Tags Articles tagged with "crime"

crime

Dawn Lash (PCSO)

A woman was arrested Oct. 6 on suspicion of theft and fictitious registration.

Dawn Lash, 43, was pulled over by Maricopa police at approximately 6 p.m. on John Wayne Parkway and Desert Cedars Drive for expired vehicle registration. Lash was found to have a warrant for her arrest from the Florence city court for a June traffic violation.

Police observed an additional sticker covering the registration year on the vehicle’s license plate. The sticker had the number “20” printed on it. When questioned by police, Lash allegedly stated she knew her tags were expired, so she made her way to a local store, bought a pack of white stickers and covered the registration year, ‘19, with the stickers for ‘20.

Officers proceeded to search the vehicle, as well as Lash’s purse. An officer allegedly found four blank checks with a man’s name written on them in the purse. After locating a phone number for the man named on the checks, Maricopa police asked if he had let Lash use the checks or if he was aware that she was in possession of them. The man stated he and his wife pay Lash to clean their home and she had just left for the day.

He told officers he never gave Lash permission to take or use his checks.

Lash allegedly told police she remembered taking the checks and putting them in her purse when she was cleaning the home. She went on to say that she had no intention of taking them for the home and forgot to give them back before she left.

The homeowners advised MPD that they wanted to press charges and aid in prosecution.

Police placed Lash under arrest on charges of theft and fictitious registration and was booked in Pinal County Jail.

Derrick Morris (PCSO)

On Oct. 29, Maricopa Police responded to a call from a woman in The Villages who stated she could hear someone banging on her door, wanting to come in.

The man banging on the door, later identified as Derrick Morris, 39, allegedly said, “You can hide but I am going to find you and kill you.”

An officer arrived on the scene for a welfare check and was able to hear Morris’s voice and the banging on the backyard door. The woman who called police opened the 2nd story window to speak to the officer. The reason for not wanting Morris to know about the police’s presence was redacted from the report.

The woman met police at the door and told them Morris had a doctor’s appointment and came over to her residence afterward. She stated that they argue often. Their relationship was not stated in the report.

According to the report, Morris had attempted to break a window in the backyard by throwing a propane tank at it, twice. The window did not shatter, but police observed blue scuff marks on the window, consistent with the propane tank’s color.

The police reported that the woman did not actually hear Morris threaten to kill her, but she afraid of what would happen if he had gotten inside the home.

Derrick Morris was placed under arrest on suspicion of disorderly conduct, threatening and criminal damage. He was booked into Pinal County Jail.

Alphonso Ervin (PCSO)

Maricopa police arrested Alphonso Ervin, 46, Sunday afternoon on suspicion of domestic violence assault in Alterra.

Officers were dispatched to a residence on West Sage brush Drive after receiving a call from Ervin’s wife stating he had punched her in the face. Upon arriving, police made contact with Ervin first.

He told police he and his wife were in a verbal argument prior to their arrival regarding his brother “messing up” the blinds on their back patio door, according to the report. He went on to explain that his brother had lived with them for approximately four years, and his wife has multiple issues with him.

Ervin claimed that while they were arguing, he threw a plastic cup of water toward his wife but did not actually hit her with either the water or cup. He told police his wife scratched her own face from her forehead to her chin and claimed he had never touched her or hit her.

Officers identified a scratch under the woman’s eye and a bump with fresh blood on her eyebrow.

The woman’s recollection involved Ervin throwing a whole garlic clove at her, hitting her in the eye and causing the eyebrow injury. Ervin allegedly also threw a jar of pimentos at her, striking her thigh.

When attempting to leave the room, she said, she was slapped in the face by Ervin. Officers were able to observe a garlic clove on the ground as well as the shattered jar of pimentos.

Police determined the injuries to the woman were not consistent with Ervin’s statement. He was placed under arrest for domestic assault and booked in Pinal County Jail.

 

Machelle Hobson aka Hackney (PCSO photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arthur Eric Magana (PCSO photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shawn Main (PCSO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Cowan (PCSO)

Michael Cowan, 49, was arrested Sunday on multiple charges, including theft of means of transportation and possession of a stolen firearm.

Maricopa Police conducted a traffic stop late Sunday at the corner of West Barcelona and North Terra Drive in Glennwilde when reports came in about a stolen trailer. The report stated Cowan was caught on surveillance cameras approaching the box trailer, attaching it to his vehicle and driving off.

After performing the traffic stop and identifying Cowan, officers placed him under arrest and questioned him about the box trailer reported stolen in his possession. He allegedly claimed that he was ordered to remove the trailer by an employer. MPD later determined that to be a lie.

While searching Cowan’s vehicle, officers discovered a 9mm handgun that was reported stolen in Phoenix. When asked about the weapon, Cowan stated it belonged to his wife. Police also reported Cowan stated he “knew the trailer was a set-up” and he “messed up.”

Police took Cowan to Maricopa Police Station for further questioning.

At the station, Cowan stated he had been observing the trailer for approximately two weeks and was under the impression the owner did not want it because of a parking sticker on the back.

Cowan was reported to have admitted he stole the trailer and had planned to keep it and put a salvage title on it. He allegedly also admitted to being a convicted felon of 10 years. When asked about the handgun in the vehicle, he said he bought it for his wife three years ago to protect herself. Cowan had never had his rights restored to have a firearm in his possession, according to MPD.

