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Jim Headley

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Robot Overlords Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14. Photo by Jim Headley

Only 30 teams from Arizona are going to the 2019 VEX Robotics Worlds Championship, and five of them are from Maricopa.

Anna Walton, 13, and Gabriel Ulibarri, 14, both of Maricopa, have qualified for the VEX VRC World Championships in the high school division. The two are not associated with one of the large school programs, like most of the participants in the event, but rather are home schooled.

There are only seven high school teams attending the championships from Arizona.

Ulibarri is a freshman, and Walton is an eighth grader. They are coached by Gabriel’s mother, Michelle Ulibarri, and Anna’s father, Jason Walton. The two have competed together in VEX Robotics four years in the elementary and middle school divisions.

The two will begin competition next Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, and their team name is the Robot Overlords.

“There is a specific game that they are designing to play this year,” said Michelle Ulibarri. “They know what the game is, then they need to build the robot to accomplish the task. They play with a teammate and they play against teammates. They are only given the parts and the task. They have to come up with how to accomplish that on their own.”

Legacy School in Maricopa qualified two middle school and one elementary team for the VEX Robotics Championship and there is another elementary team qualified from Maricopa.

The competitive high school division of the VEX Robotics World Championship will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center with 500 teams from around the world compete for the title, including the Robot Overlords.

The Robot Overlords will be placed into an alliance with another team at Worlds and then take on two other teams on the “field” at the same time.

The object is to see how many points can be gathered while attempting to hinder the other side from getting points. The competition is not a robot battle, though there can be some minor contact between the robots.

Teams are scored on pre-programed (autonomous mode) and live remote-controlled competitions. The participants must program the remote control to work with their robot. The students program the robot and the remote by writing computer code in C++.

The teams build their robots for the competition and most of the teams are much larger than the homeschooled Robot Overlords. Teams are usually from well-funded schools.

“There will be 500-plus high school teams from across the world competing,” Anna said. “The teams are however big you are. They can be one person. There are some teams from Arizona going that have 15 kids on one robot because they’re from a school.”

They leave Sunday evening for Kentucky as the competition starts Wednesday and wraps up on Saturday.

The two have no prediction about how well they might do at the world competition, but Gabriel did say, “better than average.”

Anna said it will be very interesting because they could be paired with a Chinese team, and they have to figure out how to communicate with each other, let alone compete in an alliance against two other teams.

“Google Translate is going to be our friend,” Anna said.

Photo by Jim Headley

Is your family history in the Cloud?

Bob Marsh said there is a nationwide problem that could be turned into a golden opportunity for Maricopa.

Bob Marsh

“Everybody my age has a shoebox or 50 of photographs in a closet somewhere in their home,” said Marsh, a graduate of MIT with a degree in computer science. He has decades of experience working for and with Microsoft.

“When they moved here from Iowa or Minnesota, they brought those shoeboxes with them. Those photos contain historical records, faces, clothing, special scenarios and names of people who can be tagged if you digitized the photos.”

Marsh said if those images were then placed into an online cloud and people tell a story about what is known about the photo, they become historically valuable.

“That will become part of the knowledgebase for future generations. Once the Boomers die off, those photos go away. They aren’t time-stamped the way today’s iPhone photos are. The facial recognition doesn’t exist for them in the cloud. They lived in the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s before the digital camera was really a force.”

Marsh said he’s trying to connect with Ancestry.com and see if they are interested in adding these images to their data base and get a pilot project going with seniors in Maricopa to start moving these historic images into the cloud.

“We are an insular community, just as if we were an island off the coast of Hawaii,” Marsh said. “We are between two Indian reservations. You can do things here and word doesn’t leak out. We can get a pilot project going here with a senior center of some sort to use Android and iPhone technology to digitize photos.”

Marsh said with the proper application on a phone, the digital images taken of these old photographs are as good as, and even better than, computer scans of the images.

“With the right app, a senior could scan some photos and get four or eight at a time in one shot,” he said. “Bring them up on a big screen, go in with a mouse and keyboard and tag those photos. Give them a title and sub-title, add names and locations.”

Marsh hopes to nail down several things to get the project off the ground, including determining what phone applications work best and a place to start the project. He is also hoping for partnerships with large technology companies.

“Where seniors could gather around and have multiple work stations. They can socialize while they’re doing it,” Marsh said.


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

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Photo by Jim Headley

 

Don’t expect anything but sunshine and warm temperatures through the weekend. It will be nice but perhaps a little hot Friday as temps will near the 100-degree mark, according to the National Weather Service. Easter Sunday looks dry and nice with a high of 88 expected.

Today will be sunny with a high near 91 and calm wind. Tonight will remain clear with a low around 57 and calm wind.

Friday more of the same, sunny but hotter with a high near 99.  Friday night will be mostly clear with a low around 63.

Saturday also is forecast to be sunny with a high near 94 and winds 5-15 mph. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Saturday night will have clear skies with a low around 59 and continued breezes.

Easter Sunday will be sunny and a bit cooler with a high near 88. Sunday night will remain mostly clear with a low around 56 and winds 5-10 mph.

Early next week, yep, you guessed it, sunny with a high around 90. There is no precipitation expected in the next 7 days.

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Tom O'Halleran (center) speaks with Maricopans during a town hall in Maricopa Wednesday. Photo by Jim Headley

U.S. Congressman Tom O’Halleran (Arizona-D1) said he’s looking forward to seeing the Mueller report today.

“I am a former homicide detective,” O’Halleran said. “Until I see the facts, I am not anticipating anything other than being able to review it and see the consequences of what is in the report and what’s not in the report. Then move on from there.”

O’Halleran, a Democrat, said over the past few months many people have been talking about things they really don’t know about. He was at Maricopa City Hall on Wednesday to host a town hall and field questions from constituents.

“If we’re going to bring people in America back together again, we have to talk about real issues and real facts. Not just  somebody, who isn’t in the room when the investigation is going on, saying, ‘I believe this is what happened’ or ‘I think this is going to happen.’ None of that is relevant until you know the facts.”

