Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

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Family Fishing Day was a chilly affair at Copper Sky Jan. 13. Photo by Michelle Chance

Anglers of all ages were greeted with perfect winter weather during the annual Family Fishing Day at Copper Sky Lake Saturday morning. The event, hosted by the City of Maricopa, included agents from the Arizona Game & Fish Department who provided fishing tips and equipment to attendees before a community barbecue sponsored by Fry’s Marketplace.

Click photos to enlarge.

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Assistant Fire Chief John Storm gives an "After the Fire" presentation in Senita. Photo by Michelle Chance

A week after a Senita house fire displaced a family on New Year’s Eve, members from the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department held a public meeting to discuss the fire investigation.

Assistant Fire Chief John Storm, standing in front of the garage where the fire is said to have originally sparked, spoke to a small crowd Jan. 11.

The first rig on-scene arrived 4 minutes and 39 seconds after being dispatched, Storm said. MF/MD was later aided with additional assistance from Sun Lakes, Goodyear and Chandler Fire departments.

The blaze was controlled after 39 minutes.

“There is still no determination on the cause,” Storm said.

Deputy Fire Marshall Eddie Rodriguez said the majority of investigations reveal the sources of house fires are accidental.

Rodriguez is working with the homeowner’s insurance company during the investigation.

“The reason we do these investigations is not to place blame on anyone; we do these investigations to find what started this fire,” Rodriguez said.

MFMD spokesman Brad Pitassi said the most common cause of most garage fires is electrical.

To reduce your risk of garage fire, Pitassi recommends:

  1. If you use the garage as workspace, practice good workspace habits. For example, do not over burden electric outlets with multiple extension cords or power strips. Hire a qualified electrician to install additional outlets.
  2. Don’t store excessive amounts of flammables in the garage, like oil. Buy and store what you will use.
  3. Store flammable paints, solvents and gasoline in a back yard shed away from the home.
  4. Use a heat detector in the garage and fire detectors and alarms throughout the home.

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AnnaMarie Knorr (left) inherited the presidency of the MUSD board from Patti Coutre on Wednesday. Photo by Michelle Chance

The gavel is in the hands of a new school board president this week.

MUSD Governing Board to host community reception
Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m., the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will host a reception for staff and community members who would like to provide additional input related to the search for a new district superintendent. The reception will be at the District Administrative Offices, 44150 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. At 7 p.m., the Governing Board to hear an Arizona School Board Association report generated from the recent E-Survey related to the position of district superintendent. All are welcome to attend. For more information: 520-568-5100 or

The Governing Board for the Maricopa Unified School District elected AnnaMarie Knorr president during its first meeting of the year Jan. 10.

Knorr previously served as vice president and has been on the board since 2012. The new president has lived in Maricopa for 13 years and is the Government Affairs manager for Western Growers Association, according to an online biography.

Her new role is one Knorr cautiously grew into after she declined her first presidential opportunity in 2017.

“I can tell you that I know it was the right decision last year not to step into this role and that I do feel comfortable doing it today,” Knorr said. “With your help, I know that we can continue to progress and move forward and become the A-rated schools that we want to be.”

Before motioning to elect Knorr, the board’s former president, Patti Coutré expressed confidence in her abilities to lead and thanked the board for its support.

Coutré, pressing a fingertip to the corner of her eye, wiped away a tear as she gave her last speech as president – a position she has held for the past three years.

“I have to thank Dr. Chestnut. He’s really helped me develop into the leader that I am, so thank you. I am confident and very pleased … and I know that Vice President Knorr is ready to take on this task. We’ve spent numerous evenings in conversations and I know that she’s ready to do this. It is such an awesome feeling to lead this board and to be a part of this board. We’re amazing and I know that under Mrs. Knorr’s leadership we will continue to be amazing,” Coutré said.

Coutré will finish her term in December as a board member.

Knorr’s first agenda item as president included electing the person to fill her vacant VP seat.

The board unanimously elected Board Member Gary Miller.

Miller, a Kansas native, has lived in Maricopa since 2005 and works in behavioral health. His new leadership position comes after three years’ service on the board.

Coutre and Miller began their current term in 2015. Miller expressed his gratitude for her leadership.

“You’ve done a wonderful job, and I’m very honored to have got to know you better because I do definitely look up to you,” Miller said.

Among some of Knorr’s immediate responsibilities will be leading the board through its upcoming superintendent search.

The board will host a community reception regarding the search Jan. 17 at the district administration office at 5:30 p.m.

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Informational meeting Jan. 18

Tim Ihms. Photo by Michelle Chance

Maricopa offers diverse school options for students, and may be adding more.

In addition to its large district school and five charter schools, a private school could also open its doors in the city.

Maricopa Christian School would teach students K-6 in a location that has yet to be determined.

The institution would be headed by Tim Ihms, an Arizona native who founded and led two private Christian schools in Gilbert for more than 20 years.

Ihms is now a resident of Maricopa and current special education teacher at Pima Butte Elementary for the past three years.

His resume includes a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University, a master’s from University of Northern Colorado, various teaching certificates awarded from the state in K-12 special education and elementary education, as well as an administrative certificate.

Looking to revive his career as an administrator, Ihms’ planned Maricopa Christian School to be one of only two private schooling options for residents at a proposed price tag of $6,000 per student. The other choice is Graysmark Academy, a private preschool in Maricopa that has been in operation since 2006.

The tuition rate for MCS is lower than Ihms’ previous private schools, which he said were competitive with the ‘higher-end’ private schools nearby in the Valley.

Ihms said the school will not hold fundraisers, but will accept donations. He hopes to keep operation and tuition costs down by performing custodial and office work himself.

Considering Maricopa’s median income is $75,000, Ihms said his school’s education and sense of community would more than justify the cost.

“The school does an amazing job; With that, people believe in it and sacrifice for it,” Ihms said. “It’s a different world, and it’s meant to be.”

The reason he has decided to open a school in Maricopa, Ihms said, is because he believes in its unique methods, which proved to be successful for his previous students in Gilbert – methods he said often can’t be implemented in a public or charter setting.

