Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

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The Maricopa Turkey Trot is a fun run/walk early Thanksgiving morning at Pacana Park.

Maricopans can lessen their Thanksgiving dinner guilt this year by getting some exercise that morning during the 10th annual Maricopa Turkey Trot.

The 5K/1-mile fun run takes place Nov. 23 at Pacana Park at 8 a.m. Pre-registration begins on site at 7.

Participants can also register online here until Nov. 22 at 10 p.m.

The event also benefits a good cause.

Organizer Jennifer Mix said as always, the only fee is a donation of non-perishable food items to benefit F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank. The food bank re-opened inside a temporary space at Santa Cruz Elementary Nov. 13.

“What’s been really great is that young men that are interested in becoming Eagle Scouts have started to approach us each year and ask to help because it’s such a great cause,” Mix said.

This year Eagle Scout candidate Jarom Hoopes has assisted Mix with the event by publicizing it and recruiting local sponsors for the race.

After a decade, Mix said she is happy the community is still supporting the trot.

“It’s crazy, I can’t believe we are still doing this ten years later,” Mix said.

For more information visit the event website.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Waypoint Pastor Andy Shurson. Photo by Mason Callejas

Tennessean Andy Shurson moved to Maricopa with his young family during the summer to assume his first role of lead pastor at Waypoint Church.

Shurson, 33, relocated from the Seattle area, where he led a youth ministry for three years.

The Southern Baptist congregation meets at Maricopa Elementary School every Sunday. Its congregation has been eager for a “steadying presence” behind the pulpit since experiencing a transition period spanning years between lead pastors who seem to come and go, Shurson said.

For that reason, the young pastor plans to sow his seeds in the desert church long-term.

“Most research says it takes five to seven years for a pastor to really impact the culture of a church,” he said. “I plan to make an impact.”

Shurson grew up in Nashville. While attending seminary in Dallas, he paid for his education by walking dogs and performing odd ministry jobs. He was a hospital chaplain, a writer and a researcher for customized curriculum for mega churches.

While writing for a second company, Shurson married Lauren, a nurse practitioner, in 2013. Soon after, he felt an urge to be in church ministry.

That’s when the newlyweds moved across the country to the Pacific North West for Shurson’s youth ministry position in rainy Seattle.

After a few years, he felt the push to do adult and preaching ministries. He soon found Waypoint.

The couple, now a foursome, moved with their sons, 2-year-old Haddon and 1-year-old Lewis, to the sunny Southwest.

“They love being outdoors and going to the pool,” Shurson said of his tots.

For the new pastor, it was important for the family to live in the city where he leads church. Shurson said Waypoint’s kinship and passion was apparent from the first conversations he had with elders during the interview process.

“I really had fallen in love with Waypoint. Church is meant to be in the community that it’s in, so I want to live in the place that I’m doing ministry,” he said.

As his family settles into their new community, the young pastor is feeling the excitement – and the weight – of his new role.

“I’m shepherding a congregation of 70 people, many of whom are older than I am; Many of whom have been at this church for five or six years and have gone through a lot. It’s not something I take lightly,” Shurson said.

Attend a Shurson sermon at Waypoint, Sundays at 10:30 a.m., at 18150 N. Alterra Parkway. For more information visit the church website or Facebook page. 

Kathryn Sinkevitch will be tried for the murder of her former boyfriend. PCSO photo

The murder case against the Tempe woman accused of killing 31-year-old Michael Agerter in the garage of his rental home in Rancho El Dorado nearly one year ago is inching closer to trial.

Kathryn Sinkevitch stood in front of Pinal County Judge Steven Fuller Monday morning for a brief status review hearing. Fuller covered the case for Judge Kevin White, who was assigned to hear a separate trial that morning.

Representing Sinkevitch since late June was attorney Bret Huggins, who requested an additional status review hearing for a date soon after the New Year in preparation for a spring trial.

James Mannato, original attorney for Sinkevitch, withdrew from the case in June for an unspecified “conflict of interest.” Mannato is a public defender.

Huggins also asked Fuller to affirm the May 8, 2018, trial date.

Pinal County Deputy Attorney Sean Coll did not object, adding Agerter’s next of kin indicated they were available to attend court on those dates.

Sinkevitch will stand trial for four weeks in front of a 12-person jury. A grand jury indicted her with first-degree murder in late December 2016.

Sinkevitch has submitted a not guilty plea.

Coll tossed the possibility of a capital case in March citing a lapsed deadline. It was at that time Coll said the Pinal County’s Attorney’s Office would not offer a plea.

Agerter is linked to Sinkevitch by a 1-year-old child that was said to have been the center of a custody dispute between the pair. Agerter was found shot to death in his garage one month after the baby’s birth in the garage of his Maricopa home on Dec. 16, 2016.

It is unclear what Sinkevitch’s defense will be in trial.

In February, White approved the appointment of Susan Schoville with Valley-based Blue Core Investigative Solutions to “assist the defendant and her legal counsel in the investigation and development of her defense,” according to court documents.

Schoville began her investigation in June with Huggins, Sinkevitch and their 144-page case file. Schoville compiled an outline of the case including 911 calls and discovery videos presumably from the defendant’s work dated Dec. 16 through the 19th.

Sinkevitch will be in court again Jan. 9 at 9 a.m.

Students are sorting items inside an unused Desert Wind Middle School classroom this week in preparation for their annual rummage sale.

The student-led sale will be from 7 a.m. to noon, Nov. 18, at 35565 W. Honeycutt Road in Tortosa.

The proceeds raised will help students in the 20+1 blended learning program, said teacher Jennifer Titus.

“This money is used throughout the year for supplies, STEAM field trips, T-shirts and buses for our end of the year trip,” Titus said.

Students in the program this year will visit the state capitol, renaissance fair and Disneyland.

“We would love to see the community come out and support our students and score some amazing deals,” Titus said.

What: Student Rummage Sale
Where: Desert Wind Middle School, 35565 W. Honeycutt Road
When: Nov. 18 from 7 a.m. to noon



The second annual Brave Little Brielle Run for I-Cell Disease takes place Nov. 18 at Copper Sky. I-Cell is a rare disease with no known cure.

Children affected by the disease typically have a life span of three to five years. Brielle’s mother, Kimberly Galache, said her daughter’s case is the only one recorded in Arizona.

