Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1192 Articles 4 COMMENTS
Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

Machelle Hobson aka Hackney (PCSO photo)

The possibility of getting Maricopa’s so-called “YouTube Mom” into a courtroom is as remote as ever after a Rule 11 hearing Tuesday.

Machelle Hobson, 48, was indicted in March on charges of child abuse and kidnapping. The Hobson/Hackney family ran a profitable YouTube channel called “Fantastic Adventures” that featured mostly the younger children in family-friendly videos.

However, allegations surfaced this year that Hobson’s seven adopted children were being forced to appear in the videos under threat of physical violence, being pepper sprayed, having food and water withheld and being locked in a closet. Hobson now faces 22 charges in the case.

After Hobson’s arrest, she was hospitalized, deemed not competent to stand trial by a psychiatrist and was released from custody. Ever since, she has received waivers allowing her not to make physical appearances in court.

Judge Lawrence Wharton in Pinal County Superior Court’s Rule 11 court said clinical psychologist Celia Drake “is now asking that an assessment be done to determine the most appropriate location for the restoration process to be continued.”

The Rule 11 court oversees the process of returning an incompetent defendant to competency.

Pushing for progress in the next 60 days, Wharton sought a strategy that would clear medical obstacles in the restoration process. When he was on the verge of turning the decision over to Drake, defense attorney Joshua Wallace had other ideas.

“Dr. Drake probably isn’t the most appropriate person to conduct these evaluations that she wants done,” Wallace said. “She does say that perhaps another medical psychiatric evaluation needs to be completed. She’s not a psychiatrist or a medical doctor.”

That leaves the court searching for suitable individual or location to place Hobson for evaluation. Wharton set a date of Jan. 8 to review the restoration of competency, but he wants work done in the meantime.

“I don’t want 60 days to slide by and not make a whole lot of progress.”

Early vote counts show the Maricopa Unified School District bond election failing by a 16-point margin.

MUSD Bond Early Vote Count 
YES 2,487
NO 3,444

The bond, aimed at building a second high school to relieve overcrowding at Maricopa High School, trailed in 12 of 14 precincts. The Province precinct, which includes The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado, was particularly opposed, with 63% voting against in the unofficial tallies.

For Pinal County schools seeking bonds, overrides and budget increases, it has been a mixed night.

Voters in Eloy turned down an override and in Florence and Apache Junction said no to budget increases. Apache Junction voters also denied a bond. However, school districts in Oracle and Ray received strong support for overrides and a bond. Coolidge Unified School District’s bond election is also ahead in a close early count.

While other district opted for a mail-in ballot, MUSD went with poll voting, which ended up primarily being early voting.

“The traditional election format was chosen to accommodate both voters who prefer mail-in options through early ballots, as well as those who enjoy the civic experience of voting in person on election day,” MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said.

Only the Ak-Chin Community precinct showed support for the MUSD bond, overwhelmingly so, with 93% of its participating voters (fewer than 50) voting in favor. That was wiped out by the Thunderbird Farms precinct, where 77% of voters said no.

The closest result so far is in the Santa Rosa precinct, where the bond is losing 53% to 47%.

The MUSD bond is for capital project, like a new school, buses and HVAC and roofing. The district received $23 million from the state to start a second high school when data showed MHS 600 students over-capacity.


Nov. 9 is the third annual Maricopa Veterans Parade. Photo by Kyle Norby

The third annual Maricopa Veterans Day Parade is the morning of Nov. 9.

What: Maricopa Veterans Day Parade
When: Nov. 9, 9 a.m.
Where: Bowlin and Porter roads
How much: Free

The event celebrates local military veterans, who comprise more than 10 percent of the population of Maricopa. All branches of service will participate. All residents are encouraged to attend to cheer on the veterans.

Prior to the parade, Maricopa Memorial Events hosts a Veterans Day 5K Run and one-mile walk at 7 a.m. at Pacana Park. Visit

Parade entries include floats, walking groups, riding groups, marching groups and motor groups. Some entries are comprised of veterans; some are comprised of groups just saying a big “Thank you” to those who were in the service. Entries range from the Maricopa High School Marching Rams to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

American Legion Post 133 Auxiliary, which organizes the event, anticipates multiple grand marshals again, saluting an array of veterans. Parades past have seen veterans from every conflict from World War II to Afghanistan.

Commercial entries are not allowed. Candy is also prohibited. Participants are also not allowed to distribute flyers along the parade.

The parade will follow the familiar route from the campus of Central Arizona College, 17945 N. Regent Drive, west along Bowlin Road to Porter Road and then north to Leading Edge Academy, 18700 N. Porter Road. The roadways will be blocked off along the route about 8:30 a.m.

At 11 a.m., all veterans and their families along with first responders will be treated to lunch at Leading Edge.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Arthur Eric Magana (PCSO photo)

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether a notorious “D.C. sniper” should be re-sentenced in the fallout of a series of high-court rulings that are also impacting a Maricopa-area murder.

The justices took up the argument of Lee Boyd Malvo, now 34, who was 17 in 2002 when he and John Allen Muhammed murdered 10 people in a series of sniper attacks around Washington, D.C. In the past decade, starting with the historic Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court has ruled that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Malvo case not only asks if Miller can be applied retroactively but also questions mandatory sentencing schemes for juvenile offenders without considering individual circumstances.

During arguments in October, Justice Elena Kagan said Miller comes down to two words, “youth matters.”

Arthur Eric Magaña of Maricopa was only 16 years old in 2016 when he and Gustavo Olivo were indicted for the shooting death of 20-year-old Wyatt Miller in an unincorporated area south of Maricopa.

Olivo, who was 17 at the time of the murder, pled guilty a year ago and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Magaña was found guilty by a jury and has been awaiting sentencing for the past 12 months.

Monday, Magaña was before Judge Kevin White for a status review while the judge is preparing for guidance from the upper courts.

The sides must also sort out what White called “clerical-type mistakes” on the part of the defense, which failed to label a filing ex parte. Prosecuting attorney Patrick Johnson said as soon as the correct filings are made, the state intends to file an objection.

He further said the state would object to any motion to request the personal records of the victims.

Johnson said a Supreme Court decision would likely come down in April or May. White predicted having a subsequent sentencing on Magaña sometime in June.

In the meantime, a date for the next hearing was set for Dec. 18.

Edkey Inc. is planning expansion at its Sequoia Pathway Academy campus.

Pre-manufactured buildings that have been on campus 10 years are expected to be removed. (File photo)

CEO Mark Plitzuweit announced the future construction of a 14,000-square-foot building, a $3 million project. He said Edkey has been working since the summer to get financing in place, intended to be the proceeds of a bond issued by a county Industrial Development Authority.

The planned facility will have 12 classrooms, three offices, storage and restrooms along with about 25 more parking spaces. The building is to be next to the high school/junior high.

Plitzuweit said the new building will not increase student capacity.

“The plan is to maintain the current staffing model and adjust as needed based on population,” he said.

Despite recent terminations, the secondary school currently has only one full-time teaching opening and three certified, long-term substitutes. (The school’s website has been offline since October’s student protests over faculty changes.)

Most of the pre-manufactured buildings that have been on campus since the charter school opened in 2009 will be removed from the area between the elementary school and the secondary school and replaced with a “common area grass field.”

Edkey borrowed $14 million in 2010 to buy the land and build the elementary building. In 2013, it borrowed $7 for 2.5 million acres to add to the original building and build the high school and gym.

MHS Rams gather for some final on-field words from the coach after a season-ending loss. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The Maricopa High School varsity football team dropped Friday’s game at Gilbert, 35-14, bringing an end to the Rams’ season.

While defense and offense had shining moments throughout the contest, Maricopa could never catch the Tigers, never getting closer than a touchdown.

Junior Tykek Mooney had a busy night as the Rams scored on a 5-yard run and a third-and-12, 50-yard pass. Junior Mister Chavis was back in action and making impressive runs to try to set up scoring opportunities.

“I didn’t call good plays, and we didn’t execute the plays I did call,” head coach Brandon Harris said.