For starters, the school would not label its students based on ability.

Ihms explained because MCS would not receive government funding, it is not required to label whether children are gifted or special education students. For this reason, the school would offer “personalized” education for each child without nightly homework.

“Each student has an individual goal every day based on the day’s work beforehand,” Ihms said.

The school would also implement a lessened focus on technology and forego digital norms that are often found in traditional local schools. Students are instructed primarily by their teacher, using computers sparingly for lessons on typing, Word processing and Excel spreadsheets.

Students would learn in small class-sized cohorts. Inside one classroom, a teacher would lead kindergarten through third grade; another would teach fourth through sixth.

It’s a form of consistency that builds positive social relationships and an “amazing education,” according to Ihms.

“It allows the teachers and the students and the parents to know each other for up to four years, usually,” Ihms said.

Of course, the most obvious difference from other schools would be MCS’s religious component. Being a Christian school, Ihms said it would not include faith-based curriculum textbooks, but direct readings from the Bible.

As is the major challenge for most start-ups in the city, Ihms’ “million-dollar question” that still needs to be answered is the school site’s future location. Although he has scouted available spaces, he has not committed to one yet.

An informational meeting is scheduled Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. inside the wet room at Copper Sky Recreation Center. There, Ihms will provide prospective parents information about his proposed school and will also brainstorm solutions to its logistical challenges.

“If we want to get this schools started, I’m going to need help,” Ihms said.

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The community will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during a celebration Jan. 15.

Floyd Galloway

The third annual Maricopa MLK Celebration begins 11 a.m. at Copper Sky Recreation Complex. The event is free, but registration has already filled up.

The event is hosted every year by the Maricopa Community Committee, of which Councilmember Henry Wade is a member.

Wade said the celebration will focus on MLK’s life and message with opening prayers offered by local ministers.

“There will be a dance performance by local youth and some poetry readings as well,” Wade said.

The event’s keynote speaker will be Floyd Galloway, former president of the East Valley NAACP, writer, photographer and talk show host.

Many local leaders are expected to attend, although Wade said the event will be sans-politics.

“I am working very diligently to not make this a political event; This is strictly a community event,” Wade said. “Apolitical, in other words.”

The celebration ends after closing remarks at 1 p.m.

As in previous years, the event sold out.

File photo


Resources, exhibitors and informational workshops will return this year to the third annual Senior Info/Expo at City Hall.

The Jan. 20 event is free and open to the public.

As in previous years, attendees will have access to information on dementia and Alzheimer’s, Community Emergency Response Team volunteer opportunities, city transit services, crime prevention, victim advocacy, fire and police services, and senior legal issues and concerns.

Popular workshops on Medicare, Social Security, identity theft and fraud will return this year, as well as hearing and vision screenings among many others, said Arnold Jackson, Age-Friendly Committee coordinator and event organizer.

New this year are workshops on preventing falls and unintentional injuries, and resources for caregivers.

As the event grows, so does its list of vendors. Jackson estimated this year’s event will include a 25-percent increase in the number of exhibitors compared to last year.

“(In 2017), we had over 300 people that attended, so I would anticipate that will continue to grow as well,” Jackson said.

A main goal of the City’s Age-Friendly Committee is providing seniors opportunities to connect with other generations. Jackson said the expo is one way to do that with exhibits on recreational trips and excursions and information on other social events.



What: Senior Info/Expo

When: Jan. 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where: Maricopa City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

How much: Free

Info: 520-316-6817,

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

File photo

Anglers, both novice and experienced, will take to the lake at Copper Sky for the city’s annual Family Fishing Day.

The 14th annual event begins at 8 a.m. on Jan. 13. Participants can register online or onsite the morning of the event at 7. Fishing licenses are not required for participants.

The five-acre lake will be stocked with bass, catfish, rainbow trout, bluegill and white amur.

Each participant can keep up to four fish, said Niesha Whitman, City of Maricopa events and marketing coordinator.

As in previous years, the Arizona Game and Fish Department will provide fishing clinics and the city will issue “loaner” fishing kits with a rod, reel and bait to each participant. A fishing pole can also be purchased for $5.

The city will offer a barbecue lunch for participants at the event. The meal consists of a hot dog or pulled pork, cupcake, potato chips and a drink for $5.

One dollar can also buy children a goodie bag filled with prizes, Whitman said.



What: Maricopa Family Fishing Day

Where: Copper Sky Regional Park

When: Jan. 13, 8 a.m.


This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Stephanie Arturet, a third-grade teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary School, promotes creativity in her classroom, which is now helped by a surprise $5,000 grant from Fiesta Bowl Charities. Photo by Mason Callejas


On a chilly morning in late November, third-grade teacher Stephanie Arturet walked into her classroom and was met with a big surprise.

“I have students of all ability levels and I just really want to make sure that all of the kids can get all of the information that I can give them because they are like little sponges and I want them to soak it up.” — Stephanie Arturet

School staff, students and news reporters greeted her as representatives from Fiesta Bowl Charities presented Arturet with a $5,000 check for her Santa Cruz Elementary School classroom.

Arturet had applied for the grant months before and was shocked to learn she won.

“I enjoyed the surprise. It definitely caught me off guard, but that day I walked around in a fog; it took a while for the adrenaline to fade,” Arturet said a few weeks later.

In January, Arturet will receive the funds she will use to purchase cutting-edge technology and flexible seating for her classroom.

Currently, students are seated in traditional chairs while at their desks, but Arturet wants wobble stools and floor cushions to support children’s unique learning styles.

“Not everyone is going to learn just sitting in a desk listening to the teacher talk, and so the more teachers can mix it up and vary how they’re providing the information, the more experience they can give those kids,” Arturet said.

The largest investment purchased through the grant will be a technology board, which resembles a “giant tablet” that will provide students a new way to learn. It’s an expensive gadget Arturet and her students couldn’t access otherwise.

This is not the first opportunity the teacher has taken to promote creativity in her classroom. Last year, Arturet applied for and won fitness tracker wristbands from UNICEF. The more steps the students took, the more food sent to children in developing countries.