“Brielle will be turning 5 years old on Nov. 12, so it’s too late for her to find a cure or treatment because they are barely getting funds and there is barely research for this disease, but we are getting closer to getting some answers,” Galache said.

Brielle’s event last year raised $4,000 for the Yash Gandhi Foundation for I-Cell research. This year, her family hopes to raise even more.

“The families are the only ones that bring the research money because it is not government funded,” Galache said. “For me that’s a big responsibility, as a mom and as an advocate, to put it out there and make sure I bring awareness.”

Registration for children is $10; adults are $20. Registration begins at 10 a.m.

Registration info at “2nd Annual Brave Little Brielle Run for I-Cell Disease” event page on Facebook.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Jack and Brady McMullen are among Butterfield Elementary students honoring veterans in a personal way.

As Maricopa prepares for its first Veterans Day Parade this weekend, children are learning all about those who served.

Fifth grade student Brady McMullen and his little brother Jack submitted a photo of their great-grandfather William Davis to a project at school that honors veterans.

Davis served during the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

A large wall inside the school is home to a collage of photos and information about students’ family-member veterans.

“They served in war so we could have freedom for our country,” Brady McMullen said.

Jack and Brady never had a chance to meet their great-grandfather, but the veterans wall at their school is helping them learn about him.

Students fill out forms about their family members who are veterans, attach a photo and place it on the wall for the month of November.

“I think it’s important for them to honor veterans,” said Kristin McMullen, fifth grade teacher and mom of Jack and Brady. “These are kids that- they’ve grown up always with our country at war and it’s just important to know the sacrifices that people have made for them.”

The wall shows students their personal connection to history.

“He was stationed in Pearl Harbor when they were bombed by the Japanese and he was sent to, I think it was, South East Asia in the war started to fight,” Brady said.

Kristin McMullen said it’s also a way for some kids to get to know their living veteran family members, an opportunity she didn’t have.

“I personally did it because my grandfather passed away when I was in fourth grade, so I never was given the opportunity to ask him any of the questions and so I just want to make sure that they’re able to talk to their family members and find out something that they did that was pretty great,” McMullen said.

Maricopa children ride buses to schools outside of the city every day. 

Valley schools that bus Maricopa children:

Kyrene School District:

Kyrene Akimel A-al Middle School, Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School, Kyrene de la Estrella, Kyrene de los Lagos, Kyrene del Milenio.

Tempe Union High School District: Mountain Pointe High School

It’s often considered a controversial option that has been available to families since incorporation. Parents send their children to school in the Valley for a variety of reasons, including displeasure with Maricopa schools and perceived better educational opportunities.

The Maricopa Unified School District, the only district with a transportation department, has seen a recent upsurge in parent and student complaints.

Many parents turn to other options.

Two school districts, Kyrene and Tempe Union High, send 15 buses to and from Maricopa five days a week.

The commute involves sitting through rush hour traffic on the troublesome State Route 347, a roadway with a dangerous reputation.

In 2014 there were 104 crashes, 46 injuries and one death caused by vehicular accidents on SR 347, according to the most recent data provided by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Despite the safety concern, parents who send their children to schools in the Valley said their students are safe.

Bethany Auxier Anguiano’s two children, third and first graders, attend an elementary school in the Kyrene District.

The kids leave the house at 6:30 a.m. to catch the bus, Anguiano said.

“I am not actually concerned too much about the 347 because traffic is so slow during morning rush hour. We have a great bus driver and our bus has seat belts,” she said.

Overall, Anguiano said, there are no major issues with transportation besides the occasional accident on the 347 that prevents students from getting to school on time.

Of the 10 routes running in Maricopa from the Kyrene School District, only one bus has been involved in an accident in the past two years, according to Transportation Director Eric Nethercutt.

Most recently, a Kyrene bus was in an accident on John Wayne Parkway Nov. 6.

“My kids don’t ride the bus in the mornings because my husband drops them off on the way to work, thankfully,” said parent Kathie Gerow-Martin. “(There is) no overcrowding on the way home, but their bus was hit last week in the morning so I’m very thankful they were not on it at that time.”

The Maricopa Police Department said none of the 26 children on board at the time were injured.

Although accidents are reportedly a rare occurrence for Kyrene’s Maricopa routes, Gerow-Martin said SR 347 still worries her.

“(The 347 is) a huge concern with my husband and I, but my daughter has a phone, so I feel a lot better about the commute because, of course, if anything is wrong she can call and text us,” Gerow-Martin said.

Kyrene buses children to three elementary schools and two middle schools. Tempe UHSD transports students to Mountain Pointe High School.

Like Kyrene, the Mountain Pointe routes have been involved in one accident in the past two years, said TUHSD Transportation Director Tim Snow.

Would you like to share your child’s transportation experience? Contact Reporter Michelle Chance at

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett talks about MUSD transportation at a Nov. 8 meeting. Photo by Michelle Chance

A presentation from the supervisor of the Maricopa Unified School District Transportation Department showed the school system pays its bus drivers less than a list of comparable districts.

“You can see from the list there, we are dead-last,” said Tom Beckett, Human Resources director and transportation department liaison.

At MUSD, drivers are paid an hourly wage of $11.02; that’s more than $4 less per hour than the Higley Unified School District.

The conversation during a meeting Nov. 8 came after a series of complaints from parents, alleging habitually tardy buses, poor communication from the district and overcrowding.

“Sometimes it doesn’t appear that way, but we love those community calls and parents letting us know that things aren’t going as well as we’d like,” Beckett told the Governing Board.

Despite grievances posted to social media, parents did not address the school officials during the meeting’s call-to-the-public forum.

Beckett said the district has improved complaints made to the transportation department regarding poor communication by hiring front office staff to answer phones and send messages through the district’s ‘ConnectEd’ system after the position was vacant for over a month.

The path toward solving the district’s transportation problems could also involve a future salary increase.

Beckett said a shortage of bus drivers is one reason for the department’s “challenges” that stem from the beginning of the school year. A bump in pay would be one solution to the problem, he said.

Higher wages for bus drivers could attract and retain transportation employees in the department that currently employs 38 drivers and is in the process of hiring five more.

To widen the pool, the district trains candidates, and aids them through state tests and endorsements, Beckett explained. It can take weeks for a candidate to become fully qualified before they get behind the wheel of a yellow bus, resulting in delays for a department that needs help immediately.