Michael Cowan refused to answer any further questions and was booked in Pinal County Jail. Other charges include possession of a firearm by a prohibited possessor. Bond was set at $2,500.

Police submitted a felony report against a Maricopa man Oct. 23 on suspected charges of sexual exploitation of a minor.

The incident came to light in late January when the photo website group SmugMug-Flickr submitted a child exploitation tip to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Internet Crimes Against Children. The tip stated that a user named Eric Tetmeyer had uploaded an image of child pornography to their site.

Tetmeyer’s IP address was obtained and confirmed to belong to him at his residence on West Thornberry Lane in Maricopa. SmugMug-Flickr filed a second report to ICAC and NCMEC of the same image being uploaded by a different user named “Samantha Knotts.” The user, however, had the same IP address as Tetmeyer.

MPD executed search warrants for Tetmeyer’s residence and his place of work in Phoenix.

Officer’s interviewed Tetmeyer, 38, who allegedly admitted to having a Flickr account as well as having a personal IP address that only he had access to in his home.

When questioned about the images, he allegedly stated he frequently viewed pornography but denied ever viewing child pornography. Tetmeyer stated he was unemployed and at his residence during the time the image was uploaded. He claimed that he never knew anyone named Samanta Knotts and didn’t have any company over that day.

MPD submitted felony long-form charges for review against Tetmeyer for one count of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Maricopa Police arrested Daja Cooper, 19, on allegations of credit card theft, fraudulent use and receipt of item with a stolen credit card.

Back in September, a woman had contacted MPD to report the theft of her credit card as well as the fraudulent use of the credit card. The woman stated she last had the card in her possession at Wendy’s on John Wayne Parkway.

A similar report was taken around the same time period, with another card being stolen and used at Circle K and QuikTrip. Surveillance footage from both locations identified the suspect using the stolen credit cards as a woman named “Daja” based off a name tag she wore with her Wendy’s employee uniform.

Police proceeded to contact Wendy’s management and were able to identify the only employee named Daja was in fact, Daja Cooper. Officers additionally confirmed that Cooper was working at the time the credit cards involved in fraudulent charges were stolen.

Officers arrived at Cooper’s home with a search warrant and interviewed her about the stolen credit cards. Cooper allegedly admitted to stealing four separate credit cards and could only remember the name of the original victim who called MPD.

Cooper told police that she had attempted to shop online at DHSGATE.com for women’s shoes totaling $494.23. The purchase was declined, however, which allowed police to confirm it had come from the original stolen credit card report.

In another report received by MPD, another alleged victim saw a similar charge from DHSGATE.com attempting to purchase Dolce & Gabanna brand shoes. During the interview, Cooper confirmed the brand of shoe as well as the color and seller, stating the shoes were never delivered but the information was consistent with what was provided by the victim’s credit card company.

The credit card company also determined the ZIP code used was the same as Cooper’s, who used a fake last name for the order. Cooper also allegedly admitted to purchasing a digital camera with one of the credit cards and had it in her possession.

Police recovered the camera and placed Daja Cooper under arrest and booked her into Pinal County Jail. Pinal County Attorney’s office charged her twice in separate cases Oct. 24 with theft of a credit card.

Marcos Martinez. (PCSO photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Ramirez (PCSO)

Police arrested a man Thursday afternoon on after allegedly attempting to escape from authorities.

Two men called police after they reportedly witnessed somebody get into the fenced-off maintenance area at The Duke at Rancho El Dorado Golf Course and attempt to steal a John Deere Gator utility vehicle. The two men told the individual, later identified as Kevin Ramirez, 22, they were calling the police and took a picture of Ramirez as he fled.

The two men flagged down a nearby Maricopa Police officer after making the initial call to 911 and informed the police they witnessed Ramirez hop a residential fence into a backyard nearby.

Police observed the photos taken by the men and were able to see Ramirez was wearing a white tank top, black shorts, backpack and “white flip-flop type shoes.”

According to the police report, officers located Ramirez in the backyard of a home on Anne Lane. He was reported to be wearing black boots at the time.

While arresting Ramirez, police discovered he had allegedly stolen the boots from the backyard. According to the report, he later stated he was “hoping I could get away” and was hiding in the yard because he “didn’t want to stop.”

Ramirez was booked into Pinal County Jail on expected charges of burglary in the third degree, theft and resisting arrest.

Francis Jeffrey (PCSO)

A Pinal County woman’s latest alleged steal has gotten her more than she bargained for.

Francis Jeffery, 58, was contacted by police at Walmart on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway Tuesday afternoon in reference to alleged shoplifting. Police reported that when being questioned, Jeffery stated she had made purchases at Walmart and used the grocery bags from that purchase to hide shoplifted items in an attempt to make them appear purchased.

According to the police report, Jeffery was observed by loss prevention when attempting to pass off the stolen items as purchased. The value of the items came out to $66.85.

After being arrested and transported to Maricopa Police Station, officers found similar charges throughout Jeffery’s criminal history.

Jeffery was found guilty of shoplifting in three other cases, one of them being in Tempe in early 2015.

With police having three convictions within five years of each other, Jeffery’s violation increased to a class 4 felony.

Francis Jeffery was booked into Pinal County Jail.

Erin Darr (PCSO)

Changing her plea to guilty, a Maricopa mom is awaiting sentencing on two charges of child abuse.

Erin Darr, 36, was taken back into custody by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Sept. 30 after reaching a plea agreement. She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 4 in Superior Court.