Stephanie Arturet. Photo by Mason Callejas

“If you can find something out there that teaches global citizenship in a way that hasn’t been approached before, why not introduce them to those new opportunities and those new reasons to learn something?” Arturet said.

Santa Cruz Principal Loraine Conley called Arturet a “stellar teacher” who embraces the “no cookie-cutter classroom” philosophy inside the school.

“She does creative, real-life projects with students. When you walk into her classroom, all students are engaged in the learning,” Conley said.

Midway through her 16th year in education, Arturet came to Santa Cruz last year after teaching first and second grade in the West Valley.

For more than a decade, Arturet taught at the Pendergast Elementary School District in Phoenix. It’s also where the Arizona native attended grade school years before.

But then love brought her to Maricopa.

Arturet decided to move south to be with her then-boyfriend, Andres, whom she recently married. The couple live in Maricopa with their children, Andres Jr. and Amelia.

The family has no plans of moving from the community anytime soon – giving Arturet more chances to create unique experiences for students inside her Santa Cruz classroom.

“I want to give them these opportunities because it’s just going to help them that much more,” Arturet said. “I have students of all ability levels and I just really want to make sure that all of the kids can get all of the information that I can give them because they are like little sponges and I want them to soak it up.”

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Michelle Chance


Complete strangers have rallied around a local family this week after their pet escaped from its groomer Dec. 29.

Chloe, a 4-year-old Shih-Tzu poodle mix, went missing from Puppy Love Pet Stylist by accident, her owners said. The groomer reportedly offered a $500 reward and has searched for Chloe daily since last Friday.

Brandon Palmero and Andrea Gonzales immediately posted to social media, alerting residents of their pet’s disappearance.

“I’d say overnight it just got tens of tens of shares and it just blew up after that, and we were just shocked at the outpouring of support,” Palmero said.

Since then, volunteers have loaded into their vehicles and searched areas where others had reported possible sightings of the small, timid dog.

A large group met at a park in Glennwilde Jan. 5, a week after Chloe’s escape, to continue the search.

Rasheedah Bullock recently moved to Maricopa from North Carolina. A former pet rescue worker and an owner of four pets herself, Bullock said the social media alerts drove her into action.

“I’ve just been going across the streets in each development talking to people, knocking on doors, chasing down bikers making sure everyone knew,” Bullock said.

The response from the public is heartfelt and has contributed to a Facebook page dedicated to Chloe’s return. Cynthia Ramirez, a woman touched by Chloe’s disappearance, also created T-shirts for her owners and others to wear.

“We’re a lot of caring people here in Maricopa and we just want her back,” Ramirez said.

Volunteers said they begin their searches before sunrise, and many return home after midnight.

“The other day I got home at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Ramirez said. “I was out in a ditch actually with another guy that’s here. We met up and we didn’t find her, but we’re still looking.”

Palmero said Chloe has been a part of his family since she was a puppy. Her best friend is the family’s large mastiff, Duke, who has assisted Palmero in searches for the past week.

The family, along with the public, continues to search on foot, online and through animal control databases to find Chloe.

“We are very grateful, and we are trying to use that to our advantage; if everybody’s willing to help, then let’s do it,” Palmero said. “Let’s try to get everyone together and go out there and see if we can find her.”

Palmero said Chloe is skittish around strangers and will likely run if someone tries to catch her. If spotted, please call 623-910-7573. Palmero requests good Samaritans also try to take a photo to confirm if the sighting is Chloe.

To follow the search, join The Search for Chloe on Facebook.

Have you seen Chloe? Submitted photo

Maricopa Wells football Panthers will team up with Desert Wind for a food-donation car wash to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa. Submitted photo

Middle school athletes will wash cars for free next week to benefit a good cause.

High priority items:

  • Powdered baby formula (large cans)
  • Canned meat (tuna, ham, turkey, etc.)
  • Hot or cold healthy cereal
  • Meals in a tin (ex. Dinty Moore)
  • Canned vegetables and fruit
  • Wholegrain pasta and rice
  • Pasta sauce
  • Canned and dry soup

The Maricopa Wells and Desert Wind football teams will hold a car wash Jan. 13 at Auto Zone from 1 to 4 p.m. Auto Zone is located at 20886 N. John Wayne Parkway.

In lieu of payment, the players are accepting non-perishable food donations for F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, said Maricopa Wells football coach Jonathan Clark.

“We just feel it’s important to do for others and not expect something in return,” Clark said. “I tell the boys all the time that true leaders must be willing to serve first.”

Clark also said the timing of the fundraiser benefits the food bank this time of year, as it often experiences a lull in donations after the holiday season.

It’s the second year the Maricopa Wells team has organized the donation drive car wash. This year the Desert Wind Tigers will partner with the Panthers on the giving.

In 2017, the team collected 680 pounds of food, with a new goal of raising 1,000 pounds next week.

Source: MUSD

Through November, extracurricular programs within the Maricopa Unified School District received a funding boost of almost $40,000 in 2017.

Donors submitted $38,902 to MUSD and received tax credit in exchange.

Certified Public Accountant Jim Chaston, who previously served as president of the MUSD Governing Board, said about 40 percent of his clients take advantage of tax credits every year. He’d like to see that percentage increase.

“I think everybody who is eligible should do it because it doesn’t cost anything other than the time between them paying it, and when they get their refund back,” Chaston said.

It’s also a way to help local students be involved in sports, music and other recreational activities. It’s up to donors to decide which school and what extracurricular programs they would like that money to go to. Public and private schools are eligible to receive tax credit donations.

As in previous years, the MUSD programs that received the most funding were athletics, according to Aron Rausch, MUSD Business Services director.

Athletic programs at Maricopa High School and the district’s two middle schools received 33 percent of 2017’s donations so far.

More than $5,000 was donated to the district’s various band programs, mostly earmarked for Maricopa High School.

Field trip funding received more than $10,000 from donors. Rausch said most of those dollars went to the district’s middle and elementary schools, and nearly $11,000 went to miscellaneous programs at MUSD.