The driver shortage has even affected driver training.

“We have a full-time trainer, but unfortunately she’s been called out of training many times to drive a bus,” Beckett said.

Members of the school board and Beckett agreed a pay increase for all classified employees will be something the district will consider as budget talks ramp up in the coming months.

“Ninety-eight percent of our routes go smoothly every day. There are some challenges, but we have an awful lot of employees really working hard for us,” Beckett said. “I know sometimes they don’t feel appreciated for what they do.”

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WIC is making it easier for clients to pay for groceries

Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices around the county introduced a new form of payment for their clients recently.

On Oct. 17, the WIC nutrition program rolled out its “eWIC” cards, which replaced the checks recipients formerly used to pay for groceries at the register.

“Instead of having to go use the checks – and use the entire check – now they are able to get one gallon of milk, or one loaf of bread, or whatever they need rather than having to spend an entire check at once,” said WIC Supervisor Brandon Boatman.

With the new payment system, recipients can also download an app on their phones listing food items available for purchase throughout the month.

The Maricopa WIC office, located inside the Pinal County Public Health Department Clinic at 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road, helps pregnant and post-partum women, as well as children up to age 5.

Applicants must meet income-based criteria to participate.

“If you qualify for WIC, you also have the ability to see one of our WIC nutritionists and in Maricopa they actually have a registered dietician who sees high-risk clients,” Boatman said.

To learn if you qualify and for more information, call 1-866-960-0633. The local office is open for appointments 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

VFW Service Officer Richard Hall and Past Post Commander Denis Sommerfield show off their new sign for community service. Photo by Michelle Chance

Three signs near the entrance of the local Veterans Center recognize the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12043 and its efforts to serve the community.

In July, the post accepted a plaque for its third “National Outstanding Community Service Post” award since 2013 at the VFW National Convention in Louisiana.

“There is not another post in the state that has three (of these awards),” said past Post Commander Mike Kemery, who led the post during its second go-round winning the award the previous year.

The award measures the post’s community service during the year. Past Post Commander Denis Sommerfield accepted a sign for the award in October during a district meeting in Casa Grande.

The post achieved the accolades thanks to “help from the comrades in the post doing their community service like our service officer helping our vets, participating with the City of Maricopa, JROTC at Maricopa High, Boy Scouts” and other volunteer work with student and youth groups, Sommerfield said.

The Maricopa VFW post is small relative to others, Kemery said, with a membership of just over 150 veterans. About 20 percent of its membership attends meetings.

“We’ve been doing very good because we don’t have a bar and we don’t have anything to distract us to where we are primarily a service post and it’s starting to show,” Kemery said.

Although a lot of the work is done behind the scenes, post leaders said the real reward is the feedback from the community members and veterans they help.

“Until you do it the first time, and see those looks, and see that reaction, it changes you real quick,” Kemery said.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Current administrators Rick Abel (left) and Thad Miller are settling into their new roles, respectively, as interim high school principal and interim Maricopa Wells Middle School principal after the resignations of Renita Myers (top) and Mallory Miller.

The first few tumultuous months of the 2017-18 school year for administrators in the Maricopa Unified School District have concluded.

With resignations from a principal and an assistant principal, two extended absences and many relocations, the district now seems to have settled the issues with its school leaders.

However, district officials have remained tight-lipped about what those issues were that led to the upheaval.

The first resignation came Oct. 3, with former Maricopa Wells Middle School Assistant Principal Mallory Miller.

She began the school year at Maricopa High School after the school governing board approved a promotion from her previous post at Desert Wind Middle School as a teacher on special assignment (TOSA) in July. See timeline below.

Miller briefly rejoined Renita Myers, MHS principal, before the district abruptly transferred Miller to the middle school soon after the school year began in August. The two previously held administrator positions together at DWMS.

Around the same time in August, Superintendent Steve Chestnut replaced Mallory Miller with MWMS Assistant Principal Thad Miller (no relation) at MHS.

Chestnut previously told parents the district swapped administrators “in the best interests of MUSD” at a school board meeting in September, but later declined to provide a specific explanation.

However, when MWMS Principal Rick Abel went on leave for a week, Thad Miller returned to MWMS to serve as acting principal.

Mallory Miller’s subsequent resignation was met just over two weeks later with a resignation from Myers.

In a letter dated Oct. 23, Myers wrote to the MUSD Governing Board:

“It is with hesitancy and great sorrow that I submit this letter of resignation […]. Effective immediately I am resigning from my position as Principal of Maricopa High School I wish students and staff of Maricopa High School the very best.”

Myers’ resignation came after a month spent on what district officials originally called a “leave of absence.” Abel, who had recently returned as principal of MWMS, was made acting principal of MHS.

A leave of absence for Myers did not appear on district personnel documents during the month of her absence. LOAs are typically requested in writing by employees and approved by the school governing board.

MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett departed from the original designation Nov. 7, saying the district actually placed Myers on paid leave beginning Sept. 25.

Beckett said the district did not pursue disciplinary actions against Myers or Mallory Miller, whose resignations are still a mystery to many.

When asked if the district would provide an explanation to parents, Becket said, “We are focusing on the future at this time.”

Nov. 3, the district issued a statement informing the public that Abel and Thad Miller would stay in their respective positions for the remainder of the school year, with titles changed from “acting” to “interim.” That statement did not include mention of Myers’ resignation.

News broke of the resignation after the district published personnel documents for its Nov. 8 governing board meeting.

Beckett classified both Myers’ and Mallory Miller’s resignations as “mutual” between the former administrators and the district. A fee typically assessed to staff who break their contracts will not be applied to Myers and Miller, Beckett said.

Chestnut did not respond to requests for comment.

The governing board will vote to approve Myers’ resignation during a meeting Nov. 8 at the District Office Administration Building at 6:30 p.m.

Although MHS and MWMS have found leaders in Thad Miller and Abel, both interim principals have been left with an assistant principal vacancy at each of their schools.

Beckett said the district has received 52 applications between the two positions so far.


Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory instructs Dylan Hill (center) and Joseph Rice at Maricopa High School. Photo by Victor Moreno

Developing independence in high school students has been the work of Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory for six years.

It resulted in his winning the title of “Best of the Best” teacher from Maricopa Unified School District in May.

