean Coll said the defense “has been fine working on the trial date” with him, but could not comment further on the case. Mannato said there are “still many things to be done” in anticipation of the trial a little more than a year away.
In March, Judge Kevin White granted the public defender’s extension request to challenge the proceedings of the grand jury that indicted Sinkevitch with first-degree murder. However, after further review, Mannato said it was a fair presentation and there were no grounds to challenge.
He said of his client that Sinkevitch has pleaded not-guilty and should be presumed innocent throughout the process.
“I hope people take heed to that,” Monnanto said.
Sinkevitch shared a young child with Agerter, who was seeking custody of the then 1-month-old at the time of the murder.
A status review hearing is set for June 19 at 9 a.m.

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

Pinal County prosecutors have until March 7 to decide if they wish to seek the death penalty against a woman accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend in Maricopa.

Kathryn Sinkevitch appeared before Judge Kevin White in Superior Court Monday. The 32-year-old Tempe woman is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Maricopa resident Michael Agerter, 31. He was shot to death Dec. 16 in the garage of his rental home in Rancho El Dorado.

Family members of both were in the courtroom.  The Agerter family sat in the front row, straining to see as Sinkevitch was led into the busy well of the court. Wearing eyeglasses and a maroon jumpsuit, Sinkevitch appeared in jail shackles, her hair in braids.

During the hearing, prosecutor Sean Coll’s motion to take DNA evidence from Sinkevitch was granted. Prosecution and defense have also filed motions regarding access to the rental home and the logistics of getting permission from the person currently controlling the property.

Coll also said his office was still studying the possibility of seeking the death penalty.

Public defender James Mannato said his case was “still a little up in the air” over that.

“We do not want the wheels of capital punishment to go into motion,” he said.

Agerter’s family is circumspect about the idea.

“I don’t know if she did this. If she did do it, I want her to pay for what she did,” Agerter’s mother Leslie Agerter said in an interview last month. “I’m not looking for revenge. Hopefully, the law will come up with the right punishment.”

Sinkevitch and Agerter had a child together, a boy who was only a month old at the time of his father’s death.

The oldest of the four Agerter children, Michael came to Arizona six years ago from Ohio for a job but remained close with his siblings. Leslie Agerter described her son as “a caring, giving person.”

She said he started dating Sinkevitch about three years ago. Kathryn came with him to Ohio a couple of times to visit family.

The relationship was “up and down,” Leslie Agerter said. Though Mike talked about backing away, he hesitated because she didn’t have a job at the time and would suffer financially from a breakup, his mother said.

Leslie Agerter said the family was unaware of domestic violence allegations until the day after Mike had to get medical treatment. She said he called and told them some of Sinkevitch’s violent behavior. She said Mike had planned to leave, but then Sinkevitch found out she was pregnant.

Leslie Agerter called it a “toxic relationship” that forced her son to file for an order of protection against Sinkevitch.

She said that was also why he moved to Maricopa. After an allegation Sinkevitch stole his dog and was showing up at the Maricopa property, he asked his landlord for permission to install security cameras.

He also filed papers to seek custody of the child, whom he never met.

“He was being a man and wanting to take care of his son,” his mother said.

Dec. 16, he had just given a DNA sample in the custody case and was heading back home to Maricopa when he called his sister in Ohio. Instead, his mother answered the phone. They spoke briefly before Leslie handed the phone to her daughter.

Brother and sister talked all during his drive home. Meanwhile, Leslie left her daughter’s house to return to her own home a short drive away.  When she walked in the door, she discovered her daughter had been trying to reach her.

“She said they were still talking when he got to his house. She said she just heard a bang,” Leslie Agerter said. “And he wasn’t there anymore.”

Neighbors on Sagebrush Trail reported gunshots to law enforcement. From Ohio, Leslie Agerter was also trying to reach Maricopa Police to ask someone to go check on her son, not knowing they were already responding to the scene.

He was discovered deceased in the garage. His family saw the scene online from various media outlets before the appropriate person at Maricopa Police Department could officially inform her of what had transpired.

Footage from the surveillance camera at the side of the garage showed a school bus driving past the house before a figure entered camera range from across the street. It was apparently a female in a hoodie that obscured her identity.

The person left camera range by walking into the garage. A few moments later, the person left quickly, crossing the street and getting into a white caravan, which left the scene.

Sinkevitch was arrested Dec. 22 in Avondale by U.S. Marshals Fugitive Taskforce.

“If it was her, she didn’t need to go to extremes,” Leslie Agerter said. “They could have talked through this.”

Arizona Department of Child Safety took custody of the child and allowed family visits.