O’Halleran said he is worried what might be redacted in the report when Congress finally gets a copy of it today.

“I am very concerned about the redactions. Across the entire spectrum of Congress, we want to see the whole report. It is not just the Democratic side or the Republican side. I haven’t found a member that doesn’t want to see that report,” O’Halleran said.

O’Halleran said he is coming to Maricopa a little more frequently lately because, “I have a lot of issues down here. Whether it’s a meeting on farm issues or a meeting with the mayor on city issues. The levy issues that we have been back and forth on for a long time. There is just a lot of issues when you have a community this size that is this close to a metropolitan area.”

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The Maricopa City Council approved the extension of a 16-inch water main down State Route 238 west of Maricopa Tuesday evening at their regularly scheduled meeting.

In a three-way agreement, a 16-inch water main will be extended one mile from its present location at Smith-Enke Road and SR 347 by Global Water Resources then the City of Maricopa will extend the line another three miles west along SR 238 with the goal of servicing the new Apex Motor Club location. The cost of the line is estimated to be about $750,000 per mile, possibly more.

The city’s share of the extension is $1.5 million, and Apex will kick in $1 million.

The city eventually is expected to recoup its $1.5 million from Global Water as developers build in the area and pay to tap into the new water main.

Global will also pay for the upsizing of the water main along the city’s three-mile extension area from 12-inch to 16-inch pipe.

At the city council meeting, a citizen asked members of the council what the city will gain from spending $1.5 million for the extension.

City Manager Rick Horst said the Maricopa city limits already extend west of the city into the area where the water line will be constructed. He said other municipal utilities also are available in the area.

“We are currently looking at making this as an economic development investment,” Horst said. “This is a program to have 100 percent of this returned to us by the utility. It is an investment with a full return of it back to the city. What this does for us is open up thousands of acres for future development, both residential and commercial. More importantly, as a part of our strategic plan process, we are looking at a long-range industrial park with a possible rail spur inland port. It will support future jobs. We are making a performance investment with 100 percent return in exchange for tens if not hundreds of millions in private investments.”

Ron Fleming, CEO of Global, said Monday that extending the 16-inch trunk line one mile west will improve water pressures and services to residents and businesses already in the area. The line extension will connect in the Estrella Gin area, near the location of the new fire department. The city also has the Estrella Gin business park, that is a 50+ acre, city-owned parcel located just west of the intersection of Edison Road and Roosevelt Avenue.

 

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City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) has fixed and on-demand routes in Maricopa.

 

David Maestas, Maricopa’s transit planner, made a presentation about the City of Maricopa Express Transit (COMET) to city council Tuesday evening.

Maestas presented a series of numbers including COMET ridership and costs as part of a “mid-cycle budget adjustment” presentation. COMET has a two-year budget. Maestas said the changes to the COMET budget will come before the council in May for approval.

Maestas told the council COMET ridership has steadily grown from 2,695 in 2013, 2,714 in 2014, 3,142 in 2015, 4,814 in 2016, 6,739 in 2017 to 7,069 in 2018. He said in 2018 that 3,410 of the year’s 7,069 rides on the COMET system were in the demand response arena. He added 2,529 rides were considered as route deviation service, 759 were on the summer shuttle and 371 were for special events.

Maestas discussed the proposed budget numbers he expects for the coming 2019-20 fiscal year.

His total proposed budget for COMET is $506,750. Of that total budget, the federal share is $332,155 and the city’s share would be $174,595.

Maestas said the city’s costs will be $746 less than what was requested in the current year’s budget.

Assuming the number of riders will remain the same in the coming year, ridership on the COMET system will cost taxpayers more than $71.68 per ride. The city’s share of that cost computes to more than $24.69 per ride in the coming year.

There was a 4.9 percent increase in COMET ridership from 2017 to 2018, according to Maestas. He said over the past 30 days, COMET has averaged 17 passengers per day in their regular route service, according to his presentation to city council Tuesday. He said there were 26 passengers using the COMET service on Tuesday, the day of the city council meeting.

When discussing efficiency measurements, Maestas told the council a ridership of 2,529 has been achieved in a 30-hour period on the regular route and 3,410 riders in a 43-hour period on their demand response service but he did not state when these periods occurred.

Chad Campbell (PCSO photo)

 

Chad Campbell was arrested April 9 by Maricopa Police for possession of a dangerous drug, methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officers conducted a traffic stop at North Wilson Avenue and Edison Road shortly before 10 a.m.

The driver of the vehicle, Tiffany Jaun, was wanted on a warrant from Casa Grande. She also admitted to having drug paraphernalia in the vehicle, according to the police probable cause statement.

Campbell and Ashley Holt were identified as passengers in the vehicle.

During a search of the vehicle, officers located a 50-milliliter alcohol bottle with a broken pen case protruding from the side. Officers described it as a common device used to inhale drugs.

“Officers also located a small baggy with a white powdery substance within the baggy located underneath the passenger seat,” the probable cause statement reads.

Ashley Holt (PCSO photo)

The substance later tested positive as methamphetamine.

Campbell was arrested, charged and taken to the Pinal County Jail. Holt was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

 

On Saturday Jeremy Leinen called the Maricopa Police saying someone stole $17 million from his bank account.

“A records check indicated Leinen was wanted for an outstanding arrest warrant issued by the Maricopa Municipal Court for an original charge of misdemeanor trespassing,” a police probable cause statement reads.

Police met with Leinen outside his residence on West Rio Lobo Drive at 7:40 p.m. about the alleged theft and quickly arrested him on the outstanding warrant.

“An investigation revealed Leinen’s claims of the 17-million-dollar theft was unfounded,” the probable cause statement reads.

 

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The Maricopa Public Library will be closed April 17 to 21 to upgrade their check out system.

The library will reopen on Monday, April 22.