The Air Force sergeant began instructing Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Maricopa High School a few months before retiring from the military in 2011 after 22 years of service.

“I look at these (cadets) and I treat them as if they were my own kids,” Gregory said. “Whatever advice I would give them, I would give to my sons.”

Gregory and his wife Valerie have two children, David, 21, and Ahmad, 13. His sons haven’t yet aspired to follow in their father’s footsteps, Gregory said, but he doesn’t expect them or all his AFJROTC students to join the military.

“I tell all of my cadets, ‘You want to make me proud? You want to make me happy? Graduate.”

Many of them have gone on to exceed expectations.

In May, MHS student and AFJROTC Cadet Capt. John Blodgett received prestigious appointments to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Air Force Academy, eventually deciding on West Point.

Not one to take all the credit, Gregory said he taught Blodgett the basics, “but it had to start with him; he had that drive.”

Master Sgt. Dishon Gregory. Photo by Victor Moreno

The AFJROTC program currently has 126 cadets. Gregory has taught over 1,000 of them during his tenure at MHS.

Rising in rank this year is Corps Commander Dylan Hill, a senior at MHS. She joined AFJROTC as a timid freshman.

“(Sgt. Gregory) helped me a lot to become more open, socially,” Hill said. “He’s given me a lot of opportunities to work on my leadership skills, and because he’s given me opportunities to do so that’s why I’m corps commander.”

Gregory instructs cadets in drill team, color guard, life skills and public speaking with additional classroom components including quizzes and discussions.

The MHS assignment is not the first instructor position for Gregory.

Early into his military career Gregory served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm for combined tours in 1990. After deploying to Qatar for Operation Southern Watch, he took a special duty assignment as a technical training instructor for the Air Force in 2005.

After assignments at Pacific Air Forces Headquarters in Pearl Harbor and the 15th Airlift Wing, and another deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom, he transitioned to teaching high school students.

“I used to be an instructor; I used to be in Honor Guard, so that’s right up my alley,” Gregory said.

Not surprisingly, his philosophy in the classroom is one backed by years in the service.

“As a planning and scheduling individual, I’m able to lay things out and train them and so I get enjoyment out of teaching and instructing and making that person or people independent and better than myself,” Gregory said.

Lt. Col. Allen Kirksey, AFJROTC senior aerospace science instructor at MHS, described Gregory as “one of the finest non-commissioned officers I have met.”

In October, Kirksey nominated Gregory for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, a national accolade that will be decided by mid-November.

Gregory won the same award in 2014.

“His dynamic and mature handling of difficult decisions and situations has earned him the respect from cadets, peers, parents, administrators and the community,” Kirksey said.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopans line up for fruit and vegetables at 2nd Saturday Market, now held in the Sequoia Pathway parking lot. Photo by Michelle Chance

The 2nd Saturday Market returned for the fall season Saturday at Sequoia Pathway Academy. The market was moved to the first weekend in November to accommodate Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade Nov. 11. The city, in conjunction with the school and Produce On Wheels organization, offered fresh fruit and vegetables for $10. The market also provided “bonus” items to the community including dates, paper towels, napkins and other paper products. The next 2nd Saturday Market will be Dec. 9 at Sequoia Pathway Academy.

A school bus carrying 26 children was involved in a three-vehicle collision near the intersection of Honeycutt Avenue and John Wayne Parkway early Monday morning, police said.

Maricopa Police Department Spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said no one was injured in the accident that occurred around 7 a.m.

Residents, citing live photos from an online Arizona Department of Transportation feed, wondered whether the school bus was carrying children from the Maricopa Unified School District.

Despite its proximity to Maricopa High School, the bus belonged to the Kyrene School District, said a mother of a child on board.

Beth Bowers said her son and classmates were heading to Kyrene de Los Lagos Elementary in Tempe. The Kyrene Unified School District has bused Maricopa children to the Valley since 2003.

“He said someone slammed into their bus,” Bowers said her son told her.

Another bus was en route to pick up the children, Bowers said.

The accident blocked northbound lanes on John Wayne Parkway from Alterra Parkway. MPD cleared the roadway in both directions at 7:41 a.m.

This is a developing story.

submitted photo

A patriotic display of vintage military vehicles will march through Maricopa while honoring veterans on Nov. 12.

The route for the third annual Veterans Day Military Motor March begins 9:30 a.m. at the Millar Airport in Thunderbird Farms, continues east on Farrell Road, turns north on State Route 347, and finishes for a meet-and-greet with veterans and their vehicles at the Bashas’ parking lot.

Families are encouraged to attend.

“It teaches kids some of the history, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Mike Kerr, motor march organizer and curator of Col. Charles Millar’s Vietnam Aviation Veterans of Arizona Museum.

Last year, Kerr said the march included 10 military vehicles, motorcyclists and “people who follow along with American flags on their cars.”

Military vehicles featured in this year’s event include a half-track, military helicopter, 1942 American staff car, military jeeps, a 1940s-era military fire truck, and other military vehicles of various kinds, Kerr said.

After the meet-and-greet concludes, usually 45 minutes after arrival, the convoy returns to Millar Airport along the same route.

“We go back to the airport and Millar fixes everybody lunch,” Kerr said of the motor march crew. “It’s a fun time for everybody.”

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Around 150 participants ran and walked to honor veterans during a cool, cloudy morning Saturday. The third annual Veterans 5K Run and 1 mile walk began 8 a.m. at Copper Sky on Nov. 4. The American Legion Auxiliary treated runners and their families to a pancake breakfast beneath a park ramada. American Legion Post 133 Finance Officer Terry Oldfield said the event is the organization’s main fundraiser every year.

Mackenzie Ford is bringing her family's mission to her platform as the new Miss City of Maricopa Outstanding Teen. Photo by Mason Callejas

Star athlete turned beauty queen, Mackenzie Ford would rather have her face covered in mud than makeup.

Captain of her varsity high school volleyball team, Mackenzie, 16, spent hours every day in the gym this summer training for the upcoming season.

“This was her outlet: working out and sweating,” said Mackenzie’s mom, Jennifer Ford. “She talks about dirt on her face; it’s not a joke. She’s always running full force.”

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Mackenzie decided to ditch the dirt – temporarily – and audition for a local pageant. The announcement of her plans shocked her parents, who are used to a rough-and-tumble teen, but they came to understand her intentions once Mackenzie revealed her inspiration.

