Mark Lamb may have had an R after his name on the campaign trail, but he does not expect his tenure as Pinal County sheriff to be a replica of Paul Babeu’s.
Lamb, 43, defeated Democrat Kaye Dickson in a tough contest. Unofficial numbers from Tuesday’s General Election gave him 58 percent of the vote.
“We were confident when we went into it,” he said of election night. “But it’s like a jury trial; you never know what’s going to happen.”
Lamb wants to boost morale in the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. That includes better pay, but is not limited to that.
“When people leave a job, 75 percent leave because of management,” he said. “We’ve got to create a good work environment.”
Lamb also wants to smooth feathers that were more than ruffled in Babeu’s battle with the county’s Board of Supervisors. Babeu was so upset with budget decisions he sought out candidates to endorse against some of the sitting members.
Some supervisors were at the election party with Lamb to watch results.
“They’re very excited. They see what we would like to fix,” Lamb said. “I don’t anticipate having issues with the board.”
Babeu has been arguably the second most-known sheriff in Arizona because of his tough talk on border issues. Lamb wants to take a different approach.
“I want to focus on Pinal County,” he said. “If it doesn’t benefit Pinal County, I don’t need to be on the news. If Fox [News] calls, what are they going to do for me?”
Lamb said he does not want to give the county a black eye and scare off possible new businesses or residents with over-emphasis on drugs and smuggling crimes in interviews and public statements. It is an echo of his statement during the campaign: “We need to be unpredictable for the cartels without broadcasting our tactics for political gain.”
While Lamb eschews much of Babeu’s style as sheriff, he has welcomed outreach from his fellow Republican as the transition period begins.
“I’ve been texting with him daily,” Lamb said. “They’re setting up an office for us at the sheriff’s office. He wants to help in the transition.”
As for Dickson, Lamb was impressed with her effort in a Republican-heavy county.
“Everywhere we went, we saw her getting support. Kaye worked very hard,” Lamb said. “We had to work hard to keep pace.”
From his own supporters, Lamb discovered there was a variety of reasons they voted for him but a common theme.
“They told me, ‘You stand for what I believe.’ I just want to get back to the basics,” he said.
Lamb will take the oath of office in January.
A Maricopa man faces several charges after his arrest Monday morning.
Matthew John Wix, 23, of Maricopa, had a warrant after allegedly failing to comply with an earlier court order.
He was arrested at around 9:13 a.m. by a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy at PCSO on suspicion of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of liquor, drugs or vapors. DUI with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or more, extreme DUI with BAC of .15-.20 and super extreme DUI with BAC over .20.
Wix was originally charged in November 2015 in a drug case. A warrant was issued in February. That warrant was quashed Monday.
Charges in Pinal County Superior Court are possession and use of drug paraphernalia and extreme DUI with a BAC between .15 and .19.
A Stanfield man suspected of smuggling 22 bales of marijuana was arrested after being chased by a sheriff’s deputy through the Thunderbird Farms area.
The deputy, a detective with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office anti-smuggling unit, was traveling on Papago Road on Wednesday around 7:30 a.m. when he saw a vehicle turn abruptly off the road onto a farm road.
The Chevrolet SUV sped from the patrol vehicle, according to the report, and then drove in circles at dangerous speeds between the fields where workers were present. The SUV returned to Papago Road, went north on Amarillo Valley Road and west on Teel Road. It was abandoned near Ralston Road, and an unknown number of occupants fled into the fields.
One person ran to a group of farm workers to try to conceal himself among them.
The deputy reportedly found 22 bales of marijuana, weighing 495 pounds, inside the SUV. He spoke to the farm workers nearby, and they pointed out the suspect as having fled from the vehicle.
The man was identified as Aldo Aleman, 19. The allegedly was carrying a two-way radio on which the deputy believed he heard smugglers and scouts talking in Spanish.