“Most of the donations at the elementary schools are for general extra-curricular usage and field trips,” Rausch said.

The deadline to donate is Tax Day, April 15.

Chaston said his office informs clients about tax-credit opportunities every year through newsletters and during appointments.

“Every tax return that we do, we ask about state tax credits because it’s a no-brainer,” Chaston said.

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

Twin sisters Emersyn (blue) and Brooklyn (pink), 10 months old; Killian, 7 months old; and Aurora, 3 months old. Photo by Mason Callejas

The New Year baby has long symbolized the opportunity for fresh beginnings. For parents expecting an infant in 2018, the start of a new life can bring as much fear as it does excitement.

A few local moms who gave birth last year said bringing a baby home to Maricopa doesn’t have to be scary for parents – so long as they’re prepared.

One obvious service missing in Maricopa for expectant parents is a hospital and birthing center, so navigating State Route 347 as due dates draw near is a common worry for soon-to-be mothers.

Kelly Campbell and her twin daughters Emersyn and Brooklyn spend time time at the library, which Campbell said is one of the few places to take babies for recreation. Photo by Mason Callejas

It became a very real fear for Christine Avino, who was stuck in traffic on the 347 earlier this year with her contractions only minutes apart.

Before she left home, an accident involving a motorcycle clogged the main route to the hospital.

“Don’t take the chance of ‘Oh I have plenty of time,’” Avino said. “You never know if you have plenty of time, especially on that long road.”

Luckily for Avino, she arrived at the hospital in time and later gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Killian.

Avino suggested parents leave for the hospital as soon as they suspect labor may be on its way, just in case the 347 greets them with its notorious delays.

Having a backup plan for trips to the hospital is also the advice of Maricopa resident Kelly Campbell. During her high-risk pregnancy with twins, Campbell traveled weekly to the Valley for prenatal appointments.

“Have a backup plan, always, especially with the 347. It was always on my mind,” Campbell said.

Her husband’s hectic work schedule meant Campbell prepared for emergency trips to the hospital by ensuring two other people were always available to drive her there.

Campbell’s fear of giving birth on SR 347 ended when her twin girls, Brooklyn and Emersyn, were born by scheduled C-section 10 months ago.

Local mother Rhiannon Williams also recommended being prepared by meeting with potential pediatricians and reviewing hospitals before the baby’s arrival to ensure the medical services are the right fit for their families.

Williams is the mother of 3-month-old Aurora, her second child. With her eldest, Williams recalled worrying over every cough and mild fever.

She suggests new parents not sweat the small stuff.

“I learned that not everything with your first born is an emergency,” Williams said. “I delivered my second daughter at Mercy Gilbert in September and have since realized that a lot of things that I was so worried about before are not as big of a deal or as bad as I though they would be with my second.”

This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Should voters know the political party affiliation of their city council members?

A bill recently introduced in the state Legislature could turn local elections partisan.

Introduced by Rep. Jay Lawrence (R–District 23), House Bill 2032 would require cities and towns to print candidates’ party designations on ballots for mayor and city council elections.

Local leaders expressed opposition to the proposal, arguing city policies are nonpartisan in nature.

“I understand that we all tend do lean one way or the other,” said Mayor Christian Price. “But at the local level, the beauty of the pothole in the middle of the street is that it is not Republican or Democrat; it’s just a pothole that needs to get fixed, and that’s the joy of doing my job at a local level and working for the people.”

It’s not the first time a bill for partisan city elections has been proposed by the Legislature. Price said, if passed this time, the bill would give undue power to the party system.

“I encourage the voter to figure out who they’re electing and why, and not just [look] at an ‘R’ or a ‘D.’ While that’s helpful, it’s not always as helpful as they’d like to think it is,” Price said.

Councilwoman Julia Gusse, a registered independent, agreed, pointing out candidates do not always vote along the lines of their registered parties.

“Democrats and Republicans are not monolithic; not all Democrats are pro-choice, just like not all Republicans are fiscally conservative,” Gusse said.

Gusse said an informed voter in a non-partisan election will know the party where a candidate most likely aligns. Gusse said she fears partisan elections could also influence candidates to rely solely on a party designation to win office.

“I want individuals to earn their seats and I want to be elected because people voted for me, not the letter next to my name on that ballot,” Gusse said.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said the bill serves no practical service to residents.

“As a councilmember, you work for your community, so your community is going to know you anyway,” Manfredi said. “Regardless whether you have an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to your name they’re going to vote for people they feel are going to provide the most value for your community.”

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First responders transported two people to the hospital Tuesday afternoon after a traffic accident on State Route 238 and Green Road, according to Maricopa Police Department.

The collision occurred around 3:15 p.m. between a Kia vehicle and a Subaru Outback, said MPD spokesman Ricky Alavarado.

Injuries include a possible broken leg and a cut to the head, Alvarado said.

MPD is working to clear the vehicles from the road. Traffic is currently detoured in the area. Please take alternate routes.

This is a developing story. Stay with for more updates.

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David Goff (left) and Seth Rodriguez were arrested after being accused of shoplifting at Walmart. PCSO photos

After being arrested on shoplifting charges last week, a woman was also booked on possession of drug paraphernalia after police allegedly discovered a meth pipe on the woman’s person, according to a Maricopa Police Department report.

During processing at the Maricopa Police Department on Dec. 19, Jolene Wilson, 35, told officers she had the meth pipe hidden in her “belly roll.”

Police allegedly found more paraphernalia on one of Wilson’s alleged shoplifting accomplices, 26-year-old David Goff.

“Upon searching Goff, an empty syringe was discovered which was described by David as his syringe for ‘shooting up heroin,’” the police report alleges.

Wilson and Goff were arrested alongside 24-year-old Seth Rodriguez after a trip to Walmart, where the trio is accused of stealing over $600 worth of merchandise at approximately 3:25 p.m. on Dec. 19.

Items allegedly stolen from the store include a television, hoverboard, tools and toys. The incident was caught on camera by a loss-prevention store associate.