Two years ago, Mackenzie’s older brother Nate was killed in an auto accident on State Route 347 at Farrell Road.

A student-athlete with a selfless heart, Nate’s untimely death sent the community into mourning.

“When my brother passed away, I was in a lot of need,” Mackenzie said. “The people who stepped up was Maricopa. They were the ones who wrapped their arms around me when I needed it the most, so I decided this pageant was the best way to give back to the community that has given so much to me.”

In September, MacKenzie used her other talent, motivational speaking, to eventually be crowned Miss City of Maricopa’s Outstanding Teen – a platform she will use to promote and encourage acts of kindness in the community. (Learn what other Maricopa residents were crowned at the October pageant.)

Mackenzie continues to wear the Everyday Hero T-shirts that started with her brother Nate. Photo by Mason Callejas

Her program “Everyday Heroes” is an offshoot of a similar effort by her mom called “Mothers of Everyday Heroes,” which operated in Maricopa for two years. Mackenzie’s version will function as a way for the teen to hone her public speaking skills and desire to spotlight good deeds through videos posted to social media.

“(My mom) made this organization to help those in need because my brother was a kid who always helped and always served,” Mackenzie said. “I want to keep it going to keep up his legacy and keep the little acts of service to help in this world that’s getting darker.”

Losing Nate, her big brother and best friend, wasn’t the first trying time in young Mackenzie’s life.

When she was 2 months old, doctors diagnosed a cancerous tumor in her spine. She wasn’t expected to live past 6 months. Parents Jennifer and Doug called the priesthood from their church to give the baby a blessing.

“The doctors made it very clear there wasn’t anything we could do for her,” Jennifer said.

After surgery, doctors were stunned.

“They went to get a piece of it and the tumor was gone,” Jennifer said. “They couldn’t explain it.”

The outlook for Mackenzie’s overall health was still bleak. Her parents put her in extensive physical therapy as an infant after doctors explained she would be prone to arthritis in her neck and spine and likely be physically disabled for the rest of her life.

“I think what we ended up doing was making the bionic woman instead of this being who couldn’t function. She’s always had a fire in her,” Jennifer Ford said.

That spark has led Mackenzie to beat the odds early in life and recently take up challenges that force her out of her comfort zone.

Mackenzie plans to take her platform statewide by trying out for Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen. After high school she hopes to study journalism by way of a full-ride volleyball scholarship to a Division 1 school. Ultimately, she wants to join the military and report from the battlefield.

For now, her new life in the pageant world has taught her grace and elegance, as well as a way for her to reconnect with Nate.

“I was one of those kids that numbed the pain — tried to get it out and get it away — but now I’m slowly trying to bring it back and use it for good. Not only has it helped me heal, but I feel like it’s bringing me closer to my brother.”

If you know an “Everyday Hero” contact Mackenzie through Facebook or Instagram @MissCityofMaricopaOT.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Joe Abodeely owns 20 acres west of Mraicopa where he has "base camp" for Vietnam veterans. He will be the Maricopa Historical Society's guest speaker in November, talking about the military history of Maricopa Wells. Photo by Mason Callejas

Located down a winding, county road and bunkered beneath a small mountain in Thunderbird Farms is a hidden haven for Vietnam veterans.

What: Maricopa Historical Society Presentation
Who: Col. Joseph Abodeely (Ret.)
When: Nov. 6, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Maricopa Public Library, 41600 W. Smith-Enke Road
How much: Free

Col. Joseph Abodeely has opened his “base camp” to fellow Vietnam vets for nearly two decades. The 20-acre property features a shooting range, a cantina and a 35-foot guard tower.

It’s also where Abodeely calls home.

Every April, as many as 250 people pitch tents and stay a week camping, shooting and sharing a bond that Abodeely said only they understand about each other.

“You can’t hang around with the guys (you work with) because they didn’t know what it meant to go out on patrols at night, to get shot at, to see guys die around you, to smell the sweet stench of burnt bodies from napalm, to see people’s brains lying on the ground – they don’t know that. They don’t know what it’s like to see grown men terrified,” Abodeely said.

The gathering every spring is an opportunity to visit those who have been there.

“When you come to base camp for the Vietnam veterans, they can be around other guys who knew. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a comradery,” Abodeely said.

Abodeely served in Vietnam as a combat infantry unit commander during the Tet Offensive of 1968. He retired from the military in 1995.

Between those years, Abodeely joined the Arizona National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve and worked as a deputy Maricopa County Attorney and later as a criminal defense attorney.

He founded the Arizona Military Museum in Phoenix in 1980.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Out of all his achievements, honoring his brethren in Vietnam is what he is most proud of.

“Vietnam veterans have not gotten their dues. When people talk about wars, they always talk about all of the wars except Vietnam – in a negative way,” Abodeely said

To Abodeely, one of the more somber recognition efforts is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., which lists the names of U.S. soldiers who died in the war.

“The wall is a gigantic tombstone. The only reason it was accepted at the time is because it was the only thing anyone would do to recognize the fact that Vietnam veterans were in Vietnam. So, you could talk about those who died, but what about those who lived?” Abodeely asked.

Abodeely has organized an event to honor living Vietnam vets since 2011.

On Oct. 28, the seventh annual Commemoration of the Vietnam War honored Vietnam, Vietnam-era and Vietnamese veterans at Elements Event Center.

“We came home and we were treated like criminals and that was wrong and that’s why I do what I do. That’s why we are having this dinner,” Abodeely said.

As CEO of the military museum, Abodeely brings with him a wealth of regional wartime knowledge.

On Nov. 6 at the Maricopa Public Library, he will discuss the origin of the Arizona National Guard and historical, military activities at Maricopa Wells.

His work at the museum highlights all branches of the military spanning every U.S. war. However, his main undertaking is promoting the achievements of Vietnam vets who he said are still misunderstood.

“I’m 74. I don’t know how long I’m going to live, but until the day I die I’m going to do what I can to help set the record straight about the honorable service of Vietnam veterans,” Abodeely said. “That’s my mission in life.”

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Rick Abel (right) at a Maricopa High School football game earlier this year. Abel had been acting principal at MHS and will be interim principal the rest of the year.