Aleman, listed as a resident of Stanfield, is being held in the county jail awaiting charges of drug smuggling and possession of drugs for sale.
A fight may have turned into arson in Stanfield Sunday night.
Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to reports of a fight near 38000 W. Apache Drive just after 10 p.m. Before they arrived, another caller reported a trailer on fire in the vicinity.
“When we arrived at the fire location, we found a travel trailer on fire behind a residence,” PCSO spokesman Mark Clark said. “The occupant of the trailer was not there, but she was later located and found to be OK.”
The resident told deputies her ex-boyfriend made vague threats on the phone earlier, saying “she would pay” for dating someone else.
The fire is being investigated as suspicious.
“We cannot confirm it is an arson, but we are working with the fire department to determine if it was intentionally set or not,” Clark said.
The people fighting, which initiated the calls to the location, were not found or identified.
One charge led to several charges against one Maricopa man over the weekend while another felt repercussions from a 2013 case.
Brandon Johnson York, 24, was arrested by a Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy Saturday near Wildwood and Warren roads.
He faces charges of threatening/intimidating with injury or damage, driving on a suspended license, having no current vehicle registration and failure to comply with a court order.
His bond was $500. He was booked at Pinal County Detention and arraigned at Maricopa Justice Center.
Sunday, Anatolio Scott Cano Jr., 35, was arrested on State Route 347 near Louis Johnson Road on four counts of failure to comply with a previous sentence.
For each of the non-compliance issues, his bond was set at $914, $540, $1,992 and $1,040. He had previous arrests for assault, drugs and driving on a suspended license. He was booked at Pinal County Detention.
A Stanfield man has been arrested on charges of theft and forgery by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Luis Miguel Rosales, 30, was already on probation when he was taken into custody in the 6200 block of Pala Road in Stanfield on March 3.
New charges of theft by misrepresentation, possession of stolen property, forgery and probation violation.
His bond was set at $2,500, with his initial appearance before Judge Lawrence Wharton.
Rosales has an arraignment hearing set for March 10 followed by a preliminary hearing March 11.
Sheriff Paul Babeu announced today he has relieved a 14-year deputy of his duties while commencing termination proceedings to fire him from the sheriff’s office. On March 3, Deputy Scott Strobel was served termination papers at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
In November of 2015, PCSO was made aware of allegations that Scott Strobel, 47, had sexual contact with a 15-year-old male in 2005. Babeu ordered a full criminal investigation into the allegations and placed Strobel on administrative reassignment.
The results of the investigation were turned over to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office and ultimately a grand jury. On March 2, Strobel was indicted on four counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of child luring.
“When allegations such as these are brought forward, I have a duty to investigate fully and immediately remove the employee from public duty,” Babeu said. “It is disturbing to hear these allegations, but the results of our investigation and the grand jury indictment, show that nobody is above the law and we are prepared to hold any offender accountable for their criminal acts.”
Strobel was a school resource officer and had been president of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s Association.
Two Maricopans were among people arrested by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in the past week.
Adam James Selvidge, 36, was arrested Feb. 7 in the 1700 block of Hunts Highway.
He faces charges of being a fugitive of justice, assault and disorderly content and two charges of failure to appear.
His initial court appearance was Feb. 8 on a $50,000 bond. Selvidge has a scheduled extradition hearing in front of Judge Platt Feb. 12. He is also scheduled to go before Judge Shaun Babeu in the Apache Junction Justice Court on a $2,500 bond for new charges.
Eric Owen Kelly, 49, of Maricopa was arrested Feb. 8 on Ralston Road near Peters and Nall. He faces charges of theft of means of transportation, parole violation and failure to appear. He has a bond of $52, 132.
He is scheduled for arraignment Feb. 16 in front of Judge Lawrence Wharton in Superior Court.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety Border Strike Force Bureau conducted a four-day operation Feb. 4-7 that resulted in 12 traffic stops, 40 arrests and the seizure of 3,743 pounds of marijuana.