Darr was arrested in December. She was originally charged with 10 counts of abuse.

The agreement lets her plead guilty to pushing a victim down the stairs, which is a charge of child abuse under circumstances “likely to produce death or serious injury,” a class 3 felony. Darr also pled guilty to forcing a victim to “eat vomit,” a class 4 felony.

The class 3 felony by law has a sentencing range of 2.5 to seven years, which can change under exceptional circumstances, with a presumptive sentence of 3.5 years. Per the plea agreement, Darr will serve a prison sentence of 3.5 to 7.5 years. The court will make the specific sentence next month.

The class 4 felony has a sentence of one to three years in the criminal code, with a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years. The agreement allows her lifetime supervised probation, during which she can have no contact with the victim. She must also have written permission from the probation department to have any contact with children under the age of 18.

If she rejects probation, the agreement states she will be sentenced to 3.75 years to run consecutively after the other sentence.

Under the terms of the agreement, Darr must pay restitution to all named victims for “all economic loss (including medical and counseling fees), not to exceed $350,000.” There are additional fines of $5,000 and $500.

She must also submit to a DNA test as a special condition.

In exchange for her guilty pleas, the state agrees to drop all other charges, all of which were class 3 and class 4 felony charges of child abuse. Judge Christopher O’Neil has the option of rejecting the plea deal.

Maricopa Police had an alarming case early Monday morning, ending in a Villages woman being accused of vulnerable adult abuse.

Around 8 a.m. Monday morning, an elderly woman with a walker arrived at the InMaricopa office looking for help. The woman claimed she was being abused by her roommate, Miranda McClain, and had walked from the home to the nearest business while her roommate was asleep. InMaricopa staff called Maricopa police, who interviewed the woman and transported her to the family advocacy center.

She stated about five years ago she moved into McClain’s home on McCord Drive with an agreement to pay $500 a month for rent. The woman explained she only received money twice a month. After about four years, the woman told officers she was not happy and wanted to move out. McClain was described as “intimidating.”

During an incident approximately one year ago, McClain allegedly yelled and slapped the woman, telling her she would live in that house until she died, according to the report.

The elderly woman recalled a time she attempted to leave the home, but McClain allegedly locked her in the master bedroom for two days. An exterior lock was used to keep the woman inside, and she was only let out to use the bathroom. When police asked if she was being fed, the woman said McClain would bring her snacks. McClain slept in the room with her, but on separate beds.

Maricopa Police headed to McClain’s home, where they observed her driving past the residence in a white sedan. McClain turned her vehicle around and stopped in front of the officer’s patrol vehicle, asking why they were by her house.

Police stated they had the woman, to which McClain asked if she was at her daughter’s house. Officers only stated the woman was safe and they had not received any information from anyone else. According to the report, McClain seemed angry and agitated, continuing to ask where the woman was. Police advised McClain to hand over any of the woman’s property.

According to the report, McClain pulled the woman’s ID card and a debit card out of her purse and gave it to police. McClain also confirmed the woman has lived at the home for five years and has been paying her $500 a month in rent. She also stated she had online access to the woman’s funds and claimed she was also allowed to take out more money for pool services and McClain’s own doctor bills.

McClain allegedly admitted to locking the old woman in the master bedroom after she “was causing issues with her daughters.” She claimed the woman was a friend and did not want her to leave the home because she might fall, due to trouble walking.

Police reported McClain had no power of attorney over the woman and told McClain she would no longer have access to the woman’s bank account.

McClain was described as angry, claiming that she was now being left with a financial burden. Police wrote a probable-cause statement on the case listing potential charges but did not make an arrest.

Cameron Carr (PCSO)

A Maricopa man was arrested Thursday evening on suspicion of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.

Police responded to an assault call at a residence in Santa Rosa Springs, where they made contact with Cameron Carr, 30, and his girlfriend.

According to Carr’s girlfriend, they were sitting on the couch that evening when Carr put both hands around her throat, squeezing and pushing her down. She fought back by pushing against his face with her hands when Carr then allegedly threw her to the floor. She also told police “the outsides of her neck were burning.”

After talking with the woman, officers interviewed Carr on his recollection of the event. Carr claimed that he became upset with his girlfriend because he discovered she was using a dating profile. He said he grabbed her shirt, not her neck, with two hands, and she scratched his face. The officer reported red marks on Carr’s arm, lips, eye and cheek.

MPD reportedly asked Carr if he may have grabbed his girlfriend by the neck at any point, and he said he could not recall.

The woman was to the local advocacy center, and Cameron Carr was arrested and booked in Pinal County jail.

Ched Bayles (PCSO)

Ched Bayles, 30, was arrested Saturday afternoon on suspicion of shoplifting and additional outstanding warrants.

According to Maricopa Police reports, officers were dispatched to Ace Hardware after a man was accused of shoplifting by store employees. Officers reviewed surveillance footage of the store entrance and observed the man, later identified as Ched Bayles, entering the business with a brown shopping bag.

A few minutes later on the tape, officers observed the Bayles leaving the store with the same bag. An Ace employee followed the Bayles out of the store, asking to see his receipt, believing he stole products.

Bayles provided the employee with six items, adding up to $38.54, according to the report. After being asked to come back into the store, Bayles allegedly stated, “don’t touch me,” and walked away. Another Ace employee attempted to chase down Bayles.

