Thu, July 18

Suspect arrested in Cottonwood homicide

VVN/Angela DeWelles

Cotton-wood Police Chief Douglas Bartosh addresses the media after the arrest of Robert Drake, who is charged with killing Sandra Paul and attacking David Poe.

According to police, Robert Charles Drake, 51, a resident of the Verde Valley area was taken into custody north of McGuireville on March 30, as he attempted to flee. He has been charged with murder.

During a media conference, Cottonwood Police Chief Douglas Bartosh said an Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer arrested Drake without incident on Interstate 17 and Arizona 179.

Bartosh said that the DPS responded to the area after receiving a report from a motorist who sighted Drake hitchhiking at approximately 10:40 a.m.

Police said Drake was probably attempting to reach Flagstaff.

The bloody assault occurred on March 29 at the Mingus Point Apartments, 101 S. Main St., in Cottonwood just before 9 a.m.

Police and emergency crews responded to discover Sandra Paul, 45, of Cottonwood bleeding profusely near a parking lot, her throat cut.

David Poe, 46, also of Cottonwood, the second victim, was located in an upstairs apartment. Both victims appeared to have been attacked with a knife and were transported to Verde Valley Medical Center where Paul later died from her injuries.

Poe was released from the hospital Wednesday.

According to Bartosh, there were witness accounts and a statement from the surviving victim that offered information that led police to consider Drake a suspect in the crime, but a motive is still being investigated.

According to police, a search warrant was obtained for Drake's duffel bag, which he carried at the time of his arrest, but police have not yet released whether a murder weapon was discovered or the contents of the bag.

Police also have not yet disclosed a motive in the murder.

"It appears that there may have been some [drugs] involved," Bartosh said, and added that police think that the victims and Drake spent time together the night before and the morning of the attack.

After the assault, Drake allegedly fled the scene in a vehicle reportedly belonging to Paul, police say. It was discovered abandoned in Cornville the afternoon after of the attack.

The Cottonwood Police Department is leading the investigation and reports that investigators were led from Cottonwood to Cornville, where they learned that Drake had recently departed on foot. They hen tracked him to Rimrock.

A passing motorist reportedly called authorities after seeing Drake along the highway on Wednesday morning.

"We thank the community and local media for their assistance in finding Drake," Bartosh said.

Arizona DPS dispatched an officer to the area reported by the citizen.

The arresting DPS officer, John Paul Cartier, said, "He [Drake] provided me with false information at the first contact." He added that Drake eventually provided his real name and was taken into custody without incident.

Drake attended Mingus Union High School, class of 1971, and lived most of his life in the Verde Valley.

Acquaintances of Drake said they are shocked when they learned about what happened with him because he was genial and courteous.

According to court records, Drake has been charged in the past with possession of dangerous drugs, conspiracy, facilitation and transportation of dangerous drugs, dangerous drugs possession for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Official charges were announced March 31 and according to police, Drake faces one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of unlawful use of a means of transportation.

Drake was booked into Yavapai County Detention Facility in Camp Verde.

Bartosh said the police department was stretched thinly during the manhunt, but added that he was impressed with the cooperation from other law enforcement agencies as well as the public.

"It's really important to recognize that this is not a common occurrence for the city of Cottonwood," Bartosh said.

Staff reporter Angela DeWelles contributed to this story.