“We will be upgrading our checkout and security system,” said Doug Fortunato, library assistant. “What we are switching over to is an RFID system. The hope is that will increase both the speed that we can check in and check out items as well as the security of the items.”

He said that if someone forgets to check out an item, the library will still know that it has left the building. The library will also know if an unchecked item happens to return to the building.

“That way we are not spending time looking for something that is not here,” he said. “It requires adding a tag to every single item in here. We have almost 50,000 items that need to be tagged.”

He said it will take every bit of the four days the library will be closed to tag each item.

“We probably will come close. We should get the lion’s share of it completed,” he said.

The library has a total of 16 to 17 full and part time employees who will be working on the project.

The new system will allow people to check in and out multiple items in a stack right away instead of scanning each one at a time. Stack of 10-12 items can be scanned in a second when they are laid on an electronic mat.

Chief Steve Stahl with Jessica Nicely (left) and Mary Witkofski at the long-awaited opening of the Family Advocacy Center. Photo by Jim Headley

After more than three years of work, the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center officially opened Tuesday morning.

The Advocacy Center will serve as a safe place for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to receive treatment and exams and be interviewed.

Mary Witkofski, community programs manager for Maricopa Police Department, welcomed the many visitors to the Center. She has been one of the leading forces to make the facility possible.

“It’s been a long three-and-a-half year process, and I’m so excited that it’s finally here,” Witkofski said.

Dawn Theroux leased the expansive home that was transformed into the Maricopa Family Advocacy Center. She was there to help cut the ribbon for the facility.

“Over three years ago we began this process,” Maricopa Police Chief Steve Stahl said. “The detectives actually started this by saying, ‘Hey, boss, the drive to the nearest family advocacy center is a disservice to the victims in our community.’ We can do better. We should be able to offer our victims some sort of dignity and respect during the investigation process.”

Stahl said the Advocacy Center is the result of the hard work between the Maricopa Police and their partners, Winged Hope and Dignity Health, along with the many volunteers and those who donated to make the Center a reality.

Dawn Theroux leased the house to create the facility. Photo by Jim Headley

“They, too, saw that the City of Maricopa can and should do better for its victims,” Stahl said. “This facility, transformed the way it has been, will treat our victims of sexual abuse, all sex crimes, child abuse and domestic violence with the utmost dignity and respect.”

Stahl said the building represents the people who will be working inside of it.

“I have never, in 32 years of law enforcement, met more passionate people that investigate heinous crimes against our most vulnerable population. These people, the detectives, the victim advocates, the nurses, the doctors, the forensic interviewers, the Department of Child Services, all of our partners, are phenomenal. This building helps them put that phenomenal work together in one building were all services can be provided.”

Theroux said made the house available to become the Advocacy Center because she believed in their dream.

“I have been in Maricopa for over 30 years,” Theroux said. “I watched it go from a small little wide spot in the road into this thriving city that it is now. I am so pleased and proud to have been able to witness that. Giving up this house has been a challenge for me because I have a great love for this facility. But I have loved the dream (of an Advocacy Center) more.”

Witkofski and Stahl joined with Kathleen Dowler with Dignity Health, Jessica Nicely with Winged Hope and Ray Villa with the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse to officially cut the ribbon on Maricopa’s new Family Advocacy Center before a large crowd of police officers, victim advocates, volunteers, officers of the court, politicians and local citizens.

The public was then allowed to tour the new facility.

 

Photos by Jim Headley

Saturday, at the Eggstravaganza at Tortosa, hundreds of children showed up to Easter Egg Hunt and have some old-fashioned fun. The event was also filled with fun events for children of all ages including three bounce houses, face painting, Easter games, ice cream, food and vendor booths.

SR 238 may get a 16-inch water main. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Tuesday evening the Maricopa City Council will examine the extension of a 16-inch water main down State Route 238 west of Maricopa.

In a three-way agreement, the water main will be extended one mile from its present location at Smith-Enke Road and SR 347 by Global Water Resources. Then the City of Maricopa will extend the line another three miles west along SR 238 with the goal of serving the new Apex Motor Club location. The cost of the line is estimated to be about $750,000 per mile, possibly more.

Global will also pay for the upsizing of the water main along the city’s three-mile extension from 12-inch to 16-inch pipe.

While the intention of the line is not just to serve Apex but the entire growing region, Apex will kick in $1 million toward the new water line.

“Global Water’s involvement is we have a water line improvement that we can make out in that vicinity,” said Ron Fleming, CEO of Global.

Fleming said extending their 16-inch trunk line will improve water pressures and services to residents and businesses already in the area. The line extension will connect in the Estrella Gin area, near the location of the new fire department. The City also has the Estrella Gin business park, that is a 50-plus-acre, city-owned parcel just west of the intersection of Edison Road and Roosevelt Avenue.

“You want to loop waterlines where ever you can,” Fleming said. “Better pressure, better flow, better water quality. We’re going to extend our line down 238 and into Estrella Gin. It provides better system capacity at the intersection of Estrella Gin Road and 238. From there we can better service any future development coming along 238. That includes Apex itself.”

Fleming said in the future any developer along 238 in the area can “grab ahold of our system there and extend it out for their needs.”

Global Water has invested about $40 million in Maricopa’s water system over the past three or four years, according to Fleming.

“We’re happy to do it. All projects that are necessary to provide Global service for our customers and keep up with the growth that Maricopa is experiencing. Apex is just the next great community project,” Fleming said.

One important factor in Maricopa’s growth is Global’s assured water supply, which is necessary before construction can even be considered, if the project needs water service.

“We are happy to work with Apex and the city to ultimately develop a utility solution that works and let that project move forward. This water line is a component of that,” Fleming said.

The water line agreement is on the consent agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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Maricopa weather has been pleasant for construction. Photo by Jim Headley

Get ready, folks. It appears the 90s are again in the forecast and it’s going to be a hot week ahead, according to the National Weather Service. There is some relief most evenings as lows will fall into the 50s. Shower are expected Tuesday.