He also volunteered the blame for a disappointing 3-7 season. The Rams were outscored 351-192. Half the competition came against some of the toughest teams in the state, mostly in the San Tan region. Seven of the 10 teams on Maricopa’s schedule qualified for the 5A playoff bracket.

It was a challenging season.

“I’ve learned to keep going even when things aren’t going your way,” senior quarterback Daxton Redfern said. “You have to keep working no matter what happens.”

He said he also learned to be a leader for a young team, “teaching the guys how to put in the work, setting the example.”

Redfern wants to keep playing beyond high school, and Harris said he spoke to his seniors about what they need to do to move forward and play college ball.

“We’ll help those kids get out. Their job isn’t done,” Harris said. “I always tell our seniors they’re supposed to leave this place better than what they found it. We haven’t done that on the record, but I think we’ve done that in terms of the things that are the intangibles that programs need to have sustainability. That’s doing better in the classroom, being better people on school grounds and in the community, and I think that starts to transfer to our younger guys who watch them and see it.”

County attorney says opioid makers 'lining their pockets'

Pinal County is taking pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacies and doctors to court over addiction and overdoses.

There have been 308 reported opioid overdoses in Pinal County in the past two and a half years.

Pinal County is taking on big pharmaceutical companies over opioid addiction. The law firms of Fennemore Craig and Theodora Oringher filed suit for the county in Superior Court Sept. 25.

“We know how many pills were forced into our county,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said. “Every pill is tracked by the federal government. Needless to say, it falls far outside of appropriate norms.”

In suing many large drug manufacturers and all pharmacies that do business in Pinal County, Volkmer said his office is not as interested in getting a monetary award from the case as it is the opportunity to litigate it in the public forum.

Among the 50 defendants named in Pinal County vs. Actavis LLC, et al. are American Drug Company, Costco, Walgreens, Osco Drug, Walmart, Bashas’, Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt LLC, Safeway, Par Pharmaceuticals, Smith’s Food & Drug, Sun Life Family Health Center and Watson Laboratories. The suit also names eight members of the Sackler family, who Bloomberg estimates to be worth $13 billion collectively.

By filing suit at the county level rather than joining the many federal-level lawsuits, Volkmer said, there is a better chance of getting the evidence known. Ongoing suits against the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, brought by states and other levels of government, will likely be filed into a national settlement. At the federal level, a U.S. bankruptcy judge paused those lawsuits against Purdue Pharma in October.

But Purdue and the Sacklers are only part of the Pinal County suit.

“We are prepared to litigate it. We want a jury to hear what they did and to determine a remedy,” Volkmer said. “We’re confident they acted badly. We want the public to know. The best way to get that is to try the case.”

The complaint does not cite a number for the monetary damages the county is seeking from the 50 defendants named. It seeks “to recover all measure of damages permissible under the statutes identified herein and under common law, in an amount to be proven at trial.”

“We’re confident they acted badly. We want the public to know. The best way to get that is to try the case.” – County Attorney Kent Volkmer

Volkmer said opioid addiction has cost the county manpower in law enforcement and health. And it is removing once-productive people from the economy because they can no longer work, shrinking the tax base that helps pay for the services impacted by opioid addiction.

Patients who could no longer afford an opioid prescription sometimes turned to heroin, causing more impact on law enforcement, the medical examiner’s office and county health resources. “And all of this cost was foisted on the county,” Volkmer said.

“Janssen fully recognizes the opioid crisis that exists in this country. But one thing is clear: Janssen’s medications did not cause or contribute to that crisis.” – Janssen Pharmaceuticals

The county complaint opens with the statement, “Opiates are killing people every day in this country and Arizonans have not been spared. Each of the [d]efendants in this action engaged in an industry-wide effort to downplay the dangerous and deadly potential effects of the misuse of prescription opioids. The opioid epidemic has hit every community in Arizona hard, including Pinal County.”

One of the defendants, Beverly Sackler, died Oct. 15 at the age of 95. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain gave Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers and the government entities suing them until Nov. 6 to reach a disclosure plan that would show how much the company earned from OxyContin sales.

Fennemore Craig was hired by Pinal County this summer specifically for this case against Big Pharma. Its attorneys claimed the actions of opioid manufacturers were “a sophisticated, manipulative scheme” particularly designed to be effective in places like Pinal County because it “is home to a multitude of economically and medically vulnerable populations that defendants knew were uniquely predisposed to opioid addiction, including the elderly.”

Big Pharma companies, Volkmer said, are “lining their pockets” as a result of front-end and back-end domination of a field they created. Some of the same companies that make the opioids also make the overdose antidote naloxone, he said.

Those companies include Hospira (acquired by Pfizer) and Mylan, both named in the suit, which describes both as “a top manufacturer of fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine and codeine in Pinal County.” Mylan is further accused of withholding ingredients to treat “opioid-use disorder and opioid addiction” from its competitors.

Pinal County also accuses Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson, of pushing “bogus research” to promote opioids.

It is similar to claims made in other cases against Janssen in Oklahoma and Ohio, where Janssen denied wrongdoing, stating in court papers: “Janssen fully recognizes the opioid crisis that exists in this country. But one thing is clear: Janssen’s medications did not cause or contribute to that crisis… Janssen will prove that its marketing was and remains supported by scientific medical evidence, offered in good-faith and without a scintilla of fraudulent intent.”

In the mid- to late-1990s, physicians started classifying pain as a “fifth vital sign.” That was allegedly pushed by the American Pain Society and resulted in pharmaceutical companies putting more attention on creating and marketing pain medication. Recent lawsuits from 23 states, as well as Pinal County’s suit, characterize the pharmaceutical companies as “pushing” drugs and turning up the heat on doctors to prescribe more.

Prescribed opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone became commonplace.

“They said opioids addressed and alleviated pain. It was a miracle cure, supposedly,” Volkmer said.

He said, despite a lack of public research, opioids were marketed as addiction-free. Doctors who did not prescribe opioids to help their patients overcome perpetual pain virtually were “accused of malpractice.”

In Massachusetts’ claim against the Sacklers, they were accused of hiring hundreds more sales representatives to pressure doctors. “They directed reps to encourage doctors to prescribe more of the highest doses of opioids. They studied unlawful tactics to keep patients on opioids longer and then ordered staff to use them,” the Massachusetts’ complaint reads.

After the medical community started to acknowledge people were becoming addicted around 2010, the number of prescriptions began to decrease but the amount prescribed increased.

Harinder Takyar is the only physician named in the suit while other local doctors are grouped as so-called “John Does.” Takyar was a Florence-based doctor who was charged with 42 counts of prescribing opioids to his patients without medical need in 2014.

Gov. Doug Ducey declared a statewide emergency in 2017 after a health report found 790 Arizonans died of opioid overdoses the previous year. State tracking showed 431 million opioid pills were prescribed in 2016, “enough for every Arizonan to have a 2.5-week supply.”

Since the emergency declaration, between June 15, 2017, and Oct. 10, 2019, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,633 deaths that were suspected of being opioid overdoses.

Volkmer said while the Pinal case is “very, very similar to Big Tobacco,” immediacy is the difference.

“If you smoke, in 20 or 30 years, you could get cancer,” he said. “Opioids have an immediate impact. It renders people unable to work. If one of my employees goes outside for a smoke break, they can come back to work. If they go out to pop a Percocet, they won’t be able to do that.”

Volkmer said he is “fairly optimistic” the case can be in court in 18-24 months.

This story appears in the the November issue of InMaricopa.

Stuffed acorn squash

Thanksgiving dinner means a lot of autumn flavors, roasted vegetables with earthy spices, jazzed up potatoes, cranberries in everything and the challenge of finding one side dish brand new to the family table.

Robert King

Desert Passage resident Robert King, a former butler and estate manager, whips up goodies and dishes for colleagues and friends from time to time. He learned to cook from the age of 13 at his mother’s side and puts his own stamp on learned recipes.

Butternut squash and sweet potato soup has chicken or vegetable stock as it base, with main ingredients plus carrots, onion, thyme, olive oil and cumin, and is topped with raw pumpkin seeds and a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and croutons.

Sweet rolls include pumpkin puree, flour, milk, yeast, sugar, eggs, butter and salt. The rolls are sliced on the sides before baking to create a pumpkin design in the finished product. After baking, it is topped with a cashew as a “stem” and served with cinnamon butter.