Also seized during the operation were two firearms and three stolen vehicles.
The 40 arrests made in Operation Sidewinder included 34 citizens of Mexico, five citizens of the United States, and one other undocumented person. The firearms seized were an assault rifle and a handgun.
“The successes that the Border Strike Force is experiencing, especially during this latest operation, is a testament to the great partnerships that have been built between ADPS and other law enforcement agencies,” ADPS Capt. Dave Nilson said,
The Border Strike Force Bureau’s operation covered Pinal and Maricopa counties, and was assisted by Homeland Security, ICE, Border Patrol, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and others.
A former aviation company executive has been identified as the pilot in the fatal plane crash in Thunderbird Farms Friday.
According to Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Clark, Jeffrey Pino, 61, died at the scene. An unexpected second victim was also recovered but an identity has not been released.
Pino was a resident of Chandler. According to his LinkedIn profile he was CEO of Maquarie Rotocraft Leasing Inc.
An experienced pilot who was once president of Sikorsky Aircraft. Pino was flying “Big, Beautiful Doll,” a North American P-51D Mustang. It crashed near the junction of Peters and Nall Road and Breeze Way, just west of Ralston Road. The incident happened just before noon.
Because the vintage aircraft was a one-seater, the presence of a second body surprised investigators. The plane burst into flames after impact.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Pinal County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the accident.
Pino retired as president of Sikorsky in 2012. Sikorsky Aviation is the helicopter division of United Technologies Corp. He was a former test pilot for the U.S. Army.
“The Sikorsky family is saddened to learn of the sudden loss of former President Jeff Pino,” Sikorsky’s current president Dan Schultz said in a statement. “Mr. Pino was president of Sikorsky for six years, during which he “brought personal energy and passion for aviation innovation to our industry.”
A traffic stop on State Route 347 led to the arrest of four people on suspicion of drug smuggling Sunday.
According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, a Pontiac sedan was stopped west of Stanfield for allegedly speeding 15 mph over the limit. Two adults and a juvenile, all from Phoenix, and a San Tan Valley man were in the vehicle.
The deputy described one passenger, Hector Garcia-Franco, as wearing camouflaged clothing similar to that worn by drug smugglers walking across the desert from Mexico. The driver, Christian Grimaldo, 21, of Phoenix, gave explanation for their presence in the area. The deputy reported all four appeared nervous.
The other adult passenger was Grimaldo’s wife Dalia Sanchez, 21. The juvenile was 17 years old.
“Between the nervous behaviors, inconsistent statements of the vehicle occupants, and the deputy’s observations, our deputy became suspicious that the vehicle contained drugs,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “When the driver allowed him to look in the trunk, he discovered two bales of marijuana and straps used to carry them across the desert from Mexico.”
All four people in the car were arrested and transported to the county jail to await charges.
Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles announced today his office would seek the death penalty against Jose Valenzuela, who is accused of murdering Mike and Tina Careccia last year.
The Careccias went missing June 21 after a Father’s Day party at their home. Their bodies were found July 2 in a makeshift grave next to Valenzuela’s home on Papago Road. They were both shot to death.
Voyles said he was seeking the death penalty because of the personal nature of the crime and because it was “especially heinous.”
The notice to seek the death penalty was filed Friday.
“I want to make sure the victims know our deepest condolences go to you,” Voyles said. “There is nothing we can say to bring the lives back of these two individuals, but our goal now is to seek justice.”
Among aggravating factors used in the filing were Valenzuela’s previous homicide convictions that could have led to sentences of life in prison or the death penalty and the “heinous, cruel or depraved manner” of the death of Tina Careccia.
“Justice must be served,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Our hearts go out to the surviving victims and to the community. They didn’t deserve this, and we’re going to stand for justice in this case.”
He said Valenzuela confessed over the phone, threatened to kill himself and had a standoff with deputies before his arrest July 1.