Today will be partly sunny with a high near 89 and winds 5 to 10 mph. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Tonight will be mostly cloudy with a low around 56 and winds gusting as high as 20 mph.

Tuesday there will be a chance of sprinkles after 11 a.m. with increasing clouds and a high near 78. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Tuesday night has a 40 percent chance of showers in the forecast. It will remain cloudy then gradually becoming partly cloudy with a low around 50.

Wednesday is forecast to be a nice day with sunny skies and a high near 81. Wednesday night will remain clear with a low around 53.

Thursday likely will be sunny with a high near 90. Thursday night expect mostly clear skies with a low around 58.

Friday will heat up and be sunny with a high near 96. Friday night will be partly cloudy with a low around 62.

The weekend is expected to remain sunny and hot.

 

Photos by Jim Headley

The 2019 Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun/World Long Drive began Friday morning with qualifying at 8 a.m. Final qualifying was Friday afternoon. The master’s division takes place Saturday, open division is Sunday and Monday and the woman’s division is on Tuesday. The open and women’s final will be Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel from Ak-Chin Circle next to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

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

 

At a Wednesday evidentiary hearing in a Maricopa murder case, Pinal Superior Court Judge Kevin D. White listened to a defense motion to suppress an audio recording, claiming it was in violation of the suspect’s Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendment rights.

Bret Huggins, attorney for Kathryn Sinkevitch, moved to suppress a phone call that police recorded in connection with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 31-year-old Michael Agerter in December 2016.

White took the motion under advisement as Sinkevitch’s case is set for trial later this month

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

March 4, Huggins motioned to suppress the audio recording between Sinkevitch and her friend after the murder.

“On Dec. 16, 2016, after work, Kathryn Sinkevitch was invited over to the home of her friend Bridget Hopkins,” Huggins wrote in his motion to suppress. “Bridget lived with her husband and children at a residence in Mesa… Kathryn arrived there and was visiting inside the home.

“Police surrounded the house and arrested Sinkevitch and locked her in the back seat of a patrol car.

“This activity by the police was not supported by either an arrest or search warrant from any court,” Huggins wrote in his motion.

Sinkevitch was taken to the Maricopa Police Department from Mesa and locked into an interrogation room with a video camera running for several hours, according to files.

About 2:30 a.m., according to the motion, Sinkevitch “told police she was tired and needed to sleep. The detectives pushed on. Detectives gave Kathryn her Miranda rights. Kathryn told the police clearly, ‘lawyer, I want a lawyer.’”

Huggins continued, “At no time did police take Kathryn to a magistrate in Maricopa County prior to removing her to Pinal County. At no time did police make any effort to get Kathryn a lawyer.”

According to the motion, Maricopa Police influenced her friend Hopkins into recording a telephone conversation between them by threatening “to charge her as an accomplice to the homicide” if she did not assist them.

“At the police direction, Bridget sent a message to Kathryn asking her to call back,” according to the motion. “When the requested return call came back, police directed Ms. Hopkins to answer on speaker as they recorded and monitored the conversation. Indeed, Bridget conducted the conversation as she had been directed by police to do, in order to obtain incriminating information against Kathryn.”

Huggins maintains that police obtaining this “incriminating information” in this manner was in violation of Sinkevitch’s rights after she made a request for counsel, and an attorney was not present when the conversation was recorded.

Huggins asked the court to conduct a voluntariness hearing as he challenges Sinkevitch’s willingness to give a statement to police. He accused the police of overreaching their authority by using her friend to conduct the questioning.

“In assessing voluntariness, the court must consider the totality of circumstances to determine whether the statements were or were not the product of a rational intellect and free will,” the motion reads.

According the Huggins, the court must decide if Miranda warnings were given and waived by Sinkevitch, in addition to proving that her statement to police was voluntary.

“When a person asks for counsel, police may not question him about any matter until an attorney is present. In this case, Ms. Sinkevitch requested counsel, yet she was not provided with a lawyer. Instead, police sought to get around the express request through subterfuge and buy (sic) using her friend,” Huggins’ motion to suppress reads.

Judge White made several decisions at the evidentiary hearing, including precluding any reference to an abortion of the child the two had together and the victim’s drug use and toxicology reports as he did have a medical marijuana card.

White approved evidence in the case related to the defendant’s and victim’s relationship history, the defendant’s knowledge of the victim’s address by hiring a private investigator to find him, paternity tests and protection orders.

White also approved the defense council’s motion for 100 additional hours of a defense investigator’s time.

The first-degree murder trial of Sinkevitch is scheduled to begin on April 23.

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Photo by Jim Headley

Weather will remain mild with highs in the 70s and 80s throughout the weekend, according to the National Weather Service. There is no moisture expected this weekend and winds will remain light at 5 to 10 mph. Lows will dip into the 50s and even into the 40s overnight Friday.

Today you will see increasing clouds with a high near 78, with a west wind 5 to 15 mph, and gusts as high as 20 mph. Tonight will be cloudy with a low around 53.

Friday will start out cloudy, then gradually become mostly sunny with a high near 75. Friday night will become mostly clear with a low around 48.

Saturday will be nice and sunny with a high near 80. Saturday night will remain clear with a low around 50.

Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 86. Sunday night will become mostly cloudy with a low around 54.

You can expect more of the same early next week with highs in the mid-80s to 90s. Dry and a little windy.

 

Max Schrader
Max Schrader

Max Schrader, 84, has been missing in the desert since April 3, and volunteers are still searching for him north of Mobile.

SEE UPDATE

On April 9, Schrader’s car was located on a Powerline Road headed from Mobile toward Rainbow Valley. The car was located approximately 15 miles from his home in Mobile.

The vehicle was stuck, so family believes Schrader left on foot. No one is sure which direction he may have traveled.

Air support and K9s were called into the area, but no signs of Schrader have been found.

He is said to be well acclimated to the desert and did have some water with him. He is also described as deaf.

Schrader is white, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office put out a Silver Alert on Monday. Anyone who has information about the case may contact B_Bell@mcso.maricopa.gov.