Here, he shares a Thanksgiving recipe for stuffed acorn squash and other side dishes. He said he likes the recipe because the grain can be changed and paired with other flavors.

“You can use rice or quinoa or couscous and match them with different nuts or seeds,” he said.

Sausage cranberry apple pecan stuffed acorn squash

4 acorn squash (softball size single serve portion)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pepper to taste
1 box wild rice (optional couscous, quinoa, farro or panko breadcrumbs)
1 pound ground sausage
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large celery stalks, finely chopped
1 cup cauliflower chopped (optional)
2 large honey crisp apples, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup toasted pecans chopped (optional walnuts or cashews)
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (optional sunflower)
½ teaspoon sage (optional thyme)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, cut off bottom end of acorn to give it a stable bottom to stand on. For a single-acorn, single-serving portion, you can cut the top off and use as a decorative element.

Spoon out seeds.

Brush olive oil inside and on top of acorn squash.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over acorn squash to taste.

Bake for 40 minutes to an hour depending on size of your squash until tender and you can pierce with a fork, but still hold its shape.


In a separate pot, cook rice/quinoa according to directions.

While the squash is baking, sauté the sausage for about 5 minutes, drain but don’t discard grease in the pan.

Using the grease from the sausage add your onions and celery to the pan and sauté for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to brown (add olive oil if necessary).

Combine rice once cooked with meat mixture

Add apples and cauliflower and sauté for another 2 minutes or until softened.

Stir in sage, nuts, seeds and cranberries.

Add ¾ cup Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese begins to melt. Set aside.


Once squash has finished baking and reached desired tenderness, spoon in meat mixture with a large scoop until the squash is filled, leaving an overflowing mound on the top. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, depending on size of squash.

Remove from oven and top with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Pumpkin Rolls

For rolls (yield 15)
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs, divided
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Whole cashews, raw or honey roasted

For cinnamon butter
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For rolls
With an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir the yeast, milk, sugar, butter, pumpkin, one egg and salt until well combined. Gradually add the flour and knead on medium-low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let the dough rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Knead the dough on medium-low speed for another 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces and shape into balls.

Using the palm of your hand to flatten each ball slightly. With a paring knife or culinary scissors, cut 8 slices around each ball, being careful not to slice all the way into the center, to make the pumpkin shape. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Poke an indentation using a rounded edge of a dowel in the center of each roll to create a space for the “stem.” In a small bowl beat the remaining egg with 2 teaspoons of water and brush over the rolls.

Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Place a whole cashew into the indentation of each roll.


For cinnamon butter
With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds, or until pale in color. Add the powdered sugar, honey, and cinnamon and beat until well combined, light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serve the rolls warm with the cinnamon butter.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Yield 4 servings
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 butternut squash, skinned and cubed
1 large (1 pound) sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, cut into small chunks
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin (leaves optional)
Garnish (toppings of your choice: Croutons, dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, raw pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 400°F and line baking tray with baking/parchment paper.

Place butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot and onion pieces on the tray. Coat all sides with oil. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of thyme evenly over the entire squash mix, stir and repeat with the remaining portion of thyme.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the vegetables are browned and soft. Let cool, then transfer to a blender and puree the roasted vegetables and transfer them into a large pot or crockpot. Add stock. If using large pot, cook on stove for 5-10 minutes, stirring often. If using crockpot, heat on low setting to allow flavors to develop. Top with garnishes and serve.

This item appears in part in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Winner of Best Haunted Howse in the City of Maricopa's Mysterious Mansion Mayhem contest had a scary-clown theme on Mac Neil Street.

Maricopans had a fine night for trick-or-treating and fun scares in neighborhoods all over the city.

Shawn Main (PCSO)

Shawn Main, 49, has been incarcerated at Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Adult Detention Center since Christmas Eve 2015. She was arrested 35 days after the death of 3-year-old Tiana Rosalie Capps in Hidden Valley.

Main was one of three women taken into custody four years ago but the only one charged with first-degree murder. Tiana died by blunt-force trauma, according to a coroner’s report.

One woman, Tina Morse, was the child’s biological mother. A year after her arrest, she pled guilty to two counts of child abuse. She served two years in prison, is on lifetime probation and is barred from seeing her surviving children.

A second woman, Maria Tiglao, who is Main’s ex-wife, faces five counts of child abuse and remains out on bond. Tiglao continues to have her case paired with Main’s during years of hearings. Main and Tiglao had primary care of Tiana and her three brothers.

The four children and the three women lived together in a home on Ralston Road. Nov. 19, 2015, a person described as a caretaker called 911 reporting a child in medical distress. Tiana later died in an emergency room. Investigation by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrests.

The boys, who were reported to be malnourished and exhibiting some previous injuries at the time, have been adopted by a relative.

A trial date for Main and Tiglao has been set a few times and is now scheduled for Sept. 14, 2020. Delays have been caused by Main’s ongoing medical issues and other factors in the case.

In August this year, a petition for special action was filed in the Arizona Court of Appeals by attorneys from Arizona Voice for Crime Victims Inc. on behalf of the children’s adoptive relative. A similar petition in Pinal County took four months to resolve. Lead counsel for AVCV did not respond to a request for comment.

Thursday, Main appeared before Judge Delia R. Neal in Pinal County Superior Court. The judge waived a personal appearance by Tiglao, whose attorney, John Dosdall, attended by telephone.

There has been a flurry of motions from both sides in the case over the past few months, with several still in need of a ruling. One motion is filed under “cruel use of non-accidental trauma terms of homicide as a manner of death.” Main’s attorney, Chester Lockwood, is deciding whether to bring in a defense witness on the matter. If so, and a neuro/psych evaluation is involved, the state may ask for six months to put together a rebuttal.

Lockwood said other motions could be dealt with in a single hearing. He may also re-start interviews of prosecution witnesses.

Neal said she would deal with several motions while out of town the rest of the week.

“I don’t anticipate anything remarkable is going to happen before the end of the year,” she said, though the appellate court may come down with a ruling.

The next status conference was set for Jan. 15. The judge said she would maintain the trial date in September until further notice.

Maricopa High School Athletic Director Jake Neill said he was expecting just about anything when region assignments were announced for most high school sports by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

He was confident MHS sports like football, baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball would end up in the 6A conference because of the population growth. That became fact earlier this month. What was unknown was which region would be the meat of their competition for the 2020-2022 seasons.

Last week, Maricopa was assigned to 6A Desert Southwest. There, its competition will be teams from Tucson and Yuma – Cibola, Kofa, Rincon/University, San Luis and Tucson, the latter being the largest school in the region with an enrollment of 3,405.

“To be honest, I’m good with it,” Neill said. “I think it will be good for our athletic program. I think it will be a good fit. It’s not as tough as the San Tan Region, I’ll tell you that.”

The 5A San Tan Region has proved to be one the toughest regions across all conferences, especially in football. He said he thinks Maricopa can vie for some region championships.

AIA football, however, will not hammer out its region alignments until December. Though it is likely to match the other sports, there is a possibility it will not.

“I don’t know how that’s going to work. It’s a whole different group of people,” Neill said. “I would assume they’re going to try to keep it as close as possible. You get burned sometimes when you assume with these committees.”

MHS will only play home-and-homes against the Tucson schools.

“What I told the coaches is, it’s three or four trips a season for you, which, when you look at it, that’s not too bad,” Neill said. “We’ll still end up playing a lot of those southeast Valley schools.”

Region assignments for boys’ and girls’ soccer have not been announced.

Maricopa has moved from Division II to Division I in cross country, track, golf and tennis

Re-alignments for swimming, wrestling and beach volleyball have not been announced yet.

Lon Orlenko works with one of the jacks used to lift the 116,000-pound Silver Horizon railcar. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Within hours of the California Zephyr train’s Silver Horizon railcar being placed at its new home in January, there was speculation it might be off-kilter.

Measurements proved that was so, and the vintage 1940s car was leaning just slightly to the south because parts were not settled properly. Monday, railcar expert Lon Orlenko was on hand to direct City staff in tweaking its placement.