Maricopa Police were able to locate and detain Bayles within the hour on West Edison Road. After he was read his Miranda warnings, Bayles allegedly admitted he did steal the items but gave them back. He claimed he lost his money and that was the reason he took the items.

Ched Bayles was booked into Pinal County Jail on suggested charges of shoplifting, as well as pre-existing charges of failure to appear and a probation warrant.

Bayles had been arrested previously in 2017 on similar shoplifting charges in addition to assault.

James Jamison (PCSO)

A Maricopa man was arrested Friday morning on suspicion of assault, disorderly conduct and possession of narcotics.

Maricopa Police were dispatched to a residence on West Tamara Lane, where reports came in of James Jamison, 51, striking another man with a 5-inch rebar rod. When officers arrived on the scene, Jamison had already fled on foot. Police made contact with Jamison’s girlfriend, who stated everything started because of an argument about Jamison allegedly using methamphetamine and heroin again.

According to the report, the woman stated Jamison kicked her in the face then went after one of her family members with the rebar, striking the side of the man’s ribcage. The brother of the man got involved and was able to hold back Jamison, giving them time to get the rebar away from him, according to the report. Jamison allegedly attacked the brother, resulting in facial scratch marks that MPD identified.

Officers reported later finding Jamison at the community pool, where they placed him under arrest. Officers searched Jamison and allegedly discovered heroin and a drug pipe in the pockets of his shorts.

James Jamison was booked and transported to Pinal County Jail.

Mathier Sipes (PCSO)

Mathieu Sipes, 21, was arrested in Maricopa after being questioned by police Saturday.

According to the Maricopa Police Department report, an officer saw a vehicle in the Planet Fitness parking lot with the driver’s door open and a woman “rummaging” through it. The officer then noticed a male sitting on the sidewalk next to the vehicle. After making contact with them, the officer asked if the two needed any assistance.

During the conversation, another “male subject approached the vehicle from behind the business.”

The officer asked for identification from all three people. Upon providing a driver’s license, the man who came from behind the building was identified as Sipes.

MPD requested a wants and warrants check on all three individuals, and an active warrant for Sipes was discovered. The warrant for failure to appear was originally issued on Aug. 26 from the Casa Grande Justice Court with the initial charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Police took Mathieu Sipes into custody reportedly without incident and transported him to Pinal County Jail.

Cynthia Rojo Torres (PCSO)

Cynthia Rojo Torres, 26, was arrested around noon Aug. 23 with recommended charges of aggravated domestic assault and domestic disorderly conduct.

MPD responded to a report of a physical altercation at a home on West Balsa Drive between Rojo Torres and another woman. According to the police report, during the altercation Rojo Torres threw the other woman to the floor and began kicking her in the face.

The woman was observed to have a bloody nose from the kicking as well as numerous scratches on her face. Upon the officers’ arrival, they reported that the blood appeared to be very fresh on her face.

After making contact with the women, Maricopa police were told Rojo Torres allegedly began choking the woman from behind during the altercation. The woman stated that “she almost lost consciousness.”

The woman was transported to the family advocacy center for evaluation of her injuries and photographs were taken for further review.

Rojo Torres was placed under arrest and transported to Pinal County Jail.

Talks about prosecution philosophy, plea deals, marijuana and the challenges of the office

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer talks about his time in office. Photo by Kyle Norby

Kent Volkmer, a Republican, was elected Pinal County Attorney in 2016 after several years in private practice. He sat down with InMaricopa to talk about criminal justice and some of the issues his office is tackling.

What is a day in the life of the county attorney?
A lot of meetings, as opposed to being in the courtroom every day. I would say any given day, probably three or four different meetings with various entities, various agencies. Typically, Monday is my most consistent day getting kind of caught up on stuff that happened on the weekend. On every Monday afternoon for about two hours, I meet with my chief of criminal, my chief deputy, my chief of staff as well as my head of civil, and we talk about kind of issues that are upcoming issues and preparing for what’s going on.

You rarely do appear in court. How many attorneys does your office have?
I believe we have 45 current attorneys.

In what circumstances do you go to court?
Honestly, there’s very, very few reasons. I actually am handling a trial coming up soon simply because it was a very unique situation. I felt comfortable handling the matter and didn’t want to put somebody else in that position just because of the unique circumstances surrounding it. Otherwise, it’s normally just saying, ‘Hi,’ to people. Actually, formally appearing on the record, I can’t tell the last time that happened.

Pinal County General Fund distribution

A giant chunk of the county budget (63 percent) goes to law enforcement, courts and prosecutions. What are your office’s costs?
Personnel. Ninety percent is just people.

What are your opportunities for keeping costs down?
There are some. Oh, yes, we absolutely do have grants. We have the JAG Byrne grant [Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant], which is federal prosecution grant. We have a number of other grants that come forward. Actually, in this current budget cycle here, I was able to request, and our Board of Supervisors gave me, a grant coordinator, so we’re actually going to have a dedicated person in our office that’s looking at those costs to see if there are any grants available. There are a number of federal grants. A lot of time when you do a pilot program or you do programs that other people aren’t doing, the government’s willing to give you those resources to get kick-started. That’s kind of how we kick-started our diversion program. The state gave us about $400,000 to really offset the costs to the taxpayer and then try to make the program sustainable.

How is the Diversion Program working?
I’m thrilled with it. About 2.5 percent of our felony cases are diverted and a bunch of our misdemeanor cases. So about 600, 650 cases in a given year are diverted. What that means is people that we identify as not being a danger to society but made a dumb decision, a poor decision, are given the opportunity to complete consequences, do a risk assessment, hopefully fix whatever caused them to make that bad decision in the first place, and then the charges are ultimately dismissed, so there’s no conviction on their record.