As Wilson sat in the driver seat of a silver sedan outside Walmart, the police report states, surveillance cameras recorded Goff and Rodriguez leaving the store with merchandise in their carts they did not purchase.

“The two male suspects entered the vehicle and all three fled the scene with the trunk to the vehicle still open,” according to the police report.

Approximately three minutes later, officers spotted the vehicle turning north onto White and Parker Road from Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. MPD later pulled the sedan over at White and Parker Road and Lococo Street.

The report alleges Wilson told responding officers on scene she and her two passengers were driving from Coolidge to Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, “which was the opposite direction of where the car was driving.”

During the traffic stop, the Walmart loss-prevention employee was transported to the scene by MPD where she positively identified Goff and Rodriguez as being involved in the shoplifting.

All the stolen merchandise was discovered by officers inside the trunk of the sedan, according to the report. Goff allegedly admitted to shoplifting after the suspects were interviewed and read their Miranda rights.

All three were arrested on shoplifting charges and transported to the Pinal County Sherriff’s Office Jail. Goff and Wilson were also booked on possession of drug paraphernalia.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

Hiring paraprofessionals for six elementary schools sparked a spirited debate between governing board members in the Maricopa Unified School District Wednesday night.

The decision to hire the additional classroom aides was tabled by the board for a future meeting to allow them time to discuss where else $156,000 in Title I money could be spent throughout the district.

Originally, district officials recommended the board members approve the hiring of six paraprofessionals to assist classrooms within its elementary schools. These positions would have been funded by Title I.

The federal program provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to assist in meeting state academic standards, according to the U.S. Department of Education website. The money can be used for instructional aide like curriculum, support personnel and technology.

Surprised board members expressed frustration at the recommendation because the hires were not previously finalized as a funding priority during the budget process last spring.

“I am uncomfortable as a board member spending $156,000 of district money without understanding the full picture of where it can be used and what it can be used for, before I determine what the priority is for that money,” said AnnaMarie Knorr, board vice president.

Board members questioned whether research had been conducted before the recommendation had been made, and why the recommendation targeted only the elementary level.

“What other instructional aide do our schools need K through 12? Not just elementary,” said Board member Torri Anderson. “I’m telling you, our secondary schools are struggling, and we’ve got teachers that are so frustrated because their class sizes are still large and they could certainly use a para as well.”

Board member Gary Miller said teachers from Santa Rosa Elementary had expressed a desire for more support staff during a recent visit.

Teachers district-wide are adjusting to a learning curve brought on by the adoption of math curriculum in August.

As presented by middle school math teachers Wednesday night, one of the curriculum’s biggest hurdles is the large technology component which requires students to complete much of their coursework online.

“I know with a lot of our curriculum changing we are hearing a lot about that change, and I think more support in the classroom with a human being versus a computer will be our money well-spent,” Miller said.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said in previous years the annual allocation of Title I funds was usually spent on math curriculum, but that money was freed in 2017 after the district’s recent curriculum purchase from its reserve funds.

The board agreed they supported more personnel support in the district’s schools, but argued there were other priorities the district, its teachers, parents and community members had put at the top of the list during budget talks.

The recommendation to hire support staff was made by Director of Teaching and Learning Krista Roden to balance the technology in the classroom with people, Chestnut said.

“I have no problem with her having to come back and give us all of the details,” Chestnut said.

The board is expected to continue the discussion during its next meeting at the District Administration Office Jan. 10.

Gyro Grill co-owner Dalal Pettroza welcomed guests to the opening. Photo by Michelle Chance

A new Greek restaurant opened in Maricopa Friday morning. Gyro Grill is co-owned by Dalal Pettroza, an 11-year resident in the city.

“I love Maricopa. We wanted to do something different in Maricopa,” Pettroza said.

Gyro Grill is one of Maricopa’s first Mediterranean restaurants featuring signature dishes in a casual setting. The eatery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Gyro Grill is located at 20987 N. John Wayne Parkway, Suite B102, north of Fry’s Marketplace.

For more information call 520-815-2500 or visit their website.


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A flood of teacher resignations four months into the school year have left Arizona districts scrambling to fill classroom positions before Christmas break.

As of Dec. 8, 627 teachers – regardless of reason, and approved through their school – have resigned throughout the state, according to a report by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

An additional 239 teachers reportedly abandoned their jobs without notice, making the teacher exodus equal nearly 900 since August.

The report compiled data from 172 school districts and charter schools.

By Wednesday, the Maricopa Unified School District had approved the resignations of 10 teachers and two administrators since the beginning of the school year. Five of those teachers resigned in December.

Tom Becket, MUSD Human Resources director, said teacher resignations for this year and those previous, were for a variety of reasons.

“My recollection is the majority of the teacher resignations during school years are for two primary reasons: personal or family health, and relocation of spouse/family,” Beckett said.

ASPAA attributes part of the overall problem to low teacher pay in the state.

“Arizona teacher pay is among the lowest in the country, and it will be extremely challenging for public schools to address teacher pay this spring in the face of an increasing minimum wage for support staff, and almost no funding for capital expenses,” according to an ASPAA news release.

This year MUSD attempted to address the teacher shortage by voting to increase the salary of its employees by 3 percent. Teachers also received an additional, one-time, 1 percent increase this year from the state, equaling what amounts to less than $600 per teacher.

In August, the district finished hiring 50 additional teachers through override funds.

To retain its teaching staff, MUSD and other districts can choose to implement fees to those who break their contracts.

“The contractual liquidated damages fee imposed by the district has been a deterrent for teachers seeking release for new employment opportunities,” Beckett said.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Rotary Club recognized a theatrical high school senior, as well as an eighth-grade “model student” Wednesday night as November Students of the Month.

College and Career Counselor Bernadette Russionello nominated Maricopa High School student Ivie Keene for the accolade. The senior is involved in a school mentorship group, National Honor Society and DECA.

Keene also holds leadership positions in school theatre as a student director and actor and is president of the Arizona Thespian Society.