Rick Abel and Thad Miller, two acting principals in the Maricopa Unified School District, will continue their positions and posts through the 2017-18 school year, school officials said Friday.

The district made the announcement soon after confirming the resignation of former Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers.

The MUSD Governing Board will vote to approve Myers’ resignation during a meeting Nov. 8.

Beginning Nov. 3, Abel’s and Miller’s respective titles change from “acting principal” to “interim principal,” according to a news release from the district.

Abel began as acting principal at MHS Oct. 16. MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said former MHS Principal Renita Myers resigned Oct. 23.

After he was transferred to the high school earlier this school year and back again, Maricopa Wells Middle School will keep Miller on campus, now as its interim principal until May.

The news release stated the district will consider a decision regarding the principal position at each school for the 2018-19 school year “in the next few months.”

Thad Miller

“I am very pleased that Mr. Abel and Mr. Miller will be serving as principals for the rest of the school year,” Chestnut stated. “They are both excellent leaders and I greatly enjoy working with them. Both are greatly respected by students, staff and parents.”

Abel has worked as a district principal since 2009 at Santa Rosa Elementary, MWMS and now MHS.

Miller, a veteran MUSD employee and lifelong Maricopa resident, began work in 1997 at the district’s Maricopa Middle School as a science teacher.



Former Maricopa High School Principal Renita Myers

Renita Myers, the Maricopa High School Principal on leave since September, resigned in October, district officials said Friday.

Myers’ effective resignation date was originally listed on district documents as Oct. 3, the same day Maricopa Wells Middle School Assistant Principal Mallory Miller resigned.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut later said Myers’ resignation date was Oct. 23, nearly a month after reportedly taking a leave-of-absence on Sept. 25.

District officials will not comment on the reason for Myers’ leave. She spent 11 years in the district as a teacher and administrator at MHS and Desert Wind Middle School.

In August, the district transferred Miller from Maricopa High School to Maricopa Wells Middle School not long after the start of the school year for undisclosed reasons.

MHS Assistant Principal Heidi Vratil stepped in for Myers until Oct. 6.

MWMS Principal Rick Abel has assumed the role of acting principal at MHS since Oct. 16, when students returned from fall break.

Considering Myers resignation, Chestnut said the district will publish a press release regarding the future positions for Abel and Thad Miller Friday afternoon.

High school-age boys walking to school told their mother they found two handguns just south of Edison Road in an empty lot. Submitted photo

A pair of high school students found two, fully loaded pistols in a dirt lot near the Acacia Crossing subdivision Friday morning, the teens’ mother said.

Brandie Weaver Brooks said her sons, 14-year-old Gabriel and 15-year-old Christian, were walking to Maricopa High School from their home in the Acacia Crossing subdivision.

After cutting through a dirt lot south of the subdivision and Edison Road, Weaver said the boys came upon a small-caliber semi-automatic and a holstered revolver.

“While walking through, my son seen something shiny, walked over to it, and [saw] both guns just out in the open in plain sight,” Brooks said.

From there, the boys immediately notified their mother, who then called police.

“I went over there with my son, who then showed me where they were, and we stood right there until the police arrived and took them,” Brooks said.

Both weapons were apparently fully loaded, she said.

The boys’ vigilance and responsible actions Friday morning made Weaver, who has taught her boys since a young age about gun safety, beam with pride.

“(There are) no words to describe the joy I feel knowing they did the right thing and called me right away to let me know what they found instead of messing with them or taking them to school,” Brooks said. “I’m the proudest mom at this moment.”

Maricopa Police Department is investigating whether the two guns are related to an October armed robbery of a Shell gas station, said MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

“As of right now, (the guns are) not entered into any system as being stolen,” Alvarado said.

Reporter Mason Callejas contributed to this story.  

F.O.R. Maricopa needs help Saturday signing up children

F.O.R. Maricopa’s Christmas Toy Drive Sign-up event begins Saturday for eligible children up to 16-years-old.

Wendy Webb, director of F.O.R. Maricopa Food Bank, said registration lasts only two days this year.

Registration begins Nov. 4 at the F.O.R. Maricopa Business Center (formerly the Maricopa Business Barn) located at 19428 N. John Wayne Parkway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nov. 7 will be the final day to sign-up. Registration will take place at the temporary food bank location at Santa Cruz Elementary, 19845 N. Costa del Sol Blvd., from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Parents and guardians must bring documents proving eligibility, including a F.O.R. Maricopa food bank card, identification and birth certificates, Webb said.

“Anyone who qualifies for food bank need only bring birth certificate for each child 16-and-under and we will sign them up. Some folks have signed up in the past.  We keep their information on file so they don’t have to bring a birth certificate again,” Webb said.

Families who register for the Salvation Army’s Toy Drive are not eligible for the F.O.R. Maricopa program.

Webb also called on the community for help.

“On the 4th we need volunteers to come at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. helping sign-up children,” Webb said. “On the 7th it is 4 to 7:30 p.m.”

Spanish-speaking volunteers are especially needed both days, Webb said. For more information contact 520-251-0226 or

Matthew and Michael Voss passed away after a crash Sunday. Photo used by permission

Friends and family are organizing a memorial for two teens whose lives were tragically taken recently after a two-car collision in Thunderbird Farms.

The public is invited to a memorial Nov. 11 at Sequoia Pathway Academy, 19265 N Porter Road, hosted by Faith Baptist Church. The time is tentatively set for 3 p.m.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his brother Matthew, 16, died due to injuries sustained in the rollover accident after police say another vehicle ran a stop sign at the Papago and Ralston roads intersection on Oct. 29.

The Voss family of six was heading home after church Sunday afternoon.

Jeff Wasilenski worships with the Voss family at Faith Baptist Church in Maricopa, a small congregation that meets at Sequoia Pathway Academy. He described the Voss family as great people, who are “quiet, meek and mild.”

Nathan Voss, father of Matthew and Michael, is a deacon there.

“He (Nathan) wrote a prayer this morning and he posted it to the public and everyone has to read it. I’ve never wept like that in my life. It’s a tough read, let me tell you,” Wasilenski said.

Nathan Voss published a prayer Nov. 1 on Facebook, days after the accident, expressing grief and faith in God.