What are you enjoying most about your job so far?
That’s a good question. I think the ability that it gives me to really effect change in our community. There are a lot of different things I’ve been able to do, one of the things I’m very proud of is, under Arizona law when we’ve talked about marijuana specifically, prosecutors are given the opportunity to charge it either as a felony or as a misdemeanor. It’s sort of our decision. What I discovered is my office is making these decisions often without the input of law enforcement, without the input of the people who are on the ground interacting with these people. One of the things that we did is we flipped that and we allow the officer at the scene to make the initial decision and then we sort of review it on the back side. What we’ve discovered is that’s reduced about 750 felony charging of marijuana year-over-year. The other thing that does is significantly reduces the bookings at the jail, which is a huge cost savings to everyone. Just those types of things where we get to sit back and ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do? What’s the best thing for our community? What’s the safest thing we can do?’ This job gives me that opportunity. It’s a powerful position, but it’s also a humbling position and I love it.

Speaking of marijuana, if recreational marijuana were legalized in the state, how would that impact your office?
At the felony level, it would not have nearly the full impact. I have not had the opportunity to review all of the proposal, but I do know that they limit the amount of personal possession to one ounce, which I do like. Two and a half ounces is about a hundred joints. To say that’s personal possession has always kind of struck me as a little bit odd. So, they’ve reduced that number. There’s still going to be a gap between 18 and 21; I’m not sure how they want to treat that. There’s also still going to be above that threshold, how they’re going to handle it. Most of the time, when we’re prosecuting at the felony level, it’s going to be the sale amounts; it’s going to be the huge amounts. Depending on how that law is actually written, whether it’s passed, it’ll have some impact but not the impact it would have had, say, three or four years ago.

What is your philosophy when it comes to plea deals in cases of violent felonies?
Pleas are a necessary evil. About 98 percent of our cases resolve via plea. And that’s for a number of reasons, one of which is, frankly, the financial aspect of it. You mentioned most of our county budget goes to law enforcement. Our budget’s about $12 million of taxpayer dollars that we receive. If we were to try many more cases, that number would necessarily have to increase correspondingly. It’s not necessarily a dollar-for-dollar increase, but it would have to go up. So we do have to use those pleas. I’m much more comfortable using them in the non-violent cases. It’s the violent ones that are much more difficult, because part of my obligation is to make sure that I keep this community safe. I’m not going to say we don’t offer pleas, but typically on those murder cases, those real high-end cases, all of those pleas are normally staffed. That means the attorney assigned has reviewed it along with their supervisor and then usually my chief deputy and myself and the team to look at those and figure out what an appropriate resolution is.

In the violent cases, would it that state feels there’s a vulnerability in the case more than the cost?
It’s not a vulnerability in the case; it’s typically a vulnerability to the community. The law gives us the ability to put people away for a really long time. The issue is if someone has a violent propensity and they commit this offense, the law says, ‘Well, presumptive sentence, for example, is 10.5 years.’ And we say, ‘We’re going to give you 3.5 years.’ My concern is if that person gets out in 3.5 years and then commits another violent offense, how do I look that victim in the face and say, ‘Yeah, I know the law told me this is what I was supposed to do, but it was really expensive, so I put finances above your safety.’ Sometimes it does have to do with vulnerability of cases, but typically it’s what do we really need to do to make sure our community’s safe, and what does this person really need? Is this somebody who, again, maybe has a drug addiction, maybe has some violent tendencies? Is this somebody that we can put in prison and have them come out on probation to give what they need to return to our community, or is this somebody that we have to put away because we can trust them to follow our societal laws to keep us safe?

What have you accomplished so far and what would you like to accomplish before the end of this term?
Seems like I should know the answer to that question. I think the things that we’ve done have really been incremental. I don’t know that there’s been a lot of wide-sweeping, giant modifications that we’ve done. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve tried to streamline the process. I think my greatest accomplishment is, I believe, that my office is looking at each case as an individual case. We’re not looking at it as numbers. We’re not looking at it as paperwork, but these are humans that we’re trying to make an individualized decision on, to do what’s best not only for that person but for the community as a whole. That’s a mindset. It really is, because it’s easy to say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do, and we can just run through these cases very quickly.’ It takes more time, it takes more willpower, it takes more emotional investment to look at an individual case and say, ‘Yeah, I know that these are both burglaries, but we need to treat these different because of the impact on the community, because of the impact on the victim, because the actual sort of criminal mindset that’s involved.’ I think my office is doing an exceptional job of carrying out that mission.

Did you have anything that you’d specifically like to accomplish by the end of this term?
I don’t know that I do. Our job is to see justice done. It’s not to gain convictions. It’s not to have a trial rate or put so many people in prison or put so many people on probation. Our job is to do everything we can to keep this community safe. Our community, we’re safer than any of the other big communities. The likelihood of one of our residents being victimized is about half the rate it is if you live in Maricopa County. It 2.5 times more likely in Pima County to be victimized. We’re safer than Yavapai County and Prescott, we’re safer than Yuma, we’re safer than all the other counties. My job is to make sure we keep that train headed in the right direction.