“When they brought it over here and set it down on the tracks, things were a little bit askew,” said Orlenko, who lives in Los Angeles, California. “We’re going to lift it up, take the weight off of it, make some adjustments and set it back down.”

The Silver Horizon belongs to the Maricopa Historical Society. When members learned an adjustment was needed, Society President Paul Shirk was hooked up with Orlenko.

Orlenko has been in the business of rebuilding, repairing and moving railroad cars for 37.5 years. He has made many post-move adjustments to railroad cars.

“We’re not normally out here in the rocks with this kind of timberwork,” he said. “We have big electric screw jacks that we use in our shop.”

As it was, the Society needed favors from a couple sources for air jacks and timber. That included more railroad ties. When Shirk reached out to members and other families, they quickly came up with the heavy timbers required.

The work was methodical to get all air jacks in place to make the small shifts. Orlenko and the crew started in the morning, and, by afternoon, the Silver Horizon stood a little straighter next to Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Maricopa Historical Society will also have crossing lights at the site as part of the story of the railroad. Shirk said they need approval for some electrical work before they can have fully functioning air conditioning. That will allow them to host events in the Silver Horizon again.

The railcar is near Maricopa Veterans Center on the former site of the old swimming pool. In the future, after the city’s library moves to a new as-yet-unbuilt location and the Maricopa Veterans Center moves to the current library building, the historical society will make the current veterans center into a Maricopa museum.

The annual Battle of the Bras, a “fashion show” to raise funds for awareness of breast cancer and other women’s and men’s health issues, took over the lounge stage at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Saturday night. Employee teams from the casino and UltraStar Multi-tainment Center vied for prizes by decorating bras and boxer shorts. It was part of Caesars Entertainment corporate competition throughout October to benefit American Cancer Society chapters. At the conclusion of the campaign, Caesars Foundation will award a total of $25,000 to local ACS chapters in recognition of the efforts of each of the top three participating properties.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Some history stories, a silent auction, and catered meal and more drew a crowd to Maricopa Historical Society’s first Tales & Treasures supper at Leading Edge Academy Saturday. The afternoon event raised funds for the Society’s activities, such as readying for a future museum and continued preparation of the Silver Horizon railcar for public opening. During the supper, members strolled from table to table sharing historical tidbits from Maricopa.

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Photos by Kyle Norby

Central Arizona College’s Maricopa campus hosted a harvest festival Saturday that included its haunted house Tracks of Terror, an escape room, costume contest, pumpkin patch, a movie and pumpkin decorating. The event was free to the public.

Daxton Redfern (1), backed by Mister Chavis, against Casteel Oct. 25. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

At times exhibiting their strongest play of the season, Maricopa High School’s varsity football team came up short against Casteel Friday night in a game that could bring new challenges to next week’s finale.

Casteel won 41-27, leaving the Rams with a must-win against Gilbert if they wish for a chance to make the playoffs.

“I thought we had a good game plan. I thought our kids were focused,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We had a good week of practice. I’m proud of them. They came out and played real hard.”

Senior running back Mister Chavis suffered a blow to the head that may have been a concussion. If so, his ability to play Friday is tenuous. Junior running back Steven Forester definitely won’t be playing against Gilbert – he was ejected in the first half after making a nice run to the red zone but responded with over-exuberance that drew three penalty flags.

“We’re building something here. We just need more bodies, and we don’t have them,” Harris said. “When we lose a guy, we don’t have the depth to fill in like teams that have 100 kids. So that’s kind of tough.”

Maricopa scored first after Dominic Hall intercepted Casteel to set up quarterback Daxton Redfern’s touchdown pass to Jackson Lindseth. However, the Colts answered on their next drive. Redfern’s 27-yard pass to Ilijah Johnson put the Rams ahead again.

“He had a great night tonight,” Harris said of Redfern. “He played really, really well. He’s grown up as a quarterback. He never had a varsity game ever before this season.”

Casteel scored back-to-back touchdowns for a 21-14 lead at halftime. Despite a 19-yard touchdown pass from Redfern and a five-yard rushing touchdown by Anton Avington Jr., Maricopa could not catch up again.

“The defense played great at times,” Harris said. “Our secondary didn’t hold up the way we needed them to, just not closing out on receivers.”

Maricopa will still be short-handed as it tries to qualify for the playoffs in a road game at Gilbert. The Rams also hope to benefit from the open division that could remove three or more of 5A’s top teams from the bracket.

Forester wasn’t alone in being thrown off the field in a tense game. Saying they didn’t need any help calling the game, officials tossed MHS Principal Brian Winter and Athletic Director Jake Neill off the premises in the second half (and even threatened to “call the cops”) after they complained about a late hit on Johnson.

Update: This story has been corrected to reflect the corrected spelling of Ilijah Johnson’s name.

Mayor Christian Price was decked out for baseball during the State of the City address. Photo by Kyle Norby

Mayor Christian Price’s State of the City address Tuesday covered many activities of the past year – from the completion of the State Route 347 overpass to the groundbreaking for a hotel – and explained plans for upcoming endeavors.

Video by Kyle Norby

Those include
scoping SR 347 for improvement
commercial development of Copper Sky
a new courthouse facility with groundbreaking in November
a light at Honeycutt Road and White and Parker Road
a new library
development of Estrella Gin Business Park
a monument sign at the north entry to the city

Price also gave an update on the quest for a hospital in Maricopa, an effort he said has been going on for seven years. Hospital providers, he said, no longer have the incentives to build in rural areas they once had.

“We are making really strong progress” with one provider, Price said, not naming names. The City has been having conversations with that corporation at the state and national levels.

The mayor also said calls come daily from people in the medical profession inquiring about the possibility of a hospital coming to town.

The theme this year for the State of the City address was “City of Dreams,” based on the film Field of Dreams. A mini baseball diamond bordered by rows of corn cropped up in council chambers and many of the attendees were seated on bleachers. The Rev. Arnold Jackson stole the show with a James Earl Jones-esque speech at the end expressing confidence people would come to Maricopa.

For the mayor, a big applause point centered on the post office. Price has been using some personal connections to make the post office experience more convenient for residents. The current post office building was constructed in 1990.

Price said a high school friend works in the office of the district manager. He indicated that has gotten him the ear of the manager and of the postmaster general to discus the issues of the Maricopa facility.

“The need for our little post office to change is upon us,” he said.

Today’s post office building in Maricopa. Photo by Mason Callejas

The expectation is a series of events:

  1. Placement of 2-3 blue mailboxes around town so people don’t have to brave the crowded post office parking lot and lines at the counter to mail their items.
  2. The construction of a satellite office to handle some of the mail duties.
  3. The eventual construction of a new post office that reflects the size of the community.

Price also said the City is trying to lay the groundwork for a 500-acre business and industrial park, exhibiting a concept by Union Pacific. The location would include a commercial rail spur that would make Maricopa “stand apart in the business world and the Greater Phoenix metro region.”

Price said it had potential to be “transformational.”

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman takes questions during a town hall on the bond election. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Resident JoAnne Miller said it was still all about the money.

Suspicious of Maricopa Unified School District and against Prop 437, the bond to build a second high school, she stayed through most of Tuesday’s town hall at MUSD to hear the presentation on the district’s needs. She remained unconvinced.

She said her taxes were already going up $50 next year for the school district.

“That’s a lot of freaking money because everybody else wants their two cents also,” Miller said. “The water department does, the electric does, [etc.]. So, giving it to the schools when I don’t see good management of the schools, it makes it very hard to say yes.”

She was one of a handful of residents amid several teachers and MUSD staff and elected officials at the town hall session. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said she wished for a bigger turnout.

Lopeman explained the difference between an override and a bond election. In 2016 voters approved a seven-year override to lower class sizes and improve technology. The proposed bond for $68 million is primarily to construct a second high school, purchase land if needed and for capital projects like HVAC, buses and roofing.

Dan Cerkoney is a military veteran who moved to Maricopa in August. He said he is likely to vote no.

Cerkoney said he’s been catching up on the facts of the situation and the history of the district.

“We moved to Maricopa because it was a low-tax area,” he said. “I agree, I’ve looked at the schools and, yes, you need to do something. But I’ve also come from a district that they kept raising the tax. ‘We need it for better schools, better schools.’ And they went from $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 to $5,000 for my parents in their case.”

