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Photo by Greg Pyros  

Car buffs of all ages enjoy Run to the Pines, but some need a boost for a better view.

Meth dealers convicted

HOLBROOK—Local authorities interdicted another drug selling operation involving methamphetamine brought from the Valley and sold in Navajo and Apache counties.

Chad Webster, 35, who used to work in Show Low, was sentenced in the Navajo County Superior Court for his role in the meth-selling criminal enterprise.

The case is eerily similar to the well-publicized drug ring activity that resulted in the shooting death of Show Low Police Officer Darrin Reed in November, 2016. In that case, seven persons, mostly local residents, hooked-up with a meth dealer in the Valley and sold the drug around the Mountain, “from Concho to Lakeside,” said the prosecuting attorney at the time.

The Webster case involved an acquaintance of his, one Angel Omar Martinez-Sanchez, also 35, whom Webster met about 10 years ago when they both worked for an auto-salvage yard in Show Low. According to court records, Sanchez would bring from the Valley a staggering quantity of meth and Webster would sell it.

During Webster’s sentencing hearing, he told the judge that beginning in around 2017, Webster would sell four to eight ounces of meth every other day. The street value of an ounce of meth is estimated to be around $2,000. For his trouble, Webster would make up to $1,000 per week, sometimes more, he said.

Details about his apprehension are sketchy, probably deliberately so, but sometime around the Fourth of July holiday last year, Webster was sitting in a parked car which had been given to him by Sanchez. An officer pulled up saying something about a report of a suspicious vehicle and ultimately found an ounce of meth in Webster’s possession.

At the time, Webster was on probation for a 2015 charge of misconduct with a weapon out of Navajo County. He cut a deal with the state and on the drug charge, pleaded guilty to participating in a criminal syndicate, a Class 2 felony. On August 8, in the Navajo County Superior Court, Webster was sentenced to five years of intensive probation and 12 months in jail. If he violates his probation, he could go to prison for up to 12.5 years.

Martinez-Sanchez was ultimately charged with a number of felonies related to the drug ring and in July 2019, pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to sell drugs, also a Class 2 felony. Martinez-Sanchez didn’t get off lightly — he is serving an eight year prison sentence for his involvement.

Council awards $1.2 million contract for Billy Creek pedestrian bridge

PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Last November the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside tabled the Billy Creek pedestrian bridge agenda item at the request of Public Works Director Matt Patterson.

At the Sept. 19 council meeting the item was on the agenda again, this time moving forward. Rawlings Specialty Contracting, the only bid received in the amount of $1,266,485 was unanimously awarded the contract for the project which will begin once the Notice to Proceed is received.

Patterson requested the item be tabled last year because he learned that the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) could possibly make a HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) exchange for funding, allowing Pinetop-Lakeside to be in charge of the project instead of ADOT. ADOT approved the exchange and an invitation to bid was issued by the town on September 11.

The project actually began in 2012 when it was added to the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) due to the construction of Blue Ridge School District’s Porter Mountain Campus. There was concern for the safety of students who would be walking from the Porter Mountain Campus to White Mountain Boulevard over the narrow highway bridge which can barely accommodate two lanes of traffic.

Barbara Bruce / Barbara Bruce//The Independent  

Pedestrian safety on the narrow lane of the Billy Creek Bridge has been a community concern since the Blue Ridge District extended its campus to Porter Mountain Road. The Pinetop-Council has awarded the bid for construction for a separate pedestrian bridge.

Though the project was considered a priority for the community, extensive planning for this federally-funded project was required.

ADOT spent several years and several hundred thousand dollars doing environmental studies to protect Billy Creek, and engineering for the unique pedestrian structure.

Council actively discussed the merging of the HURF monies and moving forward with the Billy Creek project. ADOT distributed $18 million from the General Fund in August 2019 to cities and towns across the board, equating to $197,000 each in unanticipated funding.

Mayor Stephanie Irwin clarified the issue saying, “We cannot lose money. The $197,000 extra from HURF is not something we were counting on.”

“If we say no,” added Patterson, “we would have to pay back the cost of design. All work prior would have to be paid back, which is about $500,000 to $600,000.”

Irwin later clarified with the Independent that since this project has gone on for years and they have already spent a considerable amount of money on it, they must find it in the budget to complete it.

Preparation for the construction project was begun by the town late last year by moving utilities along the bridge area.

The pedestrian bridge will be built alongside the current highway bridge to allow safe passage for all pedestrians.

Patterson anticipates the project will be completed within 360 days.