During Monday’s brief hearing, Leslie Agerter sat at the back of the gallery, child in arms, before the case was called. When Sinkevitch family members sat next to her, she said nothing but the bailiff had them move to the opposite side of the room.

The next pre-trial hearing is set for March 27 at 9 a.m.

Kathryn Sinkevitch is accused of murdering ex-boyfriend Michael Agerter in Maricopa.

First-degree murder case against a Tempe woman is moving forward to a trial.

Kathryn Ann Sinkevitch is accused of murder in the death of Michael Agerter. A pretrial conference is set for Feb. 13.

Agerter was found shot to death in the garage of his Rancho El Dorado home on Dec. 16. Sinkevitch, 32, was arrested Dec. 22 by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Taskforce at a location in Avondale. She reportedly had a previous relationship with Agerter and had a child in common who was the center of a custody dispute.

A Pinal County grand jury indicted Sinkevitch on a first-degree murder charge on Dec. 28, citing homicide and domestic violence laws. The true bill states she acted “with premeditation, intending or knowing that her conduct would cause that death.”

Sinkevitch was arraigned before Judge Dwight Callahan on Jan. 6. She remains in Pinal County jail on a $1 million bond.

The pretrial conference is scheduled before Judge Kevin White in Superior Court.

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

A Maricopa man accused of killing his wife with a sword was arraigned Dec. 23.

Miguel Figueroa Sr., 45, was indicted Dec. 19 on four felony counts, including first-degree murder. His bond, first set Dec. 12, was maintained at $750,000.

Figueroa was arrested Dec. 10. The body of his wife Olivia was found later that night.

Nine days later, a Pinal County grand jury indicted Figueroa on charges of premeditated murder, a class-1 felony, kidnapping his wife, a class-2 felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, on his wife and on his son, by allegedly threatening them with a gun, class-3 felonies.

A funeral mass was held for Olivia Figueroa, 43, Dec. 17.

The night of her death, residents in the Maricopa Meadows subdivision reported seeing and hearing a man assaulting a woman and forcing her into his truck. Figueroa’s son reported being assaulted and his mother threatened before his father drove off with her in a pickup truck.

Later in the evening, Figueroa reportedly contacted his daughter, allegedly telling her he had killed Olivia. That call eventually led Maricopa Police to Figueroa at his mother’s house in the Heritage District, where responding officers reported the suspect had a sword in his hand.

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

A Maricopa man has been charged with killing his wife, Olivia Cecelia Julian Figueroa, with a sword.

Miguel Figueroa, 45, was arrested Saturday night. He was booked on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault and misconduct involving a weapon.

Residents of Maricopa Meadows first reported screaming to the Maricopa Police Department just after 6:30 p.m. One caller said a woman was in the bed of a Dodge pickup calling for help. MPD was unable to find the truck.

At 7:21 p.m., MPD received a call from Figueroa’s son, who said his father had assaulted him and pointed a gun at his mother while they were sitting in the pickup truck. At around 8 p.m., Figueroa’s daughter told MPD her father called her and told her he had killed their mother Olivia and left her in the desert.

Police located Figueroa at a residence near Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and John Wayne Parkway. According to the report, he was standing outside the residence “with a sword in hand and his clothing covered in blood.”

Police reported Figueroa was shouting “kill me, kill me” and “I killed her in the desert.” After he dropped the sword, he was taken into custody. According to the report, Figueroa allegedly told his mother he had killed Olivia by stabbing her multiple times.

The Dodge truck was found in a desert area near Garvey Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue. The body of Olivia Figueroa, 43, was then found more than 100 feet away with multiple wounds to the chest and arms.

The incident is being investigated by the MPD Criminal Investigation Unit. The cause of death will be determined by the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Figueroa’s bond is set at $750,000 on the assault charge. He has arraignment hearings set for Dec. 15 and Dec. 20. He had previous arrests in Pinal County on charges of possessing drug paraphernalia, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated robbery.

According to court records, the couple married in 2000.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those that are affected by this tragic event which led to the loss of their loved one,” MPD Chief Steve Stahl said. “Domestic violence is a continuing cause for concern within the City of Maricopa as well as throughout the country which will take everyone’s awareness and assistance to eliminate. The Maricopa Police Department continues to provide training, resources and partnerships to our officers and Victims Assistance personal in the on-going effort to end domestic violence crimes and break the cycle of violence.  I commend the first responding officers in their courage and restraint while taking Mr. Figueroa into custody without further loss of life.”

Gustavo Olivo, 17, and Arthur Eric Magana, 16, have been formally charged with the felony of first-degree murder by the Pinal County Attorney's Office. (PCSO photos)

A 20-year-old man living in an unincorporated area south of Maricopa was shot to death Nov. 7 and two teenage suspects have been indicted.