No charges have been filed against Felix Rios Nunez, who was in the Valenzuela home at the time of the incident. He is being treated as a witness because he had been threatened with death if he told anyone what happened, Babeu said.
Valenzuela, 36, has been in the Pinal County jail on a $2 million bond since his arrest. He is represented by the Pinal County Office of the Public Defender. His next court date is Jan. 25 in front of Superior Court Judge Kevin White.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced the sheriff’s office has been awarded $120,000 in grant funding by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the DUI Abatement Council to continue aggressive speed and impaired driving enforcement throughout 2016.
“The support we receive from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety will strengthen our efforts to keep the families of Pinal County safe while travelling on our roadways,” Babeu said. “We place the highest priority on keeping our roads safe and have zero tolerance for impaired driving in Pinal County.”
This funding specifically enables PCSO to conduct monthly DUI enforcement deployments in cooperation with Pinal County Regional DUI Task Force and host multi-agency events throughout Pinal County.
During 2014, Pinal County had a total of 3,701 motor vehicle collisions. Out of those collisions, there were 38 people killed and another 1,228 people injured. Approximately 15 percent of the fatal collisions in Pinal County involved alcohol and or drug impaired drivers.
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.
A Mexican national was arrested Sunday on charges of smuggling 280 pounds of marijuana through Pinal County.
Guadalupe Acosta-Gutierrez, 22, was arrested after a pursuit on Papago Road.
Just after noon, a Pinal County Sheriff’s deputy tried to stop a silver Ford SUV for an alleged traffic violation on Papago Road, which is south of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. The driver, however, fled at speeds up to 70 mph until he crashed into a clump of trees north of West Jean Drive and North Glyde Drive.
He then fled on foot for half a mile before being nabbed by an Ak-Chin Police officer. He was identified as Acosta-Gutierrez of Sinaloa, Mexico.
According to the report, the SUV contained 20 bales of marijuana with a street value of about $140,000.
Acosta-Gutierrez was the only occupant of the vehicle. He was booked at Pinal County Jail pending charges of drug smuggling and felony flight.
There have been no charges filed in the death of a 3-year-old girl last week, but the case is not over.
A spokesman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said there had been no arrests “yet.”
“The medical examiner advised our detectives that the baby died from blunt force trauma,” Mark Clark said.
The girl lived with her natural mother and two other adult females at a home on North Ralston Road near Maricopa.
A 911 call was received Thursday at 6:20 a.m. from a woman reporting the child in medical distress. She said she was driving the girl to the hospital. PCSO described her as the caregiver but has not identified her.
Paramedics met her en route and began life-saving procedures on the child while taking her to the hospital. She reportedly died in the emergency room.
Three other children living at the home on Ralston have been removed by the Department of Child Safety, Clark said.
Geriann Henderson, 26, has been identified as the woman killed Saturday while tandem skydiving over Maricopa.
Originally from Colorado, she had recently moved to Mesa.
Seriously injured in the crash was Skydive Phoenix instructor Todd Dimauro, 40. Both of his legs were broken.
“The incident is being investigated by our agency in conjunction with the Pinal County Medical Examiner and the FAA,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Mr. Dimauro is a very experienced jump instructor, and it looks like all of the safety measures were in place. Witnesses reported that both parachutes deployed, but something went terribly wrong just before hitting the ground.”
The incident happened around 10:30 a.m. near Hidden Valley Road at Bowlin Road.
A woman was killed this morning south of Maricopa while tandem skydiving.
According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, an instructor with Skydive Phoenix jumped with a 26-year-old woman over Hidden Valley. Their parachute failed to completely deploy, and the pair had a hard impact in a field northwest of Bowlin Road and Hidden Valley Road.
The woman was declared dead at the scene. The 40-year-old instructor had two broken legs and was transported to an emergency room. He is expected to survive.
The incident happened at 10:30 a.m. Names have not been released.