Photos by Greg Pyros 

The 2019 Run to the Pines car show spread out under the wide blue sky with light winds on Saturday. Visitors for the weekend festivities enjoyed pleasant temperatures. 

County declares domestic violence month as grim statistics mount

APACHE & NAVAJO COUNTIES — It’s the most common violent crime. It’s the most dangerous call for police. And it has baffled the court system.

Welcome to the tragic, confusing, contradictory world of domestic violence – and the uneven effort of the courts and police to respond to a social scourge.

The Navajo County Board of Supervisors last week declared October Domestic Violence Month, with the Apache County boards of supervisors expected to follow suit.

The Navajo County proclamation called upon citizens to speak out against domestic violence and support local effort to assist victims of a crime that accounts for more assaults and murders than any other factor in the nation.

Some 21 percent of female high school students, 43 percent of women in college and one in three women in their lifetime suffer physical or sexual abuse from a spouse or dating partner, according to national statistics.

Often, bystanders blame the victim.

Moreover, even if police arrest the alleged abuser – the conviction rate remains shockingly low. Judges dismiss some 38 percent of cases, according to one statewide study.

In Navajo and Apache counties, the documented conviction rate is only 16 percent, according to a 2013 statewide tally, although the study could not track the outcomes of many cases. In Gila County, the conviction rate stood at about 22 percent, just above the statewide average.

The Navajo County resolution cited sobering statistics:

• Every day domestic violence hotlines nationally receive 20,000 calls

• Some 72 percent of all murder-suicides involve domestic violence.

• One in 15 children will suffer or witness domestic violence.

• Women account for 76 percent of the victims of domestic violence.

• Some 50 percent of youth who suffer violence and rape also report a suicide attempt.

A study by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission found domestic violence arrests in Navajo County increased 53 percent between 2000 and 2010, the highest rate of increase in the state.

Statewide, the arrest rate stood at 396 per 100,000 residents.

The Navajo County annual arrest rate ended up well behind the statewide average – 296 per 100,000 residents. That compared to 212 in 2000.

Apache County’s arrest rate was even lower – about 110 per 100,000. That compared to 91 per 100,000 in 2000.

Gila County’s rate was the highest in the region – 744 per 100,000, nearly twice the statewide average. The county’s rate actually declined slightly from the 760 reported in 2000.

The arrest rate doesn’t necessarily reflect the incidence of domestic violence in a given county. Domestic violence arrest policies vary widely among different cities and counties. In some departments, officers are urged to arrest both parties even if there’s no clear-cut evidence of violence when they arrive. In other departments, officers are trained to make an arrest only if there’s physical signs of violence, like bruising, blood, broken bones or a smashed up room.

Police statewide made 42,000 arrests in 2010 for domestic violence, according to the 2013 Arizona Criminal Justice Report. The number of arrests rose 18 percent between 2001 and 2010, although the rate per 100,000 residents dropped slightly.

Arrests for aggravated domestic violence doubled. If you control for the growth in population, the number of the most serious domestic violence cases rose 82 percent. The aggravated domestic violence arrest rate rose from 5 per 100,000 to 9 per 100,000 – a total of nearly 6,000.

Domestic violence accounts for a staggering 10-13 percent of all arrests, depending on the year and county. The rising arrest rate in most areas could reflect a greater willingness on the part of police to intervene when faced with domestic violence.

On the other hand, it could reflect a rise in the incidence of domestic violence.

And that could reflect the relatively low rate of conviction – or even prosecutions – when police file charges.

Up to 38 percent of domestic violence charges are ultimately dismissed by the court. Only about a third of those cases resulted in conviction – although the statewide study couldn’t determine the outcome of about 24 percent of all those cases. In some counties and years, the conviction rate dropped as low as 16 percent.

About 90 percent of those arrested for domestic violence were male.

Aggravated Domestic Violence Arrest rates/100,000 in 2010

Apache County 8.4

Gila County 26

Navajo County 14

Arizona 9

Domestic Violence Charge outcomes (2010)

Navajo County

All Convictions: 23 cases

Misdemeanor Convictions: 25 percent

Felony convictions: 15 percent

Missing disposition: 42 percent

Domestic Violence Charge outcomes (2010)

Apache County

All Convictions: 22 cases

Convictions: 16 percent

Misdemeanor convictions: 17 percent

Felony convictions: 13 percent

Missing dispositions: 22 percent

Domestic Violence Charge outcomes (2010) Statewide

All convictions: 95,894 cases

Convictions: 19 percent

Misdemeanor convictions: 20 percent

Felony convictions: 16 percent

Missing dispositions: 36 percent

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com