Wyatt Miller died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. He apparently knew the two teens involved.

Monday, Gustavo Olivo, 17, and Arthur Eric Magana, 16, both of Maricopa, were indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery. They are listed at addresses within the city limits.

PCSO was called to a residence in the 54200 block of West Cardinal Road just before 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7. The location is a couple of miles north of Interstate 8.

The caller said somebody was shooting at her and her husband from outside the house. She then said her husband went outside to check.

When deputies arrived, said to be within minutes of being dispatched, they found Miller dead inside a 2001 Chevy truck in the front yard. He was described as having “numerous gunshot wounds.”

Two sets of shoe prints were followed to a residence in the 2300 block of South Oak Road.

“Once at the residence, the homeowner advised the two subjects ran into the back room of his home,” Sheriff Paul Babeu stated. “Deputies went inside of the residence, and the two suspects were taken into custody. The shoe prints on the suspects matched the pattern of the shoe prints at the scene. One of the suspects had blood on his shoes as well.”

Babeu said robbery appears to be the motive and the three were acquainted.

He said the investigation indicated Olivo and Magana were inside Miller’s vehicle when one of them shot Miller several times. They allegedly then stole his money and other property.

Arraignment for the juvenile suspects is scheduled for Nov. 18 at Pinal County Superior Court.

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

Michael and Tina Careccia were killed and buried more than a year ago, their bodies discovered next to a home on Papago Road. Jose Valenzuela has been in jail awaiting trial ever since.

In a court hearing Friday, that trial on two charges of first-degree murder was tentatively set to begin Jan. 23, 2018, at 9 a.m. in Judge Kevin White’s courtroom in Pinal County Superior Court.

Valenzuela, now 39, had to be indicted twice and the state had to twice file notice of its intent to seek the death penalty. Pinal County Public Defender James Mannato successfully had the July 8, 2015, indictment tossed after it was determined information not in evidence had been presented to the Grand Jury.

Valenzuela was re-indicted April 6 this year on two counts of first-degree murder. Mannato has until Aug. 19 to file a new challenge to the most recent Grand Jury proceedings.

Valenzuela was present at Friday’s hearing, seated beside Mannato and wearing a brown Pinal County Sheriff’s Office jail outfit and shackles. Relatives of the Careccias filled a front bench.

Michael and Tina Careccia were last seen alive June 21, 2015, after a Father’s Day party at the home where they resided in the Thunderbird Farms area. Their son reported them missing the next day. The couple’s Honda Accord was found in the area a couple of hours later.

The subsequent investigation found Michael Careccia, 44, had telephoned Valenzuela several times after the party. The last call on his phone was to Valenzuela at 11 p.m. that night, according to court filings.

Michael and Tina Careccia lived with family members two streets away from the man charged with their murders. (Instagram)
Michael and Tina Careccia lived with family members two streets away from the man charged with their murders. (Instagram)

Between June 23 and July 1, Detectives Shawn Wilson and Andrew Converse interviewed Valenzuela four times. The final time, Valenzuela called Converse and reportedly confessed to shooting both of the Careccias.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office alleges Valenzuela borrowed a friend’s backhoe to bury the bodies in a red blanket and a blue tarp next to the house he was living in, which belonged to his parents. It was two streets north of the Careccia home.

Valenzuela allegedly told detectives he was “tripped out” on meth at the time and that both of the Careccias were also using meth. A coroner’s report filed last August showed the presence of methamphetamine and amphetamine in the victims’ systems.

The cause of death in both cases was gunshot to the head by a .22 revolver.

In testimony presented to the first Grand Jury, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office tried to prove premeditation and motive by suggesting Valenzuela had been romantically interested in Tina Careccia, 42. Mannato said there was no evidence of that or the state’s version of how the victims were shot, and allowing that to go before the jury denied Valenzuela due process.

Mannato has a pending motion to officially dismiss the first bill of indictment to prevent future confusion.

The next court hearing on that and the state’s motion to strike certain defenses is set for Sept. 30 at 9 a.m.

The trial itself will be in front of a 12-person jury. White has set aside three months for those proceedings. The timing is only tentative because the case is advancing in what the judge called a “fluid situation.”

In the meantime, at the request of Deputy County Attorney Vince Goddard, Judge White ordered Mannato not to have any contact with family members of the Careccias until the state determines who can be classified as next of kin.

Shawn Main (left) is charged with murder in the death of Tiana Rosalie Capps. Charged with abuse are Maria Tiglao (center) and Tina Morse, the child's mother.