Cerkoney also warned the supporters against surrounding themselves with like-minded people to “feel good.”

“So, when you come across a guy like me, and I’m gonna ask you tough questions, you haven’t been prepared for it,” he said.

Ed Michael said he came from a school district in Wisconsin with the same issues of overcrowding that exist at Maricopa High School, which is 600 students overcapacity. A military veteran on a fixed income, he said he and his wife discussed the problem and the possible tax rates.

“I looked at her and I said, ‘Is Grace worth it?’” he said. “Grace is my granddaughter. She goes to school here in Maricopa. She’s worth it. Every one of my grandchildren is worth it.”

City Councilmember Rich Vitiello said it is also a matter of economic development. “We can’t bring businesses here if our school district isn’t at top-notch,” he said.

Lopeman said the $26 million the district received from SFB for the project is about a third of what is necessary for a “comprehensive” high school rather than a starter, “bare minimum” high school.

Cerkoney suggested the district reach out for more public-private relationships with major companies in the area like Nissan and Volkswagen.

Miller confronted Lopeman over the district’s past spending habits and future plans, including to improve the administration building. “When they built this, you didn’t consider maintenance, putting in new roofs down the road, insurance for that, whatever. That wasn’t considered?”

Lopeman said capital spending is limited by the School Facilities Board.

“We don’t have top-of-the-line HVAC units. We have what could be purchased with that SFB money,” Lopeman said.

Current enrollment in the district is around 7,200. It is projected to grow to at least 11,000 in eight years. When asked why the district didn’t recognize the population issue sooner and begun saving for bigger facility, Lopeman said the process of the state Legislature is to fund a year at a time and it would take 40 years to build up that kind of fund.

She said the high school would be able to manage for three years but the problem would only increase with time. If the bond does not pass this year, she said, a high school would still be built. “The scale in the first year will be impacted by whether this passes.”

See the full town hall

Cast member of "Peter and the Starcatcher" include (from left) Emma Schrader, Ricky Raffaele, Taya Johnson and Joey Russoniello. Photo by Victor Moreno

What: Peter and the Starcatcher
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: Oct. 24-26, 7 p.m., matinee Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5 students; $7 general admission, $10 VIP
ASL interpretation available

Despite a late changeout of the entire show just before auditions, Maricopa High School Theatre Company is making fast work of its fall production, “Peter & the Starcatcher.”

An origin story for “Peter Pan,” which the troupe performed last fall, “Peter and the Starcatcher” became celebrated for its sets and costuming in its Tony-Award-winning run in 2012.

“It’s the prequel, so it has so many sweet moments that tell you how Peter Pan came and how the story they fell in love with last year exists,” said theater instructor Alexandra Stahl, who directs the play.

Stahl had wanted to wait another year or two before producing “Starcatcher” because of the close proximity to last year’s production. MHS Theatre Company planned to perform “She Kills Monsters,” a nerd comedy drawing inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, but in mid-July the administration asked Stahl for something less controversial for now.

What made “Starcatcher” work well in the shortened timeframe was the fact many in the company were already well-versed in the basic story and were excited about the project. There is lots of word play and definitely pirates.

“It started out with some of the same characters, and that made it a little bit easier,” Stahl said, “but I didn’t want to bring back the red Hook coat, because I didn’t want people to be like, ‘That’s Hook!’”

Stahl was looking for “youthful innocence” in the casting of the orphan known only as Boy for much of the show. That turned out to be sophomore Joey Russoniello.

“Honestly, I love the show,” Russoniello said. “We saw the show when we went to Nationals over the summer. I never thought it would even be a possibility for me to play this role. And then we ended up doing the show.”

A singer before joining the company as a freshman, Russoniello has had to step up his acting skills.

“It’s a really good challenge,” he said. “That was something I really needed to develop, and this show is really pushing me to do that.”

Junior Taya Johnson plays Molly, who eventually is revealed to be [spoiler alert] the Starcatcher. In “Peter Pan” last year, she played Michael.

She describes Molly as a 13-year-old Victorian with an unusual educational upbringing and independent character. She watched a bootleg version of the original show on YouTube a couple of times and also fell in love with the story.

“It’s my first lead role, so I’m very nervous,” Johnson said. “I’m really happy I have the opportunity to do this play.”

The play does not lean heavily on either of the titular roles.

“It’s basically storytelling theatre. There’s no one person who is the star,” Stahl said. “They’re all telling the story together. Many play multiple characters throughout the show. There’s some points where these characters are listed in the script as ‘Narrator Molly’ or ‘Narrator Boy.’”

Cast: Boy (Peter) – Joey Russoniello; Prentis – Emma Schrader; Ted – Ricky Raffaele; Lord Leonard Aster – Simon Ty; Molly Aster – Taya Johnson; Mrs. Bumbrake – Haley Lemon; Captain Robert Scott – John Jackson; Grempkin – Aliyah Garcia; Bill Slank – Douglas Moulton; Alf – Derek Blakely; Mack – Angelina George; Black Stache – Julie Goodrum; Smee – Jae Luna; Sanchez – Mary Brokenshire; Fighting Prawn – Mary Brokenshire; Hawking Clam – Grace Goodrum; Teacher – Haley Raffaele; Ensemble – Morgan Cutrara, Gracee Clark, Ashton Crosniak, Isabella Netro, Astraya Ellyson

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Sequoia Pathway students demanded a fired teacher be brought back during a protest before school Monday. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sequoia Pathway students are protesting the termination of a popular teacher last week.

Word got out Friday that Kevin Struble had been fired, and several parents were irate, saying it was the last straw in a series of controversial decisions. Students carrying signs and chanting stood in front of the secondary school Monday morning. Some wore masks of Struble’s face.

“He does everything for this school. He stays up until 2 or 3 a.m. making his lesson plans so he’s ready to teach his classes,” senior Joliegh Boothe said. “At one point, he was signing and grading assignments for every teacher with a math class. He’s supported by every teacher and every student in this school just because of all that that he’s done. The new admin doesn’t know anything about him and all that he’s because they’re new.”

The charter school administration cannot talk about personnel decisions specifically.

“As an organization, if a termination takes place, it has been thoroughly vetted with appropriate documentation, along with adherence to legal precedent, even in this right-to-work state,” CEO Mark Plitzuweit told InMaricopa Friday. “Keep in mind that student and staff safety will always be of highest concern.”

Plitzuweit himself has been a target of some of the anger, with parents saying dissatisfaction has been building.

“There have been at least three teachers let go or resigned since the start of school, not to mention the two or three who didn’t return from last year,” parent Brandon Stone said. “The replacement teachers are either long-term substitutes or teachers who are now just filling in during their prep hour.”

Stone has four children attending Pathway in first, seventh, eighth and 10th grade.

“The application process for the school doesn’t apply any longer, so all students are let in, which has translated to multiple fights recently, more students in classes who are disrespectful and don’t want to be there, which means the students who do want to be there don’t receive the education they have for the past few years,” Stone said.

The students were hearing the teacher had been fired for low test scores, insubordination and unprofessional behavior. Those protesting were highly skeptical.

“In reality, when we did AzMerit, his pre-calc class got the highest scores,” senior Mickenzee Bell said.

Plitzuweit said, due to privacy, only half the story was being told. “It’s always the second half of the story that can’t be shared that could bring clarity to the actions,” he said.

Angry parents threatened to pull their children from Pathway, and Plitzuweit said they have every right to do that. But he warned against organized protests on private property, “as it would be considered a disruption of an academic learning environment.” When Monday’s protest continued into classtime, police were asked to drop in and monitor the situation.

Plitzuweit said the school is facing a teacher shortage similar to the rest of the state, and the hardest slots to fill are math, science and special education. “Out of our 18 schools, this location is one that we have had a greater need for long term substitutes.”

He said he is unaware of an increase of fighting or other disciplinary issues parents have claimed and said he would talk to the administration about it. He said he has heard from several families expressing appreciation for the new leadership.

“All that being said, I am very supportive of the campus-level decisions that have been made in several areas and I look forward to the continued accountability measures that are in place to increase student outcomes, in a safe and secure environment,” Plitzuweit said.