“PCSO will conduct the death investigation in conjunction with the Pinal Medical Examiner,” PCSO spokesman Mark Clark stated. “The FAA will conduct their own investigation to assure federal regulations were followed.”
Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death of 3-year-old girl who lived on North Ralston Road.
According PCSO spokesman Mark Clark, a 911 call was received Thursday at 6:20 a.m. from a woman reporting the child in medical distress. She said she was driving the girl to the hospital.
Deputies and paramedics met the driver near the corner of Amarillo Valley Road and Century Road, where she had pulled to the side of the road at the dispatcher’s request. The driver was described as a caregiver to the child.
The girls was in “full code” when paramedics arrived. They began life-saving measures, and the child was taken by ambulance to the hospital but could not be revived. She died in the emergency room, according to Clark.
The cause of death has not been released.
The girl lived with her natural mother and two other adult females at a home on North Ralston Road near Maricopa. Three other children living at the home have been removed by the Department of Child Safety, Clark said.
Pinal County Sheriff’s detectives worked with the U.S. Border Patrol Thursday morning in the western desert of Pinal County to seize 1,737 pounds of marijuana and arrest 21 people in three locations.
The first contact was made by a PCSO deputy on Interstate 8 near milepost 157 at 2:30 a.m. The deputy observed a Ford Focus sedan pull from the side of the interstate and head east at a high rate of speed. The deputy stopped the car near the Stanfield Road exit.
When the deputy approached the car, he noticed six occupants and a camouflaged bale in the back seat that he suspected of being marijuana. One suspect fled from the vehicle, and five others were detained.
A search of the car reportedly netted three bales of marijuana totaling 150 pounds. Of the five people detained, three were Mexican Nationals in the country illegally and two were U.S. citizens.
The second seizure took place near Meadowview Road and State Route 347. A deputy on routine patrol observed a gold minivan turn onto Meadowview from SR 347 at 5:45 a.m. The deputy turned onto Meadowview and saw that the van had pulled to the side of the road and a group of 14 males were running toward the van with large packs.
The deputy suspected smuggling activity and activated his emergency lights. The males running toward the van all dropped the packs and ran back into the desert. The van was unoccupied. The deputy located 14 large bales of marijuana packaged in camouflaged material near the van and in the nearby desert. The total weight of the seized marijuana was 592 pounds. None of the suspectes or van driver were located.
At 8 a.m., the Border Patrol requested assistance from PCSO with a group of 40 smugglers walking through a wash near Hidden Valley Road and Century Road. PCSO responded with ground and air units to help locate and apprehend the suspects.
Over a period of three hours and in rugged mountain terrain, 16 of the estimated 40 smugglers were apprehended by both Border Patrol agents and PCSO detectives from the Anti-Smuggling Unit. Forty bales of bundled marijuana weighing 995 pounds were located in the area where the suspects had fled into the desert from the wash.
“This is further evidence that the Mexican Cartels continue their aggressive smuggling operations,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Our heroes in the U.S. Border Patrol deserve the full support of the President and our government to fully enforce immigration law and secure the border at the border, not 70 miles north where these smuggling crimes occurred.”
A Johnson family in Stanfield wound up behind bars Wednesday.
Pinal County Sheriff’s Office arrested five people on Pima Road early in the morning, two of them on drug charges.
“The arrests were made by PCSO detectives as part of an ongoing criminal investigation,” PCSO spokesman Mark Clark said.
Roy Lee Johnson, 63, of Maricopa, was charged with possession of marijuana for use, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of dangerous drugs for use, possession of dangerous drugs for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Sammie Lee Johnson, 57, of Stanfield, was charged with marijuana possession of use and sale, drug possession for use and sale and a violation of compliance with an earlier sentence. His cash bond was $621.
Malcolm Terrell Johnson, 22, of Stanfield, was charged with failure to appear in the second degree. His cash bond was $900.