About 60 volunteers searched the area on Wednesday but were unable to locate Schrader. A couple areas where an old fire may have been was located and perhaps a place when he may have been lying down in a wash, according to family members.

Thursday morning, 10 to 15 volunteers and dogs again searched the area, four miles north of the Waste Management site. Volunteers are searching in a grid pattern. If you would like to assist in the search, contact Pam at 480-250-2206 or Violet at 480-336-0575.

They are especially hunting for volunteers who can bring a quad, side-by-side, dirt bike or horses. Volunteers are urged to bring water, wear sunscreen, have your phone charged and dress for brushy desert terrain.

Simulated drunk-driving crash drives home the point

Shannon Coutre portrays a deceased crash victim during a "Don't Crash the Prom" demonstration at Maricopa High School. Photo by Jim Headley.

 

Maricopa’s first responders put on a demonstration Thursday morning for juniors and seniors at Maricopa High School on what can happen if they drink and drive at this weekend’s prom.

The simulated crash demonstrated how one student’s drinking and driving can forever impact their lives and even take the life of a fellow student. It was presented by Chris Cahall’s American Family Insurance.

Police, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics gathered in the school’s quad with two already wrecked automobiles. Four students played the roles of students in the crash, including one who “died” at the scene.

As tarps were removed from the wrecked cars, the four students were revealed and were clearly injured. One girl was ejected from the crash and found lying in front of one of the cars. Two Maricopa motorcycle officers arrived at the scene followed by a cruiser.

The officers checked the students’ injuries and determined one of the occupants was deceased. Fire and Medical responders arrived at the scene and gave simulated treatment to the students. One was trapped in a vehicle and had to be extricated with hydraulic tools.

The teen who was simulated to be deceased was picked up and placed into a hearse and the drunk driver ended up arrested and placed in the back seat of a police cruiser.

The entire simulation, performed to the large Maricopa student body, was to demonstrate how the simple decision to drink and drive to or from prom can forever ruin lives.

“One decision can cause the last day that you see,” Pastor Haywood Price, with Gate of Heaven Ministries, told the students. “You guys are going to enjoy yourselves. I know some of you have your herb. You got your whiskey. You have your drink. Is that the way that you really want to end your lives?”

Price said they need to think about each other.

“There is someone who wants their daughter to come back home,” he said. “There is somebody else who wants their son to come back home. There is someone who wants their son’s name to be great and live on past just prom night.”

Price told the students they must understand the importance of this demonstration and the sacrifice of first responders.

“These men and women took time off work to come and show you this because they don’t want to clean you up,” Price said. “They don’t want to have to read about this. They don’t want to go and deliver the message to someone’s parent that their child didn’t make it home from his last great night.”

The pastor offered a glimpse into the future for the students.

“This is just the beginning. College is next,” he said. “Grad school is after that. Husbands, children.  Decisions have to be made and you have to understand that when you make decisions they could ultimately alter your life.”

MHS Prom is April 13.

Photo by Jim Headley

 

The State Route 347 overpass construction project in Maricopa is right on track.

“We’re making great progress,” said Thomas Herrmann, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. “A couple weeks ago we poured the concrete on the deck of the portion of the bridge over the railroad tracks. The next big thing is to pour the deck on the section that goes over the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. We’re looking about two weeks out on that.”

Overnight on April 24 and again April 30, the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., as construction crews pour the concrete deck over the highway.

“So, it will have the least impact on traffic,” Herrmann said. “We’re moving forward on that.”

Herrmann said when examining the project timeline, it looks like the overpass will be open to initial traffic in late June or early July.

“We’re looking at less than three months to open up the new alignment on 347 and have traffic on the new overpass,” he said. “Then we will get over and start making the adjustments on the current alignment of 347. It is coming up very quickly.”

The current alignment of 347 will have added cul-de-sacs, and other roadways will have to be reconnected.

 

“If you go out to the site, you can see new curbing down and those kinds of things to connect Honeycutt Avenue to the new alignment of 347 south of the overpass,” Herrmann said. “Honeycutt Road, which has been closed for a while, will remain closed until we open the new alignment.”

He said Honeycutt Road will likely open in late June.

“It all looks really good,” he said. “You can already see the walls set up, the decorative walls are in place. It is really starting to look like a project that is coming together. It will give us that new alignment that will save people a lot of time coming in and out of town.”

Luis and Karen Pozzolo opened The Box Meat Shop in March. Joining them on opening day were their children Cristian and Belen. Photo by Jim Headley

“I was in international banking all my life in Uruguay. My father was a congressman, senator, vice president and president in Uruguay. He died, and three weeks later we came to the U.S.”

Luis and Karen Pozzolo launched their American dream, The Box Meat Shop, on March 15.

Uruguay native Luis Pozzolo has been working as a general manager at large national and international meat suppliers for several years. He’s learned who are the best suppliers of beef, chicken, pork and seafood. He’s put everything he has on the line and “quit his good-paying day job” to open his dream meat shop in Maricopa.

All the meat is carefully packed into cryogenic packaging and sealed from oxygen and light. It is boxed, and the customer can look into the box when it’s purchased. The meat was sealed in the CryoBag at the packing house and is only opened by the customer at home. It is guaranteed to be fresh, usually just a couple days from slaughter, all-natural and free from any chemicals and hormones.

“Our idea is to teach our customers that our shop’s name is The Box,” said Karen Pozzolo, also from Uruguay. “When you go to a grocery or meat store you can see the meat. Here the meat is going to be inside the box in a CryoBag.

Luis explained because the CryoBag keeps oxygen away from the meat, ice cannot form to freezer-burn the meat. The box also keeps light from damaging the meat.

The Pozzolos have been in Maricopa for a year. Luis has been in the meat business four years, working for Amigos Meat as director of operations in Houston and general manager in Atlanta. He was also branch manager for Harvest Meats in Phoenix.

He was previously a senior business analyst. Before leaving Uruguay, he was a banker.