What has been your biggest challenge as county attorney?
The biggest challenge, I think, is finding the balance between what the law says we should do and what individualized justice is and figuring out what is truly in the best interest of our community. I’ll give you a perfect example. If you have two prior felonies and you’re caught selling drugs, let’s say a very small amount in hand-to-hand sales. You had half a gram, which is half an M&M, and you sell half of that amount to your friend for just the amount you paid for it. That’s a Class 2 felony. Under our laws, if you have those two prior felonies you should be serving 15.75 years in prison. I think most people would say 15.75 years is more than necessary. It’s sort of that ‘The strictest justice is the greatest injustice.’ But the question is, how far do you pull that back? What’s the appropriate amount? What’s really fair and just under those circumstances? Because, again, if somebody’s harmed or that person gets high and drives in a vehicle and kills somebody, it’s really hard to look those victims in the eye and say, ‘Well, I’m sorry, I took a chance and I was wrong.’ Maybe letting that person on probation isn’t right, but there’s got to be a balance, and I’m really trying to figure out what that balance is, what the community wants. I’m a representative of the community; I’ve been elected by the community to represent the will of the community. We are a representative democracy; we are a republic. We are not mob rule. So there is this delicate balance of trying to figure out what is really the thing that we should be doing for our community. What should we be doing that is in the interest of all the residents that are here? And then you also have that second sort of balance. What are other counties doing? Because we have a few different cities now that are sharing borders. We have Apache Junction that is on both sides. We have Queen Creek that’s on us both sides. We have kind of Oracle/Oro Valley/Catalina area there. We also have Marana who’s now growing. Depending on what side of the street you’re on should not make a huge difference in what your consequences are. You shouldn’t get probation if you’re on one side and prison on the other. That becomes justice by geography. That’s just as fundamentally flawed.


This story appears in part in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Crystal Montijo (PCSO)

Maricopa Police pulled over Crystal Montijo, 33, who was driving a vehicle that was reported stolen. Police approached the vehicle just south of State Route 347 and Ferrell Road and made contact with “two female subjects” inside the vehicle.

Montijo was identified as the driver, placed under arrest and brought to Maricopa Police Station. During an interview with MPD, Montijo allegedly stated the stolen vehicle was actually borrowed from her friend’s boyfriend and claimed her friend gave her the keys to it the previous week. Montijo also stated her friend wanted the car back on a certain date, but she was unable to return it because she “got stranded.”

Although Montijo reportedly said she was planning on returning the vehicle when she returned to Arizona City, she had no contact information for her friend for police to confirm her story.

Back at the scene of the traffic stop, officers allegedly located two bags inside the vehicle containing methamphetamine, a broken pipe, cotton balls, and capped needles.

The officer interviewing Montijo at the station asked her who the bags belonged to, and she stated they were hers. The officer included in the police report that upon asking what was inside the bags, Montijo said, “You know what’s inside the bags.”

Not answering any more questions, Montijo was transported to the county jail on recommended charges of theft of means of transportation, possessions of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Guilty of murder in Careccia deaths

Jose Valenzuela is led away after sentencing Monday. Photo by Kyle Norby

 

Family and friends of Tina and Michael Careccia packed the pews of Judge Christopher O’Neil’s fourth-floor courtroom for the sentencing of Jose Valenzuela, who had pled guilty to double murder in their 2015 shooting deaths.

Many of them came forward to tell the judge how the murders had traumatized their lives and to ask him for the full penalty available.

In the end, O’Neil did so, calling the crime “an unspeakable evil.” He sentenced Valenzuela to the maximum allowed in the plea deal brokered by his attorneys and the special prosecutor – natural life for the first-degree murder of Tina Careccia and, consecutively, 25 years for the second-degree murder of Michael Careccia.

“That this defendant will not receive the sentence of death is a great and undeserved mercy,” O’Neil said.

Special Prosecutor Gary Husk said the plea agreement sufficiently punished Valenzuela and protected the community, “and I was fortunate to have the support of the family in making that decision.”

“Death penalty cases these days, unfortunately, can result in extensive delays. Even if you do get a conviction and a penalty of a death sentence imposed by the court, it can take decades, literally, before that is imposed,” Husk said. “I think the families in this particular case were committed to trying to bring some resolution to this.

“It has already been over four years to bring this case to this stage. We felt that it was appropriate to resolve it in this fashion and not run the risk of going to trial, and maybe not getting it and if you do get it run the risk of it being overturned 20 years later when you don’t have evidence and you don’t have witnesses any longer.”

Husk was appointed to prosecute the case by Navajo County after Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer recused his office from involvement. As a private attorney before being elected in 2016, Volkmer represented the legal rights of Valenzuela’s young son in the early days of the case.

Before the court proceedings Monday afternoon in Pinal County Superior Court, the judge had read every letter, PowerPoint and memorandum given to him from both sides of the case. Several of those speaking to the court said there was no leniency and no forgiveness for Valenzuela’s actions.

Valenzuela, too, read a brief statement, saying he was sorry for all the families, “including my own.”

Despite that, O’Neil said the court “does not find any believable remorse.”

Speaking earnestly and emotionally, O’Neil said while punishment should fit the crime, there is no punishment that could equal the loss of two lives.

“Human life is a sacred and priceless gift. It possesses a value that is beyond measure. It cannot be measured, not in dollars, not in years, not even in the stories and the tears of those left behind. To define and destroy something so precious and so irreplaceable as a human life and all that it entails, all of its value that transcends calculation without just cause, to rob the world of the inestimable value of a mother, father, sibling, child, aunt, uncle, friend is an unspeakable evil.” – Judge Christopher O’Neil

“She was my best friend,” Tina’s daughter Blake Perry told the court. “They never got to meet their first grandchild.”

