2013 Verde Valley police and fire log was deadly

VERDE VALLEY -- In the Verde Valley, 2013 began with three outstanding murder charges in the courts but the year ended with the grisliest case so far, the dismemberment slaying of a tribal member on the Yavapai-Apache reservation.

Three bookkeepers went to court, alleged to have siphoned off customers payments. Another woman, Kala Pearson, who held the reins of struggling Beaver Creek nonprofits, walked away with a sentence of probation after juggling funds among them and herself.

A helicopter fire-bomber was sentenced, but the case of a Cottonwood city offices fire-bombing is unsolved.

Crashes in Camp Verde and Prescott killed four Verde Valley people, just days apart.

A transient died after lighting a fire to stay warm in a medical office storage room. He was overwhelmed by smoke.

MURDERS AND SHOOTINGS

Jack Rider was Paulden resident during the summer of 2007 when he is said to have been swimming with Krystil Wilson of Bullhead City in the Verde River. Rider was swimming with her near Beasley Flats downstream from Camp Verde. He told emergency crews that he rescued the woman after finding her floating face down in the water. Late in 2012, detectives came upon information and evidence that indicated the woman had been strangled. Rider, now married with a child near Pensacola, Fla., was arrested by U.S. Marshals. He had been training as a detention office.

The well-reported case of Joseph Montiel continues to plod through the court processes. Montiel was arrested in the fall of 2012 after a lengthy search discovered that the body of his estranged wife, 29-year-old Jamie Treakle, had been dumped near an old mine shaft in the Black Hills above the county court building. The coroner says the woman had been stabbed to death. The Yavapai County Attorney is seeking the death penalty for Montiel, who earlier was sentenced to prison for assaulting the woman with a pool cue while on probation for another assault.

It was a search party organized by the woman's father who discovered Montiel's stuck and abandoned S-10 pickup. Her body was found nearby.

Because of the lengthy process required of a death penalty case, it now it appears that the case will not go to trial until early in 2015.

Robert Reed was a suspect from early 2009 investigation into the disappearance of Krystal Forest, the Cottonwood woman, who had also lived in Cornville, and Lake Montezuma. She was with Reed before moving to Texas with her dogs. She never arrived in Texas, though someone dropped her U-Haul trailer in Las Cruces, N.M., a couple of days after she left.

Four and a half years later, in September, Robert Reed, already imprisoned for arson and endangerment was served a 26-count indictment that included the second-degree murder of Forest, and several counts involving fraudulent schemes, vehicle theft, identity theft, forgery, and perjury.

A Stephen King-type murder played out in mid-June while five men were drinking and playing cards on Evans Street on the Camp Verde reservation of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. The case unfolded after tribal member Dwayne Beauty was reported missing.

The federal complaint alleges that Mario Chagolla Jr. knocked down Dwayne Beauty, stabbed him to death and then dismembered the body with a power saw. He is said to have taken body parts to his father's property and then burned the teeth and other parts that could identify the dead man. Chagolla had signaled to another card player that the "mark" was going down allegedly for killing Kathy Englund, a friend's girlfriend. He said he was paid $750 to do the killing. He is alleged to have held up the dead man's head yelling, "That's what you get for messing with somebody else's girl."

Just two days before Christmas, a Cornville man, Clifford Katz, 54, went on a rampage and shot up a neighboring home that he claimed he had just bought, endangering the occupants, a couple aged 59 and 60. Katz is charged with attempted murder and six counts of firing into a structure.

No one was killed in a shootout on 18th Street in Cottonwood, where two gunman attempted to steal the safe of a man reported to be growing 'medical marijuana.' Two were arrested but two more were captured later. All have pending trial dates.

THEFT AND FRAUD

In January, charges were leveled against Cheryl Oliver, 48, who was a bookkeeper for Alcantara Vineyards, now accused of skimming cash from deposits.

Over a four-year period that Oliver worked at the winery, an accountant and attorney determined that on 387 occasions she made deposits, the cash was not deposited. Now living in Sierra Vista, Oliver's case is still not settled.

Linda Summers was arrested on charges of skimming cash at Mount Hope Foods

Summers, 60 at the time, was arrested on 44 counts of forgery, one count of felony theft, and fraudulent schemes. She was discovered to have used her position as a bookkeeper and accountant at Mount Hope Foods to enrich herself.