Pathway Secondary Principal Ja-Queese Dightmon did not respond to a request for comment.

The protest was an echo of a 2015 student pushback against the termination of two administrators at the campus. The two were eventually re-hired, but have since left EdKey.


Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Despite a Friday loss that dropped their record to 3-5, the Maricopa High School football team still has a shot at making the 5A playoffs.

While the top teams in the conference are among the best in the state overall, a large portion of the bottom-half 5A teams are terrible. That has placed the Rams above average despite blowout losses.

That includes Friday’s 50-19 home loss to Williams Field. Maricopa had a Jeykll-and-Hyde kind of night, with play ranging from torpid to terrific without finding a line of consistency. An interception by junior Dominic Hall in the first minute of the game, for instance, was followed by a safety and two touchdowns by the Black Hawks.

“We gave them their first 16 points,” head coach Brandon Harris said. “We left at least 28 points out there.”

The Rams did not have a first down from scrimmage until only 3:13 was left on the clock in the first quarter. But they then put together a drive than ended in a two-yard touchdown run by junior Mister Chavis. By that time, MHS trailed 23-7.

Senior Ram Anton Avington Jr. got to show off his speed by scoring on a 65-yard run, helped by a surprise block by quarterback Daxton Redfern, after putting on a defensive show as well.

Sophomore Merhauti Xepera grabbed a Redfern pass from the five for the final score of the game.

“I really thought that the bi-week was a timely thing for us to really almost getting back to camp up north and kind of remembering what we committed to, what we wanted to be and just telling those guys that they’re still those guys,” Harris said. “The record doesn’t mean you’re a different person. We’ve just got to get back to doing good things. We’ve got good players.”

While the Rams could never fully take advantage of numerous mistakes and penalties by the Black Hawks, Harris said he was telling his players he was not upset or disappointed with them, but they have work to do.

Maricopa may benefit from this season’s new “Open” division that could remove two or more of the best teams from the 5A playoffs to play against the best from 6A and 4A. The top 16 of the remaining 5A teams qualify for post-season play, within the Rams’ grasp before Friday’s loss. New rankings are due Tuesday.

“But we got to go win a game, at least two,” Harris said. “If we win two, we host a home game probably. If we win one, we’re on the road.”

Maricopa plays at Casteel (5-3) Friday and ends the regular season at Gilbert (3-4) Nov. 1. This will be Maricopa’s final season in 5A for at least two years, as Arizona Interscholastic Association moved the growing school up to 6A. That move was expected, and Maricopa would rank 30th in enrollment among the largest schools.

Cindy Kennedy, Allie Miller and Kari Raflik singing in costume with Maricopa Chorus.

Six years after founding Maricopa Chorus, John Janzen is passing the baton, so to speak, to a new artistic director.

“Most of us had been singers in the past and were a little rusty but grateful and excited to have the opportunity to sing with a group again.” — Christine Fruchey

“I moved to Ahwatukee three years ago,” Janzen said. “I’ve been looking for at least a year for how to transition Maricopa Chorus to other leadership… I’m still on the board. It’s officially still my choir.”

Janzen, a baritone with the Arizona Cantilena Chorale and possessor of a degree in choral conducting, is stepping aside for Don Raflik, who’s performed everything from punk rock to polka music. The move comes as the Chorus is preparing for the holidays and for the second part of ArtsFest Maricopa.

The community chorus was established in 2013 primarily to sing Christmas music, but then expanded its repertoire. “It was just natural that I would start a choir when I couldn’t find one here,” Janzen said. “I’ve been in choirs so long.”

Raflik, who directs three choirs for Our Lady of Grace Catholic parish, joined Maricopa Chorus last year. Now he will step to the front as the chorus plans its holiday gigs and prepares for February’s portion of ArtsFest Maricopa.

Before he discovered Maricopa Chorus, Raflik had been hoping to create an interfaith community choir to sing carols during the holidays.

“Then one year I’m looking through InMaricopa and I see this ad for the Maricopa Chorus to do caroling, and I said, ‘This is perfect for me,’” Raflik said.

He did not know Janzen, and he lost the ad. Nearly two years later, Raflik stopped in a Mesa music store for some sheet music. Chatting with one of the employees, he mentioned he lived in Maricopa. She told him her husband directed the Maricopa Chorus.

“I said, ‘Oh! Finally,” Raflik said. The providential encounter with Wendy Janzen helped everything fall into place.

Raflik and other members of the Our Lady of Grace choir caroled with the Chorus, and Raflik became a member last year.

The fact that Maricopa Chorus is not church-affiliated, he said, made it even more inviting.

“It’s not just churches,” Janzen said. “It’s been communitywide.”

The Chorus has performed for civic and other secular events along with Christmas shows. They have sung for Thanksgiving events, Shop with a Cop, Santa Claus and Merry Copa.

There are currently 15-16 active singers in the choir. Raflik would like to build that to 30, including more men. Janzen and Raflik acknowledged that is a difficult task. A couple years ago, Janzen was the only male singer in the choir.

Raflik said the same issue exists in the Our Lady of Grace choirs. He has gifted, degreed male singers in the congregation who are retired and would rather listen than sing.

Growing beyond holiday music, the Chorus had to create the mechanism to deal with logistics, performing insurance, paying for music and supplies and for material for their costumes. At Christmas, the singers don 1800s outfits created by Connie Scheidt, who was among the first singers to join the Chorus and is on the board.

Christine Fruchey was also an early member, answering an ad in the newspaper.

“Most of us had been singers in the past and were a little rusty but grateful and excited to have the opportunity to sing with a group again,” Fruchey said. “The experience of making music as a group is exhilarating, peaceful, fun and unforgettable. Although some of the members have changed, the venues are different, and we now meet only around the holiday season instead of year-round. Maricopa Chorus is still like a family to me.”

The transition of artistic directors is another change for the group.

“We still get to be together to share our love of choral music every year, and hope to continue the tradition in the future,” Fruchey said.

The Chorus has dues to help cover costs, but they invite contributions and want to build their base of sponsors. Raflik scouts for singers at karaoke, other choirs and schools. They have had singers as young as 13. “Ninety percent of the whole entire population of the world can sing,” he said. “Everybody thinks they’re in the 10 percent, but they’re really not. If you can sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ you can sing.”

Getting more men into the Chorus, Janzen said, “would allow the choir to do a better variety of music. Right now, we have to tailor everything to soprano, alto and baritone. It opens things up if you have four-part harmony. Sounds better, too.”

Christmas caroling is usually the easiest music they tackle. It is unison singing, and everyone at least knows the melody. Not every member is expected to be at every Christmas gig, and losing one voice in caroling doesn’t change the sound of the Chorus.

Other choral music and pop music they perform can be more demanding, like the program they are putting together for the February portion of ArtsFest Maricopa.

“That will be more tailored to someone who might know how to read music already and is more established,” Raflik said.
Don Raflik: 602-317-8278

John Janzen (left), founder of Maricopa Chorus, is passing the artistic director duties to Don Raflik. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

About Don Raflik

Originally from Milwaukee, Don Raflik has been involved with the local Catholic choirs since he moved to Hidden Valley in 1996. That was when the congregation was still the St. Francis de Sales Mission.

At Our Lady of Grace, he leads the traditional choir, the seasonal choir and a choir for special occasions.

“I’ve been playing music ever since the sixth grade, mostly drums but I play piano, saxophone, guitar. I mostly played in bands, so I don’t have a degree.”

He left home at 18 to play in rock bands. Harley-Davidson sponsored one band around the country. His repertoire has included jazz, ska, reggae and Dixieland.

“I played every single week probably from my 17th birthday until I was 45, every week at least once,” he said. “When I was in Vegas, I played six nights a week for five years in a row.”

The Rafliks moved to Maricopa for the peacefulness. At the time the community had no traffic light and was mainly comprised of orange and pecan groves.

He and his wife Kari, an accompanist for choirs at church and Heritage Academy, have two sons. He has owned liquor stores, worked as an electrician and owned his own company in Maricopa. But his life has been about music.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

City Hall is spending so much time looking ahead at projects and challenges, Mayor Christian Price said, staff doesn’t often have a chance to look back at what has transpired over the past year.