“My life will truly never be the same,” said Luke Careccia, Michael’s son, who said his father “made me the man I am today.”

The court heard from siblings and other relatives. A social worker read a letter from Michael’s mother. Those who gave victim statements described the brutal ordeal of the past four years, the ongoing panic attacks and even post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Much of the family left the courtroom when defense attorney Bobbi Falduto made a case for mitigating factors. Falduto said Valenzuela asked her not to have his family members speak in court.

“He really was a good person,” Falduto said. “It wasn’t just their family. Mike, Tina and Jose, they were all good parents. This has impacted his family as well.”

The judge was not moved.

“The aggravating circumstances in this case so desperately outweigh any and all mitigation,” O’Neil said.

The Careccias died the night of Father’s Day 2015 or in the early morning after. Valenzuela had been at a party at the Careccia home that evening before returning to his parents’ home where he lived a couple blocks away on Papago Road. The Careccias later apparently drove to his residence.

Valenzuela claimed they all did drugs together, including methamphetamine. He and Michael Careccia got into an argument, and Valenzuela shot him. He then reportedly held down Tina Careccia and shot her as she pled for her life. Afterward, he borrowed a backhoe and buried the bodies in his backyard just steps from his door.

The Careccias were missing for 11 days as the residents of Hidden Valley and Maricopa searched the area. Pinal County Sheriff’s Office had Valenzuela as a person of interest and used his statements to eventually uncover the bodies early the morning of July 2.

“His actions were calculated, callous, deliberate and depraved; that he committed these murders in the presence of a child, and not only a child but his own son,” Judge O’Neil said. “That he lied, misled law enforcement officers, concealed and destroyed evidence, including the fact that this concealment further desecrated the very bodies of the lives he destroyed of two persons he claims to have called friends.”

Stay with InMaricopa for more coverage.

 

Veronica and Corey Masterson were indicted by a grand jury. PCSO photos

 

A pre-trial conference has been set for Veronica and Corey Masterson, a Maricopa couple accused of child abuse.

Friday, the couple, who are free on bonds of $50,000 each, appeared together in front of Judge Jason Holmberg. Though they have separate attorneys, only one attorney was in court to push the proceedings forward.

Veronica Masterson, 38, and Corey Masterson, 37, still have a hearing set in October, but their pre-trial conference was placed on Nov. 8.

They are accused of abusing their three children from November 2017 to November 2018 and were indicted on felony counts in December. In law enforcement records, the children accused the pair of hitting and kicking them, taping their mouths shut and depriving them of food and water.

The couple lost an infant child in 2013, and Veronica Masterson’s four oldest children perished in a fire last year in Illinois.

 

Kelli Shaver (PCSO)

A Maricopa woman was arrested in Rancho El Dorado around 5 p.m. Monday on suspicion of aggravated harassment.

A Maricopa Police officer made contact with Kelli Shaver, 52, on North Braden Drive after receiving a call about a disturbance. According to the report, Shaver explained to the officer she was arguing with her husband. She allegedly left numerous voicemails for a woman with whom Shaver believed her husband was having an affair. Shaver told police the woman already had a restraining order against her.

According to the officer’s report, Shaver was well aware of the restraining order, and said, “I went after her again because I feel like that’s the source of my threat even though I’ve been told not to, I know better.”

While speaking to Shaver, MPD received a call from the woman who had received Shaver’s voicemails. The woman described the several voicemails as “threatening,” with one of them beginning with Shaver identifying herself and telling the woman once she found out where she was, “you’re done.”

Shaver was arrested and booked for suspected charges of aggravated harassment. By law, an aggravation factor is added when a restraining order violation is involved.

Kenneth Ragan (PCSO)

A Maricopa man was arrested late Thursday night on suspicion of criminal damage, disorderly conduct, and domestic assault.

Police were called to a Senita residence around 12:30 a.m. A woman reported her husband, Kenneth Ragan, pushed her out of their bed onto the floor. She also claimed Kenneth created a hole in the wall after hitting it and blocked her from leaving the house with their child.

Ragan also threw her phone across the room, according to the police report. She was able to make it to her vehicle. Officers reported that while she was driving away, Kenneth “struck the hood of the vehicle causing damage.”

Maricopa Police subsequently booked Ragan in Pinal County Jail.

Yonatan Vasquez Vides (PCSO){

Yonatan Vasquez Vides, 25, was arrested Friday night after an altercation at McDonald’s was videoed.

A local woman who was at McDonald’s on John Wayne Parkway with her friends posted a video on a local Facebook group that allegedly showed Vasquez Vides trying to touch her friend. They reportedly didn’t know who he was. The woman began recording on her cellphone when another man, identified as Kieran Gallagher, attempted to get Vasquez Vides away from the table of girls.

The video supports the police report and shows a man purported to be Vasquez Vides begin to swing his fist at Gallagher. He allegedly hit Gallagher in the arm. After the initial contact, McDonald’s staff intervened. The suspect is then seen fleeing the scene through an exit door by the children’s play area. Police observed redness on Gallagher’s right forearm, but no further injuries.