"It appears as if Ms. Summers has been defrauding her employer since about 2008," investigators said.

According to Cottonwood Police, Summers had used her position in the company to write checks reimbursing herself. She had been employed as a bookkeeper by the natural food store for 12 years.

Summers accepted a plea agreement for forgery and was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, seven years probation and ordered to pay nearly $50,000 restitution.

Natalie Olsen, 30, the mother of two children ages 12 and 8, worked for two optometrists offices and, reportedly, fed a prescription drug habit by abusing credit card numbers she accepted to pay eye doctor bills. There were 16 victims.

Judge Michael Bluff said "I don't find any mitigating circumstances," said the judge. "The aggravating factors far outweigh any mitigation in this case." The woman was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison.

FIREBOMBS

The mug shot of Richard Butts, now in prison, is much more solemn than his youthful appearance when arrested for DUI near Mayer for firebombing the Verde Valley Medical Center Angel-3 Medical helicopter.

July 9, Butts was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison in a plea agreement that combined the separate offenses.

At the time, the court was told that Butts self-medicated with alcohol to tame mental issues that caused auditory hallucinations.

He was originally arrested in December of 2012 for throwing a Molotov-cocktail-like gasoline bottle at the emergency craft while walking to a wash where he reportedly slept. The court never heard an explanation for the crime.

Oddly, more Molotov-cocktail fire bombs were thrown at three buildings in Cottonwood in early April. Despite a $10,000 reward for information, the case remains an open and unsolved.

The former Sunwest Bank on SR 89a, the Spirit Gas station at Main and 10th, and finally the Cottonwood Human Resources and Finance building, where a small fire was extinguished by the Cottonwood Fire Department.

The flammables were thrown though the front window of the city building, badly burning Administrative Manager Rudy Rodriguez' office and causing serious smoke damage throughout the building originally estimated in excess of $300,000. The rehabilitation forced the department to move for months into the meeting room of the Public Safety building.

FATAL FIRES

Three people were killed in a house fire in Verde Village in late February. Just before one a.m., fire crews were dispatched to 2340 Warriors Run.

Crews found, not one but two mobile homes on fire. One was fully engulfed in smoke and flames.

The scale of the incident eventually involved for fire companies and the ambulance crew. Firefighters took a defensive response to prevent the fire from spreading.

One mobile home was vacant at the time of the fire. It was discovered that there were two bodies inside the second mobile. A third body was found later.

Dwight D'Evelyn of the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office says two of the deceased included a brother and sister in their 70s. The third person was around 50.

One person died in a fire in a storage room at Mountain Terrace Profession Offices on Candy Lane in February. The utility room, estimated at 6 by 12 feet in size, was attached to the building housing the Cherry Family Practice, which was forced to relocate after the blaze.

Fire crews were called to the blaze on a 911 report that flames were coming from the roof of the building, just before 5 a.m. Commander Gary Eisenga says it was an hour after the call was reported and the fire was already extinguished that investigators found the body lying on the floor under the debris. The man was eventually identified as a transient who started the fire to keep warm.

CRASHES KILL FOUR FROM VERDE

A Nov. 2 crash near the Wendy's/Chevron in Camp Verde claimed two lives. A white Toyota sedan crashed into the rear end of a semi-tractor trailer rig on State Route 260, instantly killing Michael Zunitch, 37, who was driving the Toyota. Zunitch, of Clarkdale, and passenger Daniel (Bugsy) Thornberg of Paulden were long-time friends.

On the night of the accident, Thornburg was flown to John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix with life-threatening injuries. Thornburg, 36, passed away on Nov. 20.

Investigators determined that there did not seem to be any impairment of either driver.

A Cottonwood man, Anthony Westcott, died Nov.3 at Good Samaritan hospital in Phoenix. Westcott, 66, was a passenger in an SUV that, witnesses say, crossed the centerline on Iron Springs Road and struck a pickup head-on. He was taken to the Phoenix hospital in critical condition. The driver of the Chevy Suburban, long time friend David Crawford died at the scene of the accident Oct. 30. Crawford, 61, was from Paulden.

There was evidence that Crawford may have been driving under the influence, according to Sheriff's Office spokesman, Dwight D'Evelyn. Investigating deputies discovered open containers of alcohol in the SUV.

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