Pozzolo was going to open his innovative The Box Meat Shop a year ago, but Harvest Meats gave him an offer he just couldn’t refuse, he said, so he delayed opening for a year as he helped Harvest Meats.

“I know the business. I really enjoyed serving our customers, and I think we can provide exceptional quality. I know all the brands, and I’ve been dealing with all of them,” he said.

One of the largest motivators for the Pozzolos is to be self-employed.

“We will bring in all-natural beef. The chicken will be all natural and no hormones. This is a great opportunity, and I really like the direction Maricopa is going and growing. The city has the right attitude on growing, on the government side,” Luis said.

Pozzolo knows a lot about government.

In Uruguay, his father, also named Luis Pozzolo, was a senator. Starting from nothing, his father rose from poverty to mayor of a city into the national parliament and even briefly was the president of Uruguay.

During the second presidency of Julio María Sanguinetti, in his capacity as substitute, Luis Bernardo Pozzolo held the presidency of the Republic for three days.

His father was the vice president of the Social Security Bank of Uruguay when he died in 2003.

Luis said his father was angry with him for deciding to leave Uruguay and migrate to the United States. He told his son he’d probably end up washing dishes in America and sure enough, Luis’ first job was washing dishes in a restaurant.

“I was in international banking all my life in Uruguay. My father was a congressman, senator, vice president and president in Uruguay. He died, and three weeks later we came to the U.S. We applied for political asylum. We had $2,900 in our pockets and she was four months pregnant. My father said I had everything I wanted but said, ‘this country is going to hell in a few years.’ That was in 2003 and in 2004 the socialists won,” Luis said.

He held a variety of positions before joining Microsoft and then becoming a manager in the meat industry.

He said the quality of meat carried by Harvest Meat is the best available. Instead of being the company’s branch manager, now he’s going to be a customer. All the prime-grade beef he’s selling at The Box Meat Shop will come from Cedar River Farms Natural Beef, grown by producers in Arizona, through Harvest Meats.

His back-up choice-beef cuts will be Blue Ribbon Angus coming from Greeley, Colorado.

Most of the pork is from Kansas, and the chicken will be from three or four packers but is all natural without antibiotics or hormones. Seafood is coming from California, China and Latin America.

“It has to be quality to put it in your mouth. I am very careful with what my kids eat, what my family eats and even what my dogs eat. We want to bring quality,” Luis said, adding his meat is certified as all-natural.

Luis said price of the all-natural product might be a little higher than the grocery store, but the quality far exceeds the additional costs. “It’s not going to be crazy. Not a huge difference,” he said.

All beef, chicken and pork will all be fresh, not frozen. All meat sold at The Box Meat Shop is also fully guaranteed.

“That is our focus – selling good, fresh, quality meat,” Karen Pozzolo said.

The Box is at 44870 W. Hathaway Ave., Suite 2.

520-413-2648
TheBoxMeatShop.godaddysites.com


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

 

The owners of two Maricopa self-storage facilities attempted to stop the construction of a new 135,000-square-foot indoor storage facility Monday night at the regular meeting of the Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission.

A project summary was presented by the city planning office on behalf of Vertical Designs Studios, representing PH Maricopa LLC, to build a 4.79-acre, indoor self-storage, multi-tenant shop and automotive repair complex at 20215 N. John Wayne Parkway.

After the city’s presentation, the owners of already-existing self-storage facilities in the community spoke out in opposition to the proposed construction, mostly based on unneeded competition in the storage business.

Storage unit owners Ted Williams and Michael Ransom each told the commissioners they currently have 20 to 30 percent vacancies in their facilities. They warned the commissioners that the addition of 135,000 more square feet of storage will likely drive someone out of business and the city would be left with abandoned storage facilities to deal with.

“I am struggling with this submission for several reasons,” Ransom said.

He told commissioners the storage facility he owns, Arizona Storage Company, was built in 2010 and managed by a national management company. The facility struggled to make money.

“And after four years they could not meet their financial obligations,” he said, adding they closed the facility in 2014. It was purchased by another company, but they re-sold it after just seven months’ ownership. He purchased the facility in May 2015.

“We have struggled just to get things stabilized. It is 70,000 square feet,” he said.

In Maricopa, according to Ransom, there is 185,000 to 190,000 square feet of self-storage. He said that is enough to take care of the city’s needs.

While presenting the storage unit needs of Maricopa to the commission, Ransom said storage needs are based on the population of a community. He said five to six square feet of storage is needed per capita of population.

He then used the population figure of 40,000 people as the population of Maricopa even though the latest population estimated by the city is 52,000.

After some discussion, an attorney representing the city of Maricopa had to remind commissioners they are not there to vote on the success or failure of a business plan. It is their duty to make sure the plan is properly zoned and executed.

“We as a commission cannot say yes and no, based on what type of business,” said Linda Huggins, commission chair. She explained it is the commission’s duty to make sure the planning and zoning is correct and not whether the business idea is a good one or not.

The commission approved the 4.78-acre development 6-0 with one member not in attendance.

The commission also approved the preliminary plat of the Anderson Farms Phase 1A subdivision. It is on land that is part of Anderson Palmisano Farms. The plan will include 80 lots on about 20 acres south of the corner of Bowlin Road and Hartman Road. The plat is a preliminary plan and more will be presented on the subdivision during the development process.

 

 

Logan and Ryan Hackney were arrested along with their mother, but charges were dropped against the brothers.

 

When Machelle Hobson (also known as Hackney) was charged with abusing her seven children, her adult sons, Logan, 27, and Ryan, 25, Hackney, were also accused of failing to report her abuse. However, Pinal County Attorney’s Office has declined to press charges against Logan and Ryan Hackney. The brothers had been arrested along with their biological mother, who ran a successful YouTube channel starring the children.

County prosecutors declined to elaborate on the decision not to charge them.

Hobson, 48, was officially charged by a Pinal County Grand Jury with 30 counts on March 25.