It reads in part, “Dear Lord, precious Heavenly Father, You gave me two sons. I thank you for them. Throughout their time here on earth their bodies were ravaged and anguished with the horrible disease of Muscular Dystrophy, among other things. The 16 and 17 years we got to raise them, we got to watch them grow. And mature. And smile. Those years are so precious and memory-filled, and now those years are over. You have chosen to take them home. To bless them with new, glorious, disease-free bodies.”

The funeral for Matthew and Michael, limited to family and close friends only, will be held in the Valley Nov. 11 before the public memorial at Faith Baptist, which meets at Sequoia Pathway.

Family friend Mark Bruto da Costa organized an online fundraiser for the Voss family. The goal amount listed on the campaign is $200,000.

“There will undoubtedly be high medical, memorial and funeral expenses,” Bruto da Costa wrote. “Also, they will need another vehicle.”

Walinski said Nathan’s daughter, Leighann, had surgery to repair a broken arm.

“I think everyone at this point has been released from the hospital. The baby is OK and his wife are OK,” Wasilenski said.

Shortly after news spread of the Matthew and Michael’s deaths, the community took to social media to offer condolences and support.

“I didn’t expect 300 people that I’ve never met to make comments,” Wasilenski said. “I love our community. Everybody has just been awesome.”

Photo by Mason Callejas

First responders transported an 18-year-old passenger and 16-year-old motorist to the hospital Wednesday afternoon following a collision on the State Route 347 and Edison Road intersection.

The accident involved a midsized SUV and a passenger vehicle around 2:19 p.m., said Maricopa Fire/Medical Department spokesman Brad Pitassi.

Emergency crews evaluated the 18-year-old female passenger of the SUV for a non-life-threatening head injury, Pitassi said.

The woman was reportedly not wearing her seatbelt during the accident, causing her head to hit the vehicle’s windshield, Pitassi said. The woman was later transported to the hospital.

Three others inside the SUV were wearing seatbelts.

The other car, Pitassi said, was a passenger-vehicle driven by a 16-year-old female motorist.

“She was wearing her seat belt, and her parents have asked her to be transported to the hospital for further evaluation,” Pitassi said.

Police temporarily restricted traffic in the area. Pitassi said crews are working to reopen the intersection.

Maricopa Police Department is investigating the cause of the accident. Updates to this developing story will be posted to

Photo by Mason Callejas

A truck was involved in a two-vehicle crash on SR 238 Wednesday. Photo by Mason Callejas

Police are investing a driver of a pickup truck for a possible DUI after a collision with a sedan on State Route 238 Wednesday afternoon, Maricopa Police Department said.

“We are not sure if it is alcohol or drug-related, but there is a DUI investigation currently underway,” MPD Sgt. Steven Judd said.

Ricardo Alvarado, spokesman for the Maricopa Police Department, said the accident occurred around 1:19 p.m. on SR 238 near White Road, west of Ak-Chin Southern Dunes.

Judd said the passenger sedan was heading east on SR 238 when a westbound pickup truck hauling a small trailer crossed over into the eastbound lane.

The truck struck the rear driver-side of the car, causing it to spin.

“(The sedan) did run off the road and went through the barbed wire fences and down into the ravine,” said Maricopa Fire/Medical Department spokesman Brad Pitassi.

The truck continued down the road about 50 yards, and then the trailer disengaged and rolled, Judd said.

The 71-year-old female driver of the sedan was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the pickup truck refused medical attention, Pitassi said.

The collision caused police to temporarily shut down State Route 238. Crews are working to reopen the roadway.

2nd Saturday Market has moved to Sequoia Pathway Academy's parking lot.

The 2nd Saturday Market returns for the fall season Nov. 4 – the first weekend of November – at a new venue, Sequoia Pathway Academy.

What: 2nd Saturday Market
When: November-February, 8-11 a.m.; March-May 7-10 a.m.
Where: Sequoia Pathway parking lot, 19265 N. Porter Road
How much: $10 for 60 pounds of food

“The first 2nd Saturday was changed because of the Veteran’s Day Parade on the 11th,” said Niesha Whitman, the special events and marketing manager for the city. “To be supportive of that event, we moved the market forward a week.”

All other markets will take place on the second Saturday of every month. The market will operate from 8 to 11 a.m. from November through February. As temperatures rise, the market will open earlier, from 7 to 10 a.m., March through May.

Previously, Copper Sky Recreational Center hosted the market, but the city’s partnership with Sequoia Pathway presented an opportunity for a new venue.

“Sequoia is responsible to manage the Produce on Wheels program and the volunteers; the city is responsible for the vendors and for the licensing,” Whitman said. “It was just more convenient for them to have more control over the process and to have it at the school.”

The market promotes healthy living this season, Whitman said, and the city expects the event to attract 300 families each month.

Customers at the market can still purchase 60 pounds of produce for $10. The market only accepts cash, and Whitman suggests bringing a produce bag as well.

The market is accepting applications for volunteers and vendors for the event.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

The annual Veterans 5K is at Copper Sky this weekend.

The community will honor its veterans this month with a new parade and a returning 5K fun run.

Years in the making, Maricopa’s first Veterans Day Parade will make its foundational march down Porter Road on Nov. 11.

The parade is organized and sponsored by various community organizations, including American Legion Auxiliary Unit 133, Veterans Parade Committee, Tortosa Home Owners Association, Leading Edge Academy, City of Maricopa, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Maricopa Unified School District, Legacy Traditional School, Sequoia Pathway Academy and Central Arizona College.

Participant registration can be found on the American Legion Auxiliary website at

The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Legacy Traditional School, marches north on Porter and concludes at Pacana Park.

Afterward, a free luncheon at Leading Edge Academy will be held for veterans and their families at noon.

“It’s nice to have a parade, but for us it’s nice to honor the veterans for their service, their sacrifice and their families, so it’s really nice when the community is showing support,” said American Legion Auxiliary president and parade organizer Gabriela Potter.

The weekend before the parade, the third annual Veterans 5K run and 1-mile walk will honor military veterans at Copper Sky on Nov. 4.

Early registration is available at Copper Sky Recreation Center and online at Registration is $25.

Participants can also register the day of the event at 7 a.m., but organizer Terry Oldfield said registering in advance secures an event T-shirt in the preferred size.

Every veteran who participates in the run receives a medal.

A flag-raising ceremony will take place at 8 a.m. followed by the start of the race 15 minutes later on Copper Sky grounds.