According to the police report, Police were called and made contact with Vasquez Vides across the street at Fry’s Marketplace. Vasquez Vides requested to be seen by Maricopa Fire/Medical Department for a knee injury. While MFD Capt. Nathan Maxcy was evaluating the suspect’s knee, Vasquez Vides allegedly proceeded to kick him in the shin, leaving a red mark.

Vasquez Vides was placed under arrest and booked in Pinal County Jail on suspicion of aggravated assault on fire/EMT personnel and assault.

 

Ex-boyfriend of 'Real Housewives' star charged

Matthew Jordan (PCSO)

A man best known as the ex-boyfriend of a “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member was arrested early Saturday morning after an incident that took place at Denny’s.

Maricopa Police arrived on the scene at the parking lot, where they were told Matthew Jordan, 32, punched his recent girlfriend Valerie Bell in the face. Police observed redness, swelling and bruising on the side of Bell’s nose. Jordan had already left the scene before police arrived.

Officers then spoke with a restaurant employee, who was a witness to the incident. The server stated the whole ordeal occurred right in front of her, and was approached by Jordan in extremely close proximity after he allegedly hit Bell. She said she felt like she was about to be hit as well.

The server said Jordan “snatched” her pack of cigarettes, even the one in her mouth, and proceeded to try to throw them on the roof. After Jordan fled, the server noticed blood from Valerie’s face all over her and her dress.

Officers attempted to locate Jordan with no luck until hours later when Bell called MPD to report Jordan had come to her home and was walking west on Thornberry Lane in Glennwilde.

Officers located and arrested Jordan on suspicion of aggravated assault, theft and threatening/intimidating along with pre-existing warrants.

Jordan, who has previous arrests in Georgia, is the ex-boyfriend of 1993 Miss USA Kenya Moore, a cast member of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

He is described as 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. He remains behind bars on a $1,250 bond. He was arraigned Monday in Maricopa Municipal Court and faces a second arraignment Friday on new charges.

 

Erin Darr (PCSO)

The judge set a trial date for a Maricopa woman charged with two counts of child abuse.

Erin Darr, 36, was arrested last year after children made accusations of physical abuse against her, one of the most egregious described as forcing an 11-year-old child to eat her own vomit after she became sick on spoiled food. Darr initially was indicted in December on 10 counts of abuse.

She now faces two aggravated counts of abuse of a child then the victim was 15 or younger, making it fall under the Dangerous Crimes Against Children statute.

At a change-of-plea hearing Monday in Superior Court, defense attorney Terry Sutton told Judge Christopher O’Neil that Darr is prepared to go forward with a trial. That was set for Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. and scheduled for up to six days in front of a 12-member jury.

During her arrest, Maricopa Police described accusations of pulling out a child’s hair, injuring the child’s hands and feet and hitting the child with a phone, causing a bleeding wound she then attempted to fix with Super Glue. Exams also allegedly found prior injuries and medical issues that had not been treated by medical professionals.

The allegations came to light after a classmate noted a bruise on the child at school.

Darr has denied all accusations. She is free on a $50,000 bond.

In other court records, husband Chad Darr of North Dakota petitioned for legal separation with children this spring.

Maricopa Unified School District emailed Butterfield Elementary parents July 25 informing them the Maricopa Police Department inadvertently left narcotics at the elementary school after a July 3 K-9 unit exercise.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman released a follow-up statement:

“Maricopa Police officers informed an overnight security guard late Wednesday night that there was a concern regarding a training exercise that took place on July 3.  Thursday morning, the security guard alerted District officials who contacted the Police Department. The District immediately began working with the Maricopa Police Department to conduct a search. We asked students and staff to shelter in place. After interviewing teachers, officers determined a search was not necessary.

Our relationship with the Maricopa Police Department is important and the District will continue its partnership with all City agencies. However, this incident necessitates a reevaluation of our agreement to include modifications that ensure human error never puts any of our students or staff at risk.

Student and staff safety is always our first priority. We are very grateful that the students were never exposed to the package.”

“I can’t get into how it happened because the K-9 officer is currently under investigation,” MPD spokesman Ricardo Alvarado said. “From a department standpoint, we are going to evaluate our policies and procedures to make sure that they are up to standards with other agencies that have K-9 programs.”

Alvarado said MPD will not be training in any public locations for the time being.

“Any building or facility that the public may have access to, we’re going to suspend that until we have an opportunity to look at our policies and procedures,” Alvarado said.

Earlier today MUSD sent a notification to parents regarding an incident at Butterfield Elementary School. The email shed light on officials asking students and teachers to shelter in place as Maricopa Police Department searched for narcotics they left behind during a drill on July 3.

SEE UPDATE

See a copy of the email below and we will update when more information is available.

Dear MUSD Parents:

Maricopa Unified School District partners with Maricopa Police Department in a number of ways to keep our students safe.  Part of that relationship is the use of District facilities for training purposes. This morning, district officials were informed that during a July 3rd training exercise, Maricopa Police Department may have inadvertently left narcotics on the Butterfield Elementary School campus.

This morning, District officials advised Butterfield Elementary to have students and staff shelter in place while the Maricopa Police Department conducted a search of the school.   After interviewing teachers, it was determined a teacher found the package on July 15; not knowing what it was, the teacher discarded the package in the trash.  At no time were students ever exposed to the package.

As always, our first priority is student and staff safety. We are committed to transparency and collaboration with our families and, in our connected community, receiving factual information from the source is important. If you have any questions, please contact us at 520-568-5100.

Dr. Tracey Lopeman

Superintendent

Maricopa Unified School District