Kathy Lynn Johnson, 49, of Stanfield, was charged with violation of a promise to appear. Her bond was $1,575.
But PCSO was not finished on Pima Road. A little later in the morning, Brandon Christian Thomas, 27, of Stanfield, was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in the second degree and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He appeared before Judge Lyle Riggs in the Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court on Thursday. His bond on the failure to appear charge was $793. The drug charged netted at $1,000 bond.
A known drug-smuggling corridor south of Maricopa yielded two arrests for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office when four large packages of marijuana were reportedly found in the back seat of a sedan.
Tawnya M. Othon, 43, of Phoenix was arrested on State Route 84 at Amarillo Valley Road on an array of drug charges when the sedan she was driving was pulled over at around 6 a.m. Initially a traffic stop, the event turned into a booking on citations of possession of marijuana for use, possession of marijuana for sale, transportation of marijuana and conspiracy. Othon has a $25,000 bond with a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 29.
Othon was not alone. At the same time, her passenger Mykel D. Dorsey, 32, of Phoenix was arrested on the same charges and was given the same bond and preliminary hearing date.
“The area where these smugglers were arrested is well known to my deputies as an area where drugs from Mexico are picked up and transported to the valley,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “Although the suspects did not say where the drugs came from, the packaging was consistent with baled marijuana we see from Mexico.”
The four bales of marijuana were wrapped in camouflaged cloth with crudely made cloth carrying straps. The total weight of the four bales was 171 pounds.
“We are finding that the Mexican drug cartels are recruiting drivers from within Arizona to carry the drugs, in smaller quantities, to destinations throughout the United States,” Babeu said. “The smugglers aren’t even trying to hide the drugs anymore. In this case, the smugglers threw the drugs into the back seat of the small sedan and off they went.”
Among PCSO arrests of Maricopans during the past week, Michael Patrick Largy, 47, of Maricopa was arrested Oct. 16 at the adult detention center on a charge of possession of dangerous drugs for sale.
Melissa Ann Joseph, 34, of Maricopa was arrested Oct. 16 in the 22000 block of Ellison Road on a charge of disorderly conduct.
James D. Huff, 42, of Maricopa was arrested Oct. 17 on Papago Road at Johnson Road on a charge of failure to appear.
An attempted traffic stop on two suspicious vehicles on Interstate 8 led to a pursuit in the Stanfield area and the arrest of two Casa Grande men.
A Pinal County Sheriff’s Office deputy with the Anti-Smuggling Unit saw a white Ford Mustang and an orange Chevrolet Camaro apparently traveling together westbound at 4:45 a.m. Aug. 26. According to the report, the deputy saw both vehicles committing traffic infractions and moved into position to make a stop.
The vehicles then separated at State Route 84. The deputy followed the Mustang off the interstate and radioed for other units to stop the Camaro. The Mustang went onto a farm road near SR 84 and Smith Road and became stuck in the mud. The driver fled on foot, but the deputy chased him down and took him into custody.
He was identified as Rigoberto Leue-Tejeda, 20, of Casa Grande.
Inside the Mustang, deputies found two camouflaged backpacks containing 77 pounds of marijuana and three Kenwood mobile two-way radios.
“The driver of the car we apprehended admitted that he was paid $1,000 by the other suspect to pick up the drugs at a designated point along the highway,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “This case is a perfect example of why we need to put more effort into securing our border. It is more than just illegal immigration; it’s about criminals carrying assault weapons and smuggling drugs through our Pinal County communities.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol officers stopped the Camaro on Stanfield Road near I-8. They reportedly found an assault-style rifle, ski masks and more two-way radios. PCSO took custody of the driver, Erick Tarango, 20, of Casa Grande.
Both were booked at the Adult Detention Center and the vehicles were seized as evidence.
The name of the man killed in an accident at his home on Roan Road Tuesday has not been released.
The 58-year-old man was working on his truck with a friend on the property in the Thunderbird Farms area southwest of Maricopa.