The annual State of the City address is a chance to show the community some accomplishments and what staff has been working on. The event is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

“It’s really been fun,” Price said.

This year’s theme is “City of Dreams,” inspired by the baseball-fantasy movie Field of Dreams and the notion, “If you build it, they will come.” The mayor said attendees are encouraged to be casual and wear any baseball attire they wish.

Past State of the City presentations have included pseudo-skydiving, ziplining and time travel. Staff is keeping quiet on what this year’s showpiece will be.

“We want people to have a good time and learn something,” Price said. “Not something typical and boring.”

Admission is free, but attendees are asked to register to staff can get an estimate for accommodations.

State of the City is mandated by city code. Though the cost was once allocated from the city budget, it has been a fully sponsored event the past three years. Price said the City is now getting to the point it raises more money than it needs as businesses line up to be involved in the show.

He will be talking about the completion of the overpass (final paving begins Monday), the completed, ongoing and pending commercial developments around town, City programs, impact of growth and possible future opportunities and challenges.

“We like to change it up a bit,” Price said of the presentation. “We don’t want it to be stale.”

The idea of the State of the City came from the Founding Fathers starting the tradition of the State of the Union, an opportunity for the President to communicate with Congress. The State of the Union later became law, and Maricopa’s State of the City was put into code as well.

State of the City is presented by the City of Maricopa and the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance.

Waste Management contracts with several HOAs in Maricopa for garbage collection.

Should all of Maricopa be on the same trash service?

The City is investigating the notion in order to achieve one of the objectives in its Strategic Plan, which is strict oversight of solid-waste management. Staff prepared a request for proposals, in essence, to see what happens.

Most homeowners’ associations have their own contracts with garbage-collection vendors Waste Management or RAD Maricopa.

The proposal presented to Maricopa City Council on Tuesday would have everyone eventually on the same contract managed by the City. A code recommendation would have curb-side, residential waste collection required at each residence just as water and electricity is required.

Councilmember Nancy Smith said the move started with discussions about the high cost of garbage collection in the Heritage District, the oldest part of Maricopa, which does not have an HOA.

“They’re kind of getting robbed as an individual contracting with each of these large corporations charging them an arm and a leg,” Mayor Christian Price said.

When the Heritage District Advisory Committee brought the concerns to City Manager Ricky Horst, he started thinking citywide.

“The premise is that we would provide some degree of savings for HOAs, plus they no longer would have the burden of managing it,” Horst said. “The intent would be that it would be citywide, and the city has the authority under the statutes to do this.

“I also want to mention we met with the management groups of the HOAs six months or so ago and presented the idea, so it’s not like we’re working in a vacuum.”

The proposal does not include collection service for business.

The RFP is looking for a service that would have weekly refuse collection and on-call or mandated dates for large-item collection in all residential areas.

“Collectively, when you look at roughly 22,000 households, we think we have significant bargaining power, not only to provide better service at a lower price but perhaps enhance additional services,” Horst said.

Any contract would also scrutinize recycling service.

“Recycling is costing us far more, and they’re not doing anything with it,” Smith said.

Price said he wants to see various versions of the RFP, both citywide and Heritage District only. Councilmember Rich Vitiello also pushed more on including businesses, but Horst said the City wants to start with a residential contract.

“If it doesn’t save money and provide a better service, we don’t go there,” Horst said, “but we don’t know until we go through the bid process.”

Marcos Martinez. (PCSO photo)

Marcos Jerrell Martinez, accused of murdering his grandmother in Maricopa, may be moving toward a resolution of the case.

Martinez has been under the eye of Pinal County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Wharton in Mental Health Court since he was found not competent to stand trial but has also at times been before Judge Jason Holmberg and three other judges in regular criminal court while being restored to competency. Wednesday, defense attorney Jaime Ramirez said a pretrial hearing set for December could bring a change of plea or at least a decision on seeking a jury trial or a bench trial.

Martinez was arrested in 2018 in Chandler on charges of killing Vicky Ten Hoven, 62, in her house in Rancho El Dorado. Cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma, though she was also stabbed several times.

He was initially found incompetent to stand trial and spent more than a year working with physicians to be restored to competency. He faces a single charge of first-degree murder.

Prosecutor William Wallace asked Wharton to allow attorney Kathryn Fuller an endorsement to represent next of kin as a victims advocate in the case. Wharton complied but shot down the notion of allowing Fuller to participate by phone.

The next court appearance for Martinez was set for Dec. 18.

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Mayor Christian Price

Christian Price has announced he is running for re-election as mayor of Maricopa.

He is currently in his third term. A partner in Sierra West Group, he was elected to back-to-back two-year terms in 2012 and 2014 and elected to a four-year term in 2016.

“There is so much work to accomplish, so much we want to get started,” Price said, who lives in Maricopa Meadows.

He said building relationships has been the focus of how he works to improve the city and its economic development.

Indicating the new commercial developments that have bolstered the city’s collection of transaction privilege tax, significantly in the past two years, he noted, “if you look at our sales tax rates for the past few years, you’ll see it’s paying off.”

He said when he first took office, he promised to work “day and night” for the City. That has amounted to 60-70 hours per week for a “part-time” job, he said. “That’s what’s required if we want to make a name for ourselves.”

Abby Poland with her great-uncle Ernst in Germany. Submitted photo

Oktoberfest, one of the biggest, most extensive, annual parties in the world, is a staple of the Bavarian region of Germany. It inspires much smaller celebrations of German culture – food, traditional clothing and lots of beer-drinking – in sundry spots in the United States.

“Fun fact: All the stereotypes of Germany come from Bavaria – the lederhosen, Oktoberfest,” said Abigail Poland, who spent 24 days in Germany this summer as part of a cultural-exchange program.

Poland, a 15-year-old junior at Maricopa High School, is only two generations separated from Bavaria herself. Her grandmother, Gudrun von Kampen, emigrated to the United States alone at the age of 16 in 1950 after helping her family rebuild their bombed-out home.

“There are so many stereotypes with Germany, and there are a lot of misunderstandings because of everything that happened in the past,” Poland said. “That’s not what Germany is. World War II was one terrible period in German history, and German culture is so much richer and so much more amazing than that.”

Poland, who lives in Maricopa Meadows, studied two years of German at MHS and then took the National German Exam. She scored in the top 10 percentile, making her a gold medalist and qualifying her to apply for the Study Trip Award provided by the German Foreign Office and its Pedagogical Exchange Service. Winners stay with a host family, attend classes at a local high school and experience cultural field trips.

“The application process is, you answer a few questions, some in English, some in German, and you write a letter to a potential host family in German,” Poland said. “Then you have an interview in German – well, part in German. They were really forgiving. Because I was so nervous, a lot of mine was in English.”

She was one of 44 American students chosen for the Study Trip Award through American Association of Teachers of German. The program paid for her roundtrip flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Aschaffenburg in northeast Bavaria.

“I was so shocked and overwhelmed and so grateful that I had the opportunity,” she said.

Though “blessed with better-than-average, self-selected students,” MHS German instructor McKay Jones said, “it’s no exaggeration to say that Abby is a once-in-a-generation student. Motivation, attitude, ambition, love of languages – she’s just really enthusiastic. I think that’s one of the reasons she was selected. That really came across.”

Abigail Poland and her German teacher, McKay Jones, show where she spent three and a half weeks this summer in Bavaria. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Her grandmother, who now lives in Mesa, was one of the reasons Poland wanted to study German in the first place and why she was particularly excited about the trip.

“Her family was too poor. They weren’t able to feed all their kids and pay all their bills. There was an aunt that lived in America that my grandma didn’t really know and later found out that she wasn’t the nicest aunt. She said, ‘Send Gudrun to me, and I’ll take care of her.’ So, when she was 16, she came over and made a life for herself.”

But her grandmother was never chatty about the past.

“I’ve grown up my whole life visiting her very frequently, and she’s never even told me,” Poland said.

“She’s a very happy person, and obviously talking about your country being destroyed and being bombed and being homeless, and all that happening to her, she just never talked about it,” said Leah Poland, who is Abigail’s mother and Gudrun’s daughter. “I didn’t even hear the story until I was in junior high.”