Sheriff Paul Babeu announced today the arrest of three women in connection with the Nov. 19 death of 3-year-old Tiana Rosalie Capps.

The arrests occurred on Dec. 24 after a month-long investigation into the child’s death from blunt force trauma while in the care of Shawn Main, a 45-year-old Maricopa resident. She was charged with murder and child abuse.

Also arrested were the child’s biological mother, Tina Morse, 27, and Maria C. Tiglao, 46. Both were charged with five counts of child abuse against the four children in their care.

“The investigation has shown that the biological mother and two other women who were supposed to be caring for these four children, failed miserably in their responsibility to protect these children from harm,” Babeu said. “We discovered that all of the children suffered from abuse, the worst case resulting in the death of 3-year-old Tiana.”

As reported earlier, PCSO received a 911 call from a caretaker reporting a child in medical distress and notifying officers she was driving the child to the hospital. That caretaker is now identified as Main.

Deputies and paramedics met Main’s vehicle near Amarillo Valley Road and Century Road, where she had pulled to the side of the road at the dispatcher’s request to start CPR on the child. Deputies found the child in full code and began emergency life-saving measures.

The child was transported by ground to a local emergency room where continued life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. The child died in the emergency room. Doctors trying to save the child noted she had unexplained injuries to her head and body.

The child lived with her natural mother and two other adult females at a home on North Ralston Road in unincorporated Maricopa. Deputies who showed up at the residence for the initial investigation reported the residence was filthy, with animal feces and belongings stacked throughout the house, typical of a hoarders’ residence.

They discovered three male children lived at the home as well, all biological children of Tina Morse. They were 5-years-old, 4-years-old and 5-months-old.

As a result of the deputies’ observations, they requested the surviving children be removed from the home by the Department of Child Safety.

Tiana’s autopsy was done by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and showed she died of repeated blunt force trauma.

“When our detectives interviewed the women living in the home, they established that Shawn Main was responsible for caring for the three oldest children and Maria Tiglao cared for the infant,” Babeu said. “The biological mother, Tina Morse, admitted to providing no care for her children. Shawn admitted that Tiana was under her care at the time of her fatal injuries. Although Shawn claimed the child’s injuries were self-inflicted, the medical examiner’s report did not support the claims.”

According to the report, the five-year-old male was found to have injuries to his head and malnourished. The other children were found to be malnourished. All the surviving children remain in the custody of the Department of Child Safety.

The three suspects remain in custody at the Pinal County Adult Detention Center.

Jose Valenzuela Jr. was back in Superior Court Monday.

A Maricopa murder suspect has been requested to submit a sample of pubic hair.

Prosecuting attorney Patrick Johnson said the hair could be further proof of physical contact between Jose Valenzuela Jr. and the victims, Tina and Michael Careccia, on the night they died.

Public Defender James Mannato protested the state was up to something else.

“That is outside the bounds of this murder case,” Mannato told Judge Kevin White.

The pre-trial hearing was Monday morning at Pinal County Superior Court.

Valenzuela is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of the Careccias on June 21. Their bodies were found buried on his property on Papago Road early on the morning July 2, according to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

Mannato said the state is trying to infer some kind of sexual contact. He said that is irrelevant to the charges.

Johnson, however, said the effort to obtain a hair sample “goes to premeditation.” He said an unidentified pubic hair was found on one of the victims.

Michael and Tina Careccia lived with family members two streets away from the man charged with their murders. (Instagram)
Michael and Tina Careccia lived with family members two streets away from the man charged with their murders. (Instagram)

Judge White approved the motion to retrieve the sample.

Mannato continues to put together a challenge to the Grand Jury proceedings, saying some things or motives may have been put in front of the jurors that were not in evidence. He has until Nov. 9 to file that challenge.

“Allegedly, he admitted to the things he’s been charged with, but I don’t know if that’s true or not,” Mannato said.

The Careccias were shot to death, according to the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office, which also found methamphatamine and amphetamines in the Careccias’ systems.

The arraignment in the double-murder case was in July before Judge Dwight Callahan, who had issued an order allowing the case to be televised. Monday, White was asked to clarify that order.

Johnson said the victims’ family members are not opposed to televised coverage as long as they are not shown on screen. Mannato said though media interest has waned at this point it will intensify by the time of the trail.

“I ask the court to not allow the case to be televised,” Mannato said. “It does present a very clear risk to Mr. Valenzuela being able to have a fair trial.”

White said he would not order cancellation of televised coverage. The judge will look at the order and may modify it. He said it not a matter of whether it would take place but “how it will take place.”

A trial date has not been set. Valenzuela’s next pre-trial hearing is Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m.