“At some point while the two men were working on the truck, the truck engine started and it was in reverse,” Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Clark said. “The truck started to move un-piloted [and] both men tried to regain control of the truck.”
The 49-year-old friend rolled under the truck and suffered injuries to his legs, head and arms. The owner then fell under the truck, which stopped on top of him. Clark said the fatal injury was due to massive blunt force trauma.
The 49-year-old man was air-lifted to a hospital for his non-fatal injuries.
PCSO was called to the scene around 11:15 a.m. by the victim’s wife. When detectives arrived, they found him deceased.
Nearly eight months after absconding from his Maricopa home, a convicted sex offender has been recaptured.
An off-duty Pinal County sheriff’s detective is credited with identifying Willard Castenada at a shopping mall in Tucson on Aug. 14 and calling in the Violent Offender Task Force.
Castenada, 26, is a registered Level 3 sex offender who was required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. He had been convicted of sexual conduct with a minor in a case involving a 14-year-old girl in 2010. On Dec. 28, 2014, he cut off the bracelet and left town.
According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, he also had prior convictions for armed robbery, drug possession and several misdemeanors.
The detective who spotted Castenada is a member of the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Offender Task Force. Castenada was arrested without incident and extradited back to Pinal County.
“When Castaneda was interviewed by our detectives at PCSO Jail, he admitted that he cut off his ankle monitor and had been in Tucson since then,” Sheriff Paul Babeu said. “He said he couldn’t handle probation and wanted to live as much as he could before he was caught.”
Castenada was arraigned Aug. 21 and given no bond. His next court hearing is Sept. 14. He had warrants for violating sex-offender registration laws. He is also charged with interfering with a monitoring device.
A Maricopa man has been charged with trafficking in stolen property. Michael Ray Butler, 48, was arrested Friday afternoon by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
He is also charged with fraudulent schemes and interfering with a judicial proceeding. His bond was set at $1,066, and his arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 21 at Maricopa/Stanfield Justice Court.
Juan Juarez, 30, was arrested in the 49000 Block of West Papago Road on charges of second-degree burglary and trafficking in stolen property. His bond was set at $10,000, and his preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 26 in Maricopa.
Also last week, Brandon York, 23, of Maricopa, was arrested by PCSO on a charge of disorderly conduct on Friday.
Juan Manuel Martinez, 30, of Maricopa, was arrested Tuesday at the junction of State Route 84 and Navajo Way in Stanfield on a shoplifting charge.
A Maricopa man accused of murdering two neighbors entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment Friday.
Jose Ignacio Valenzuela Jr. will have a pretrial hearing Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Kevin White in Pinal County Superior Court. He continues to be represented by Public Defender James Mannato.
Valenzuela, 38, was arraigned in front of Judge Dwight Callahan on two charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of Michael and Tina Careccia.
Their bodies were found in a six-foot grave next to the house where he was living on Papago Road. The home is owned by Valenzuela’s parents and in the Thunderbird Farms subdivision in the unincorporated area southwest of Maricopa.
The Careccias were acquaintances of Valenzuela and lived two streets south on Mayer Boulevard. The investigation by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office indicated Valenzuela had been with the Careccias at their Father’s Day family gathering June 21. That was the last night they were seen alive.
According to the report, the Careccias went to Valenzuela’s house sometime that night. Valenzuela claimed to detectives they came by to get methamphetamine.
PCSO is accusing Valenzuela of shooting both of the Careccias to death with a .22 Magnum revolver.
They were reported missing the next evening, June 22, by family members, and PCSO and volunteers conducted extensive searches of the area for more than a week. Valenzuela was taken into custody as a “person of interest” the afternoon of July 1. That night, PCSO uncovered the bodies.
Valenzuela remains behind bars in the PCSO Adult Detention Center on a $2 million bond.
The Careccias were married last May and together had five children.