“Rotary is told that she is a phenomenal student since her freshman year, with a positive attitude, unstoppable work ethic and commitment to school and your community,” said Alma Farrell, Rotary youth coordinator.

Keene aspires to be involved in Broadway one day, “but is also willing to return to MHS to be an English and theatre teacher,” Farrell added.

Desert Wind Middle School Principal June Celaya nominated Raymond Torres as “the type of student that teachers hope to have.”

Farrell reported Torres as being described by school officials as a “quiet leader,” model student and hard worker.

Torres is involved in athletics and various after school activities and was praised for being a positive role model for other students.

“(He) work(s) extremely hard on each and every assignment, going above and beyond teacher expectations and he is a great leader across all grade levels and gets along with everyone,” Farrell reported.

Torres and Keene were accompanied by their parents and siblings during the ceremony which Rotary holds monthly inside the Maricopa Unified School District Administration Office during governing board meetings.

The Maricopa Rotary Club was founded in 1954 and is part of an international, service-oriented, non-profit organization.

“We hope they will be our future leaders of our community and it’s very good for them to start at this early age to learn how to be leaders,” Farrell said.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Shawn Main. PCSO photo

Attorneys for the state will call a medical examiner as witness in a special January hearing for Shawn Main, the woman accused of causing the death of 3-year-old Tiana Rosalie Capps in 2015.

Monday, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White rescheduled a “Chronis hearing” for Jan. 18, after its original date was vacated Dec. 1 due to a full court docket.

Main’s attorneys requested the hearing ahead of her trial in July, when she will be tried for capital murder. The hearing permits such defendants to “request a determination of probable cause as to alleged aggravating circumstances,” according to Arizona Supreme Court Law.

During the status review hearing Dec. 18, Prosecutor Vince Goddard revealed the state’s argument in the future Chronis hearing will be based on two aggravating circumstances: the victim’s age and the offense allegedly being heinous, cruel and depraved.

The hearing is scheduled to last two hours with the state’s main testimony coming from a medical examiner.

“I think the state’s case would be about 45 minutes, and that’s almost 100 percent going to be the medical examiner,” Goddard said during the hearing Monday.

The autopsy performed by Pima Medical Examiner’s Office two years ago showed Tiana died from repeated blunt-force trauma Nov. 19, 2015, while in the care of Main.

After her death, Tiana’s three surviving siblings were taken into protective custody and had been also reportedly subjected to abuse and neglect.

On Christmas Eve that year, Main and two other women living in the household were arrested: Main’s wife Maria Tiglao and the children’s biological mother Tina Morse.

Main, Tiana’s caretaker, was subsequently charged with murder while the other two women were charged with varying counts of child abuse.

The Chronis hearing is set for Jan. 18 at 8:30 a.m. at the Pinal County Superior Courthouse.

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Bob Marsh. Photo by Michelle Chance

Semi-retired engineer Bob Marsh moved to Maricopa seven years ago and has since sought to cure his insatiable itch to fix problems in the community by seeking them out himself.

“I think that’s what we’re here on the planet for – to help each other,” Marsh says.

He’s a figure in the city, holding many positions in various groups with local government. Marsh is a Planning & Zoning commissioner, treasurer of the Maricopa Multicultural Consortium, member of the Subdivision Ordinance Rewrite Team, and member on the Desert Cedars HOA board of directors.

Marsh thinks big picture, but can also focus on the details, especially when it comes to how a project will look in Maricopa and how it will make Maricopa feel, said Maricopa City Councilmember Peggy Chapados, who appointed him to P&Z in 2014.

Most recently, Marsh ran for a seat on the Maricopa Flood Control District Board. Out of 36 total votes cast, Marsh lost by two in October to ED3 Design Engineer Scott Kelley.

“There were two engineers running, so people couldn’t lose,” Marsh said. “It was a good solution, whoever got it.”

Finding answers to difficult situations is programmed in Marsh, an MIT graduate who over his long career has worked on projects affiliated with the likes of the FBI, NASA and tech giant Microsoft among many others.

On his first day at the elite tech school, Marsh sat with the rest of his class inside Kresge Auditorium where the cohort learned their mission was to “learn enough that you can help solve problems.”

He took it seriously, and early into his profession was on the ground floor of the computer industry.

In the late ‘60s, Marsh worked on the instrumentation for the OAO-2 satellite. The system he helped develop was later instrumental in assisting the first successful mission to the moon, Marsh says.

“That system that I did was also back up for the main communication system on the lunar lander when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon and the IBM system crashed, and my system cut in,” Marsh says.

Although his work has helped humans land foot on alien soil, Marsh stays grounded.

To resolve his neighbors’ high cost of watering large expanses of turf in his subdivision, he developed a test strip of sustainable xeriscape nearby. Desert Cedars does not have access to reclaimed water for its landscaping, and is instead forced to use expensive drinking water.

After three years, the experiment worked and now Desert Cedars will convert several acres of grass to granite gravel and decorative desert plants.

But Marsh’s vision for Maricopa expands beyond that of his neighborhood, of course.

Prior to P&Z, Marsh was on the Board of Adjustment with the city and was later a heavy contributor to Maricopa’s 20/40 Vision General Plan Update, a document outlining the city’s future direction and growth. He then served on the Zoning Code Rewrite Taskforce, also known to Marsh as “440 pages of pure pain.”

Additionally, his work on the Multicultural Consortium advocates for a legitimate senior center in the city.

“The senior problem is one problem. Watering your turf with potable water is another problem. If you add it all up, you have 347 problems,” Marsh says with a smile. “I’m a problem solver.”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Joby Thompson and Amy Stump

Two Maricopa High School teachers are moving up the ladder.

In a few weeks, chemistry teacher Amy Stump and graphic design teacher Joby Thompson will return from Winter Break with promotions.

Stump will serve the student body as assistant principal and Thompson will handle discipline and guidance as interim dean of students. School officials sifted through “a large number of quality candidates” during the hiring process for both positions, according to MHS Interim Principal Rick Abel.

“I believe we have selected the best of the best for both spots,” Abel said.