She remains in the Pinal County Jail pending the posting of a $200,000 bond. She was first arraigned in Pinal County Superior Court March 19 along with two of her sons in a case of alleged child abuse that involved a popular YouTube channel “Fantastic Adventures.” Most of the wholesome and family-friendly YouTube videos show the children going through superhero training or visiting fantasy lands.

The allegations against Hackney begin on March 13 when officers responded to a child-abuse investigation made by her biological daughter.

The daughter allegedly told police that her adoptive sister disclosed to her that she was being abused at the family’s home on North Donithan Way in the Villages by the mother.

Some estimates are that Hackney could have made as much as $2.5 million in advertising income airing the series on YouTube, based on industry standards for the number of views reported. She admitted to making $10,000 to $30,000 per month from the series in open court.

 

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Even the birds are enjoying balmy temperatures in Maricopa. Photo by Jim Headley

 

It is going to get hot around here early in the week but the cool 70s are coming later in the week, according to the National Weather Service. Even showers might fall on Friday. There’s a 20-30 percent chance of showers. Tuesday will be downright hot at 98 degrees but windy with gusts up to 30 mph.

Today will be sunny with a high near 96. Tonight, there will be increasing clouds with a low around 60.

Tuesday is forecast to be mostly sunny with a high near 98 and winds 5-10 mph becoming 15-20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. Tuesday night is expected to be mostly clear with a low around 57.

Wednesday continues the sunny trend with a high near 79 and winds 15-25 mph gusting as high as 30 mph. Wednesday night will remain clear with a low around 48.

Thursday there will be more sun with a high near 79. Thursday night will be mostly clear again with a low around 50.

Friday will be a change with a 20 percent chance of showers after 11 a.m. The day will be mostly sunny, with a high near 76. Friday night chances for shower will increase with a 30 percent, mainly before 11 p.m.

This weekend will likely have a continued chance of showers with highs in the mid-70s.

 

Kenneth Lewis (PCSO photo)

 

After a stint in the hospital, Kenneth Lewis, 43, was booked into the Pinal County Jail April 5 on two counts of criminal damage (recklessly defacing or damaging property of another person) and three counts of second-degree burglary.

Lewis was shot in the shoulder after allegedly breaking into a third house in the Cobblestone Farms subdivision on April 4.

A Maricopa homeowner shot Lewis inside his house Thursday. One of his neighbors, Erik Keen, held him on the driveway of the house until police arrived.

The homeowner shot at Lewis twice, hitting him once. The man is not expected to be charged for the shooting, as police believe it was self-defense.

Lewis is being held on a $5,000 bond and will be back in court April 12 for a preliminary hearing.

 

Photos by Jim Headley

 

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino celebrated its 25th anniversary and grand opening of its multimillion-dollar expansion project with a party Thursday evening at the Oak and Fork inside the casino. The two-year expansion includes a new lobby, a 12-story, 229-guestroom tower, spa, expanded gaming space, new restaurants, a multi-purpose event center, parking garage, a new Bingo hall and a newly renamed Laurel Lounge for Caesars Rewards members. In addition, there have been enhancements made to pool-side rooms that overlook a newly renovated pool area with swim-up bar.

 

A woman who was protecting three children pushed an intruder out of her house. The intruder was later shot after allegedly breaking into a neighbor’s home down the street.

A Maricopa homeowner shot an intruder, Kenneth Lewis, inside his house Thursday in the Cobblestone Farms subdivision, and one of his neighbors held him until police arrived. The homeowner shot at Lewis, 43, twice, hitting him once in the shoulder. The man is not expected to be charged for the shooting, as police believe it was self-defense.

Police were called around 7 p.m. about an intruder in a house on Garden Lane. One of the residents of the house on Garden Lane was Erik Keen.

Keen said he was asleep upstairs in the house while his girlfriend, Marjorie Trabucco, and three daughters were downstairs when Lewis reportedly entered their house.

“My three daughters and my girlfriend that lives with me saw a guy jump over our back wall,” Keen said. “My girlfriend, Marjorie, went outside, and the guy ran to the side of our house and entered our side garage door and locked it behind him.  From there he went in the house door that goes into the laundry room. Now he’s in my house.”

Keen said Trabucco was locked outside the garage door and had to come back around the house to the back door.

“When she got back in the house, he was in our hallway,” Keen said. “My girlfriend, bless her, went after this guy, grabbed him and started pushing him out the garage door from which he entered. She got him out through the garage.”

Keen said his daughters then ran upstairs and woke him up.

“They said there’s a guy in the house. I got up, and she had him out of the house, and he had taken off down the street,” Keen said. “At that point, I got in my car and I started looking for this guy.”

Keen said he saw the man enter a house on the corner by breaking a window. Keen stopped to confront Lewis, but he took off running, he said.

Lewis reportedly entered a third house, where he was then shot by the homeowner. Despite police reports stating Lewis entered the backyard of the third house, Keen said he saw him slide under the slightly open garage door to enter the house.

“Then he went into a side gate and into the rear of the residence,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said. “He began banging on the sliding door. The homeowner was home and told him to leave. The man continued banging on the door.”

The 68-year-old homeowner went into another room and retrieved a firearm.

“The suspect advanced on the homeowner. Fearing for his safety, the homeowner fired two rounds at the individual, striking him once in the arm,” Alvarado said.

Keen said when he saw Lewis enter the garage of the third house, he didn’t have his phone, had no shoes and wasn’t dressed very well, so he returned home to get better clothing and his girlfriend.

“I drove up to that house again and he was still inside,” Keen said. “We gave the police that address. I heard a big crashing sound and it sounded like glass. I heard no gunshot at all. He came crawling back out from under the garage door. I got out of my car and I tackled him. I held him until the police came.”

Keen explained his actions by saying after the man was in his house, he had to go track him down and put an end to the event.

“I have to give my girlfriend all the credit, because she had no fear,” Keen said. “She went into full mama-bear mode and just went after this guy. They are my kids and not her kids, and she just went right after this guy and got him out of the house. She is pretty brave.”