Just earning a trip to Germany was not a guarantee Abigail would have the opportunity to travel to her family’s old haunts.

“I told her, ‘They’re not obligated to drive you all over the place,’ but her host family was amazing,” Leah Poland said. “They drove her twice more than an hour away to visit my uncle in an old folks’ home. He has no other living family. He was so happy to see her.”

Abigail previously had worn her grandmother’s dirndl, a traditional peasant dress that shows up frequently at Munich’s Oktoberfest. She wanted to purchase one but found them too expensive – “hundreds of euros” – but her uncle helped her acquire one.

Abby in her Dirndle. Submitted photo

Her uncle was also a treasure trove, sharing family stories and giving Abigail a huge box of family photos.

What’s more, her host family drove her two and a half hours to visit the home where her grandmother grew up, a home that was in the family for generations before being sold in the 1980s when her great-grandmother passed away.

“Even when I just mentioned visiting her house, my oma [grandmother] told me two new stories we’d never heard before,” Abigail Poland said.

Her host family was comprised of a mother, two sisters and, for part of the time, the mother’s “life partner.”

“I noticed right off the bat the feeling was different,” Poland said. “I felt like there was so much less pressure. A lot of people think Germans are cold, but I think Germans are chill. They are so much more open and talk about their feelings. It’s OK if you’re not happy and smiling and saying ‘Oh, I’m doing great’ all the time. The German stereotype is that Germans have no feelings, but I felt like it was the exact opposite, that Germans were very open with their feelings.”

Her hosts also got her to come out of her nervous-foreigner shell.

“Here, I make a lot of jokes,” she said. “In Germany I wasn’t comfortable because I didn’t know what the humor was. I didn’t know if it was going to go badly. But I remember a conversation I had with my host-sister, and she was like, ‘Just try. What’s it going to hurt if you try?’ That changed a lot of things for me.”

She traveled with a group of other foreign students to Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin. She hung out with her host-sisters and their friends. She couldn’t always follow conversational details but knew the gist.

“Her German when she got back just blew me away,” Jones said. “It was basically a month of immersion.”

“You can see how language mirrors culture,” Poland said. “In English, there’s a lot of ambiguity. In German, the words are what they mean. It’s very straightforward and real in the same way the people are straightforward and real.”

Abby with friends at grandmother’s house in Germany. Her grandmother emigrated to the United States at the age of 16 in 1950s. Submitted photo

Jones said the program is Germany’s investment in the future. “They want the German programs in the U.S. to stay vibrant, and there aren’t very many of them, especially in the Southwest.”

She gained a sense of independence that may have taken longer to obtain without the experience. The youngest of the five children of Leah and Matthew Poland, Abigail had never flown before she boarded the plane from Phoenix to the East Coast.

“I learned to not be afraid,” she said. I had adults and other people around to help me, but it was like I was completely alone. I learned how to do stuff for myself. And I learned to get over my fears. On the planes I was absolutely terrified on takeoffs and landings on the way there. I was sitting in the middle and on the aisle, which was good. Anytime I would look out the window, I was like, ‘Nope, nope, nope.’ On the way home I had a window seat, and I wasn’t terrified. I was leaning into the window. It was so interesting to me to see that difference.”

Poland’s experience realized the goals of the program and showed why the German government sets its sights on foreign teenagers. For her, the experience wasn’t about lederhosen or oompah bands or bier steins or anything else that might celebrate the German culture in an Oktoberfest kind of way.

“I want to raise cultural awareness, not just of German culture but of cultures around the world,” Poland said. “One culture is not more valid than another, and neither is a language, and neither is a people. I learned so much in Germany. I’m ready to take on the world, and I have so many opportunities now.”

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Main River and Schloss Johannisburg

Misty Newman steampunk creations by Mythical Gardens. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Mythical Gardens LLC is giving adults a reason to revel in the Halloween spirit.

What: Copa Adult Steampunk Halloween
When: Oct. 26, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.
Where: Raceway Bar & Grill, 49237 W. Papago Road
Tickets: (promotion code Hallow10)

The local designer of custom cosplay clothing will host the inaugural Copa Adult Steampunk Halloween at Raceway Bar & Grill. The evening will include a costume contest, scavenger hunt, DJ music, dancing, Declan Shade Photography booth and lots of food.

What is steampunk?

Inspired by the Victorian science-fiction vision of the likes of Jules Verne and Edward S. Ellis, what is now called steampunk re-imagines the age of invention and even the “Wild West.” Cosplay costumes incorporate mechanisms and gadgetry of the time to transform even the most coquettish outfit into something audacious.

“It’s just a crossover from the Victorian era from the late 1800s and early 1900s to steam-engine days, but it’s gotten to be a crossover with Disney or sci-fi or anything they want. They mix everything up,” said Jenny Zarogoza, co-owner of Mythical Gardens. “There’s some people who use steampunk when they really want to keep it authentic between the 1800s and 1900s, but now you just mix it with everything, and it’s just fun. There’s no right or wrong for steampunk.”

Those who don’t want to go full steampunk but just want a taste of it for the evening will find a hat or a mask available from Mythical Gardens. Jenny and her sister Linda make custom costumes, but a limited number of outfits can be rented for the night, too.

“We will turn the patio into a big Halloween bash,” said Jenny Zarogoza. “We were doing it for local businesses so people could get to know some of the local businesses and have someplace where we could all get together as adults and have a great Halloween party.”

Rand DelCotto, owner of Raceway Grill, is creating the menu and will run a cash bar, and Uniquely Yours Cake Design will supply specialty cakes.

“It’s for something different, networking and to just have a good time and dress up, something they don’t get to do very often,” said Misty Newman, who operates Arizona Outdoor Adventures and is a sponsor of the event.

General admission is $40 per person. VIP seating is $65 and includes hats and masks. Sponsorships are available from $100 to $500. A portion of funds raised benefits two 501(c)(3) efforts – the Zarogozas’ weighted blankets for children with autism and Newman’s camping program for youth at AOA.

Mythical Gardens is also creating a Quilt of Remembrance to be auctioned off at the party. Zaragoza is asking anyone wishing to honor a fallen hero to create a 5-by-5 quilt block to be added to the quilt.

If you need a quilt block or if you would like to rent a steampunk costume, email as soon as possible.

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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Photo by Kyle Norby

The most expensive home sold in Maricopa from Aug. 16 through Sept. 15 is a two-story home overlooking the 10th hole of The Duke at Rancho El Dorado. With lots of aesthetic additions, it sold for just $200 under its list price. The property is now about $78,000 shy of its 2005 price.

  1. 42359 W. Little Drive, Rancho El Dorado

Sold: Sept. 11
Purchase price: $342,300
Square footage: 2,997
Price per square foot: $114.21
Days on market: 154
Builder: DR Horton
Year built: 2005
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 3
Community: Rancho El Dorado
Features: Two levels, three-car garage, private pool, golf-course views, loft, RV gate, slab parking for three additional vehicles
Listing agent: Robyn J. Bernzott, Re/Max Fine Properties
Selling agent: Carrie Pagnussat, HomeSmart

  1. 21992 N. Dietz Drive, Rancho El Dorado …………………………..$325,100
  2. 20224 N. Peppermint Drive, Province ………………………………$325,000
  3. 44558 W. Sedona Trail, Cobblestone Farms ……………………..$320,000
  4. 41032 W. Walker Way, Homestead North …………………………$320,000

This item appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Kyle Norby

According to City Councilmember Nancy Smith, Walgreens has applied for a tenant improvement permit for the building located west of Walmart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

Smith posted on her Facebook page the new store “should be opened by the end of the year or first of next.” The application was submitted today, according to City documents, and requires 24 standard inspections.

The shell building was constructed in 2009 on 1.52 acres with the intent to be a drug store, but the ensuing Great Recession halted its development. The current project is to complete interior alterations.

The land at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway is owned by Maricopa 7 LLC, which purchased it three years ago for a reported $7 million from Maricopa WG LLC. It previously belonged to Shea Maricopa LLC and Homestead Village South, according to county tax records. The commercial area is officially known as Maricopa Power Center The Wells.