Hiring administrators from within is becoming a trend for the district.

In November, MUSD hired Evana Santee – who was then the dean of students at MHS – was chosen to fill a vacant assistant principal position at Maricopa Wells Middle School.

District officials said they are happy to see their employees advance professionally within MUSD.

“Hiring administrators internally demonstrates the quality job the district does in finding, hiring and cultivating outstanding potential talent,” Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut called Stump and Thompson “highly respected teachers” at MHS and reinforced the excitement other district and school officials expressed regarding their reclassifications from educators to administrators.

The hires will mean more work for the district’s HR Department, though, as they work to fill the teaching positions left open by the promotions.

The new assistant principal said she is honored to serve MHS students in her new role. However, the professional advancement is bittersweet for Stump who loves her work inside the chemistry classroom.

“I adore teaching, but know I can make a difference in student lives as an administrator as well,” she said. “Working with students and the community will be rewarding and I am thankful to be chosen to serve in this capacity.”

Among some of Stump’s responsibilities will include working with student clubs, student council and the community to coordinate use of the school’s facilities and related activities.

Stump begins as AP Jan. 2.

Almost a week after that, Thompson will start his first day as interim dean.

In addition to his design classes, Thompson is department chair of the Career and Technical Education Department at MHS.

Thompson was selected as a “creative leader” for a business and design conference at Yale University over the summer.

His transition to student discipline is a new chapter in his career he said he’s excited to begin.

“I’m looking forward to building meaningful relationships with the students who need it most,” Thompson said. “I also look forward to providing purposeful feedback to students who need guidance in managing their decision at MHS.”

Beckett said the district is confident Thompson will excel in the role, “but we have also posted a temporary opening for a permanent placement for his current role for potential contingencies.”

A final decision will be made by the district, with input from Thompson, “at the appropriate time,” Beckett said.

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Maricopa Cub Scout Pack 389 at Walmart. Photo by Michelle Chance

A local cub scout pack continued a holiday tradition recently by purchasing toys and clothing for other children.

For the fifth consecutive year, Maricopa Cub Scout Pack 389 handpicked presents for 24 kids at Walmart on Dec. 7.

“It’s really important in scouting to give back to your community and make sure you are showing the philanthropy and doing service toward our community,” said Chris Cahall, Cub Scout pack leader.

The troop used angel tree tags from Community of Hope Church and the Maricopa Unified School District along with $800 they raised throughout the year to buy the gifts.

The most popular request from boys and girls this year? Clothing.

“(It’s) surprising because in years past, we’ve had a lot more toy requests and we always try to throw something in that’s fun if we can, if we’re allowed, to, but this year I’d say about 98 percent of the requests have been for clothes.”

Cub Scout Parker Moore, a first grader, selected a gray and orange jacket for a local boy on his list. He was also excited that children would receive fun presents too.

“They might not have enough money to buy toys, so I would like to give toys to them,” Moore said.

The scouts found plenty of toys for local children. Eight-year-old Connor Smith found a LEGO kit for a boy near his age, but choosing a gift for a girl was a bit more challenging.

“It was very confusing. Very confusing,” Smith said, smiling.

With assistance from their parents, the scouts succeeded in purchasing a gift for every child while experiencing the spirit of giving.

“I think they’ll feel happy and excited that we came out here today and bought all of them presents,” said 9-year-old Cub Scout Ethan Cahall.

For more information on Cub Scout Pack 389, visit their Facebook page.

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Photo by Scott Bartle

A Kyrene school bus was towed from Maricopa Monday morning after a minor accident before school.

“The bus driver hit some shopping carts in front of a grocery store at a low rate of speed,” said Kyrene School District Transportation Director Eric Nethercutt.

The collision occurred as the driver of bus No. 28 pulled into the parking lot to wait for his route to begin later that morning. Nethercutt said no children were on-board.

“The bus was not badly damaged, just the front bumper was bent, and as a precaution, we decided to tow it back to the shop for repair,” Nethercutt said.

The Kyrene School District has 10 bus routes in Maricopa and transports children to five schools in the Valley.

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Photo by Ernie Marrufo

Fire investigators are looking into what caused a mysterious house fire in Rancho El Dorado earlier this week.

Sunday, the Maricopa Fire/Medical Department responded to a fire at a home near the intersection of Cahill and Kirkland Drives at approximately 7 p.m.

“As crews arrived on scene, they found smoke coming from the structure and found fire in the rear of the home contained to a room off the patio inside the building, with damage to (the) patio outside as well,” said Brad Pitassi, MFMD spokesman.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze and no injuries were reported. Neighbors said they believed the house was vacant at the time.

The origin of the fire is under investigation, Pitassi added.

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Nadine Larder was among artists selling their items at the first Maricopa Arts Festival at the Duke. Photo by Michelle Chance

Artists from around the region gathered in Maricopa over the weekend to display and sell their art that ranged from paintings, textiles, jewelry and sculptures. The inaugural Maricopa Arts Festival began Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado. The event replaces its predecessor ‘Art on the Veranda,’ previously held at the same venue, and is organized by artist Kaui Wilson.

Clay Walker on stage at Ak-Chin Circle. Photo by Michelle Chance

Ak-Chin Indian Community celebrated its birthday Friday evening with performances from Parmalee and Clay Walker. The concerts are an annual event on-stage at Ak-Chin Circle that are free to the public. Country singer Kacey Tyndall opened the show.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Alexandra Biggs has taken over a lively dance program at Maricopa High School. Photo by Mason Callejas

Afternoon light blazes through the small rectangular windows of a dance studio inside Maricopa High School.

See photos from the winter dance recital

The illuminated beams are interrupted by the graceful, outstretched hand of a slender dancer. All at once, the elegance is met with a drop of a hip-hop beat, then a physical twist and a stomp as a group of elite dancers join the floor and together pivot styles from contemporary to jazz.

The MHS Performance Group rehearses under the refined eye of the school’s new dance teacher, 26-year-old Alexandra Biggs.