A pancake breakfast will be available during the event and is open to non-participants as well for a suggested $5 donation.

The run is the American Legion’s main fund-raising event of the year, Oldfield said, and helps fund the group’s community projects including Boys State and Girls State, and the sponsorship of American Legion Baseball in the city.

“Everything we earn goes right back to Maricopa,” Oldfield said.

Last year, Potter said, the event welcomed nearly 300 participants. This year Oldfield is hoping for an even bigger show of community support.

“I always hope for better,” Oldfield said.

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

MUSD is seeking a new curriculum for ELA.

New curriculum for English-Language Arts could be in local classrooms next school year.

Curriculum Price Tags
“Company A”: $1,208,514
“Company B”: $1,319,500
“Company C”: $1,741,289

The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved the creation of a curriculum committee during a meeting Oct. 25 to aid teachers and the district with related decisions.

The ELA Adoption Committee will consider the purchase of a K-12 curriculum set in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. MUSD last adopted ELA curriculum in 2004.

Professional Development Coach Stephanie Rhinehart presented figures of three proposed textbook vendors Wednesday night.

Curriculum from the anonymous vendors ranged from $1.2 million to $1.7 million.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut said district Business Services Director Aron Rausch recommended the proposed K-12 adoption be made in separate purchases between 2018 and 2019.

The first order would be approximately $1 million in July 2018 and another $1 million in the next fiscal year. The schedule would mean only certain grades would receive curriculum at a time.

Board President Patti Coutre, Vice President AnnaMarie Knorr and Board Member Torri Anderson said they preferred the district adopt and pay for the curriculum all at once.

It’s not the first, pricey curriculum adoption proposal this year.

The district adopted math K-12 curriculum earlier this year for over $1.03 million from its reserve funds.

“When we first did this with math, we did it all out of the reserves, and when we talked about doing ELA, we also talked about it coming out of the reserves,” Coutre said. “If we have the money in the reserves, what difference does it make if we do it in one fell swoop versus two?”

Chestnut said Rausch’s recommendation was based on conservative, future spending.

“I know Mr. Rasuch’s concern is that we will be spending $3.5 million to $4 million in reserve funds in the next couple years so being fiscally conservative, he’d like to make sure we have reserves to cover any unforeseen expenses,” Chestnut said.

Rausch clarified in a conversation later this week that the district has not yet designated what fund reserves they will be pulling from, but it would not be its Maintenance and Operating fund where all of the override money is budgeted.

“This purchase will have to come out of a fund that supports accounting and budgeting laws for the purchase of capital and has reserves and budget available,” Rausch said. “The ‘M and O’ fund where most of the override is budgeted for operations and staff cannot be used for capital purchases by law.”

Knorr requested a budget breakdown from Rausch to be discussed in a future meeting. She said despite his concerns she would prefer the district adopt the curriculum simultaneously and possibly before 2018, citing poor student test scores in the subject area.

“I would rather take a little risk and invest in our children so that they get the ELA curriculum that they need as we go forward then sit back and let it continue on as is,” Knorr said.

Anderson and Coutre agreed.

“I don’t think we can wait, we’ve waited too long for curriculum,” Anderson said.

The board approved the creation of the ELA adoption committee unanimously. The debate regarding the curriculum purchasing schedule is expected to be on the board’s Nov. 8 agenda.

Photo by Bruce McLaughlin


A second teenager has died after a vehicular accident in Thunderbird Farms Sunday afternoon, Pinal County Sherriff’s Office said Monday morning.

PCSO spokesperson Navideh Forghani said a 16-year-old boy died at the hospital Oct. 30 after a 17-year-old passenger died at the hospital the night before. Both were in wheelchairs at the time of the accident.

Posts on social media said the teens were brothers who were heading home in a minivan with their family from church before the accident Sunday afternoon.

The teens’ father, Nathan Voss, asked for prayers from friends online.

“As a father losing his only two sons, this is not easy. And the battles have only begun. I praise the Lord that He spared my wife, the baby in her womb, our teenage daughter, and our precious baby, Lynndsay, as many of you have come to know through previous trials,” Voss said in a post on Facebook.

According to a social media post by Faith Baptist Church in Maricopa, the brothers were Michael and Matthew.

PCSO said six people were in the minivan Sunday around 2:29 p.m. on Papago Road when a driver in a 2018 black Acura ran the stop sign at the Papago intersection at Ralston Road.

As previously reported, the minivan hit the Acura and rolled, ejecting the 17-year-old passenger who later died at the hospital Oct. 29.

Five of the six passengers were transported to the hospital with varying injuries.

PCSO was still investigating Monday morning and could not specify the pending charges against the driver of the Acura.

Photo by Bruce McLaughlin

A 17-year-old boy in a wheelchair died at the hospital Sunday after being ejected from a vehicle in a two-car collision in Thunderbird Farms, a spokeswoman for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said.

The fatal accident occurred at approximately 2:29 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the intersection of Ralston and Papago Roads in unincorporated Maricopa.

Prior to the collision, a gray minivan carrying at least five passengers was westbound on Papago Road.

Pinal County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Navideh Forghani said a driver of a 2018 black Acura driving north on Ralston failed to stop at the intersection’s stop sign and continued north through the roadway.

The driver of the minivan struck the rear passenger-side of the Acura, causing the van to spin into the northwest corner of the intersection and roll onto its side, Forghani said.

“In the middle row seats of the van were two individuals who were in wheel chairs. One of those individuals was ejected from the vehicle,” Forghani said. “That 17-year-old died from his injuries at the hospital.”

Forghani said the second person in a wheel chair received “moderate injuries.”

A 1-year-old and a 39-year-old in the rear seat of the minivan were both uninjured. Another person in the van, described by PCSO as a juvenile, suffered a broken arm.

Charges are pending against the driver of the Acura. PCSO said that driver’s condition is unknown.

Residents nearby reported hearing sirens, seeing a medivac helicopter and multiple emergency responders at the scene Sunday afternoon.

The minivan’s “entire left side (was) ripped off,” said Amy Rogers-Boterman who lives in a neighborhood not far from the intersection.

The Acura’s “front end (was) completely smashed,” Rogers-Boterman said. “(It) looked like one of the people in the minivan was dressed up to go somewhere.”

PCSO has not released the victim’s name.