Keen said he believed Lewis was on drugs and hallucinating wildly.

“He wasn’t violent,” Keen said. “He had delusion fear like there was actually someone after him and chasing him. He was imagining people on the walls. ‘There he is officer, there he is, see him officer.’ He was very [delusional]. We never have seen this guy before – ever.”

Lewis was transported to a “hospital in the Valley” by Maricopa Fire and Medical for a non-life-threatening injury to his arm and will initially be charged with trespassing. He will likely have other charges as the investigation continues.

He is not yet booked into the Pinal County Jail.

 

 

A Maricopa homeowner shot an intruder inside his house shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cobblestone subdivision.

The intruder he shot was a 43-year-old Cobblestone neighbor named Kenneth Lewis.

According to Maricopa Police Department, the homeowner shot at Lewis twice, hitting him once in the shoulder. He also told Lewis to leave before firing the shots, police said. The homeowner is not expected to be charged for the shooting, as police believe it was self-defense.

“Last night about 7 p.m. we received a phone call about an individual that had entered into a residence located on Garden Lane,” said MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado. “The individual had entered the residence through an unlocked garage and was confronted by the homeowners. The homeowners recognized him as being a neighbor.”

Alvarado said they told the intruder, Lewis, to leave.

Neighbor speaks about break-in that ended in shooting

Suspect moved from hospital to jail

“He complied, however he was making statements that he was being chased and was being shot at,” Alvarado said. “After he left Garden Lane, he made his way to Celtic Lane, where he made entry into another residence that was unoccupied through a service door. For some reason he took a can of food and broke out a window. He exited the window through the garage and cut his leg.”

Then Lewis went to a second house on Celtic Lane, near the house he allegedly had broken into.

“There he went into a side gate and into the rear of the residence,” Alvarado said. “He began banging on the sliding door. The homeowner was home and told him to leave. The man continued banging on the door.”

Alvarado said the homeowner, who was 68 years old, went into another room and retrieved a firearm.

“At that time the homeowner heard glass breaking and someone entered the home,” Alvarado said. “He was confronted with the individual who was in the home. Fearing for his life, he was yelling at the guy to leave. The individual kept making statements that he was being followed and someone was trying to shoot him. The suspect advanced on the homeowner. Fearing for his safety, the homeowner fired two rounds at the individual, striking him once in the arm.”

Alvarado said the homeowner locked himself in a closet and called 911.

“The suspect exited the house through the garage,” Alvarado said. “He exited the garage onto the driveway. Residents from the first home he entered were actively searching for him and located him and held him down on the ground until officers arrived.”

Lewis was transported to a “hospital in the Valley” by Maricopa Fire and Medical for non-life-threatening injury to his arm, according to Alvarado.

Alvarado said Lewis will initially be charged with trespassing, but he expects more charges to be filed as the investigation continues.

The homeowner is not likely to be charged for the shooting, though that is up to the county attorney to decide.

“At this time, it looks like the individual was defending himself because he was in fear for his life,” Alvarado said.

 

Kin Phonasa (PCSO photo)

 

Kin Phonasa, 48, was arrested Monday, April 2, on suspicion of sexually molesting a child with autism.

According to a Maricopa Police probable cause statement, the child reported to police that over the spring break he “did sexual stuff” to her.

After a forensic medical exam at the San Tan Family Advocacy Center, the child alleged he had been molesting her since she was 4 or 5 years old and that it “still happens,” the report states.

Police arrested Phonasa the following day at his residence in Maricopa.

According to the police probable case statement, Phonasa admitted having sexual relations with the girl during an interview with police.

He was booked into the Pinal County Jail where he remains pending the posting of a $250,000 bond. He is charged with one count of molestation of a minor and one count of sexual conduct with a minor.

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Photo by Jim Headley

Enjoy the next few days as it will be cooler in the Maricopa area through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 85 and winds 5-10 mph. Tonight, expect increasing clouds with a low around 50.

Friday will be partly sunny and cooler with a high of just 78 and winds 5-10 mph. Friday night will be mostly cloudy with a low around 53.

Saturday is forecast to be mostly sunny with a high near 80 and winds 5-10 mph. Saturday night should remain mostly clear with a low around 52. West wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south after midnight.

Sunday will warm up and be sunny with a high near 88. South-southeast wind around 5 mph becoming north-northwest in the afternoon. Sunday night will remain mostly clear with a low around 56 and west-northwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.

Next week will start out warm with highs into the 90s on Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday expect a high of 96 in the Valley of the Sun.

 

It takes a lot of talent to take the stage but that is exactly what Maricopa seniors will do Saturday night at the 2019 Spice of Life talent show.

Spice of Life is a senior talent show Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center. Ticket are $15 and available at the door, online at brownpapertickets.com or by calling event coordinator Helen Brown at 520-868-6111.

The show originated out of Chandler but has grown to a performance in Maricopa. This year will be the fourth time Spice of Life will take place in Maricopa.

The show will consist of 25 well-polished acts. Performers must try out and be approved to be in the show.

Jim Irving, a volunteer organizer of the event said, “Helen Brown saw it and thought it would be a good idea to bring it to Maricopa. She’s done it for three or four years.”

He said he has teamed up with Brown to work with a group of Copa Seniors to bring this event to live this year.

“I’ve been to it twice and it is a lot of fun. There are some really talented people, musical acts, dance, comedy. It’s just a fun time,” Irving said.

Brown said she went to the Spice of Life show a few years ago to support a friend who was singing in it.

“When I went there it was a variety show,” Brown said. “All of the performers were singers. It just blew me away,” she said. “I was just so surprised that there was so much talent. During the intermission I went down where they were and asked if they would bring the show to Maricopa. They said yes.”

She said the performers are “from all over” but they perform mainly in Chandler.

“They have to audition for this show. This is not just people getting up there and performing. It is very professional,” she said, adding many of the people in the show were professional performers years ago.