“Dance instills so many life lessons outside of just how to point your feet,” said Biggs, a technically trained ballerina. “You learn self-discipline and self-motivation.”

Biggs grew up in Farmington, New Mexico, and fell in love with ballet at age 3.

As time for college came, she decided to pursue a career where she could teach the art she treasured.

“I thought, ‘If I love this so much, then instilling it in the next generation is where my heart and my passion are,’” Biggs said. “So, it was an easy decision.”

Biggs graduated from Grand Canyon University a year and a half ago with a degree in Dance Education. She taught dance to preschool-aged children before accepting her first professional, full-time position at MHS.

In addition to instructing advanced and intermediate dance students, Biggs also teaches novices in her Dance 1 class, where 90 percent of the class is freshmen.

“They are new to it so it’s so much fun to see them expand their world to include dance,” Biggs said.

Biggs inherited the dance program from Toshia Jackson, “a sassy, jazz teacher” known affectionately by students as “Mrs. T,” according to sophomore Rylin Balgaard.

Balgaard, 15, began the dance program as a freshman with Jackson and quickly moved her way up to Performance Group.

Biggs exposes students to a polished focus on dance, including special instruction on ballet etiquette.

“I know the previous teacher – I’ve heard wonderful things about her – did a lot more hip-hop and less of the technical side of it. So being a technically trained dancer, my emphasis is more on doing things correctly, especially in ballet, and building that base for anything else that they want to do,” Biggs said.

Grooming her dancers to become educators is also on her list.

Performance Group President Jalen Reyes, 17, aspires to become a dance instructor after college. He was recently accepted to Northern Arizona University and is eligible for the Lumberjack Scholarship.

He had no previous dance training before enrolling in the program as a freshman, but his natural talent on the dance floor and behind-the-scenes choreography has lent well to the program. As a senior, Reyes attends a mixed-level class during the day and is Biggs’ aide in a lower-level course.

“I’ve got to see her teach and I think she’s really effective in knowing who she’s working with, so she knows how fast to go. I think she’s great at teaching,” Reyes said.

Biggs, a Maricopa resident, plans to grow the MHS program into one with a “reputation of excellence,” and an incubator for future dance instructors.

“I have had several (students) come to me to talk about letters of recommendation for dance education programs, and I’m all for it,” Biggs said. “It’s not an easy job – that’s the misconception. It’s really long hours and it’s physically really demanding sometimes, but it’s worth it to see other kids watch me teach and want to teach. I think that’s the biggest compliment a student can give me.”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD Governing Board looks at budget numbers. Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa school district could announce its new superintendent by late March.

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board met with a representative from the Arizona School Board Association Wednesday night to, in part, finalize an ambitious search timeline.

“It’s aggressive, but it’s good,” said Board Vice President AnnaMarie Knorr.

If all goes as planned, the district could welcome a new superintendent after a two-month search.

MUSD is paying ASBA $9,600 to assist in a multitude of tasks related to finding suitable candidates for the public-school district that educates nearly 7,000 students.

The first step in the process will be surveying stakeholders through an online questionnaire. The ‘e-survey’ will be available to parents, district employees and community members on the district website Dec. 8–Jan. 9.

The district plans to use opinions shared from the community about what professional and personal qualities it would like to see in a new superintendent. It’s a step the board did not take during its last superintendent search, said Board President Patti Coutré.

The results of the community survey will be discussed during a special board meeting Jan. 17. Prior to the meeting, the public will have the opportunity to speak with ASBA Representative Karen Gasket about the search during a meet-and-greet from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The position will be advertised online for potential candidates beginning Jan. 15. The opportunity to apply ends less than a month later, on Feb. 5.

Gasket explained December and early spring are generally the season when districts begin shopping for new leaders. A relatively brief, three-week submission deadline ensures the district will receive applications from candidates in a timely manner, Gasket told the board.

Candidates will be required to complete a 10-page digital application.

The board will meet in executive session Feb. 21 to screen applications. Gasket recommended the board select five to six candidates to interview.

Those initial interviews will begin in executive sessions March 13-14.  Up to four finalists will be announced by the board after executive session March 14.

Final interviews will last most of the day on March 23 in private meetings with the candidates.

The finalists will meet the public during a community forum at the district office March 26 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the district office. Afterward, the board will convene in executive session to make their selection.

The district will publicly announce its new superintendent after executive session March 26.

From there, the board will begin contract negotiations with the finalist and the district’s lawyer beginning March 28. The board set a $135,000-$155,000 salary range Wednesday night to include on advertising material for the position.

MUSD expects to officially hire the finalist by April.

The district announced earlier this year it would not renew its contract with current Superintendent Steve Chestnut passed June 30, 2018.

Take the community survey

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No damage was reported to railroad crossing apparatus on Ralston Road after Wednesday's crash.

Police are investigating a driver for impairment after he reportedly ran his vehicle into the side of a moving train Wednesday night, according to Maricopa Police Department.

The incident occurred Dec. 6 just before 8 p.m. at the State Route 238 and Ralston Road intersection.

Authorities said the train engine had passed the intersection about a quarter of a mile down the tracks when the vehicle, headed north on Ralston, struck one of its train cars at nearly full speed, said MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

The accident scene led police to believe the driver may have entered the southbound lane prior to colliding with the train because the vehicle did not hit the railroad cross arm, Alvarado said.

When Maricopa Fire & Medical Department arrived, they reported finding the vehicle with substantial front-end damage and “a male in his 40s out of the vehicle walking around,” said Brad Pitassi, MFMD Spokesman.

A witness initially reported to police seeing a passenger in the vehicle, but Alvarado said after MPD interviewed the witness further she could not confirm the sighting. The driver reported he was the only person in the car at the time of the crash, Alvarado added.

Crews later transported the driver to Chandler Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. MPD has issued a warrant for blood vials taken from the driver at the hospital. They will be tested at a Department of Public Safety lab for the DUI investigation.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman Jeff DeGraff said the wreck did not cause damage to the train or its crew. However, it did halt traffic in the area until the accident was cleared around 10 p.m.


Reporter Mason Callejas contributed to this story.

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