WHITE MOUNTAINS—The Independent has been following a number of criminal cases and provides an update on three of them, below. Anyone accused of a crime is presumed by law to be innocent unless or until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

• Sarah Mikeworth — elder abuse

VERNON — Sarah L. Mikeworth, 31, was arrested June 22, 2020 on suspicion of two counts each of abusing a vulnerable adult, aggravated assault and endangerment, all felonies, after an elderly woman was allegedly beaten by a caregiver at Bannon Springs Assisted Living on County Road 3398 a few days earlier, according to report by the Apache County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities allege that Mikeworth was that caregiver.

Paula Rivera, 87, suffered “severe bruising and discoloration of her left arm and hand,” according to authorities. The report stated that “She (Rivera) had sustained bruising to her upper left chest and the backs of her arms. The marks on the back of her arms resembled bruising from fingers.” Mikeworth at the time was reportedly the wife of the manager of the facility, Daniel Mikeworth, who has not been charged.

Rivera has since passed away.

The Apache County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute four of the six charges, and Mikeworth entered pleas of not guilty to one count of elder abuse, a Class 2 Felony, and one count of endangerment, a Class 3 Felony.

The curtain opened on this case when Adult Protective Services reported to ACSO that patient Rivera had been injured on June 17, at the facility. On June 22, deputies responded there and observed and photographed Rivera’s injuries. Because of her advanced age and mental state, Rivera was unable to relate anything but through a Spanish language interpreter, kept repeating the words, “the lady,” according to the report.

Deputies then spoke with a resident who knew something about it, but the patient told the deputies that the owner, identified as Timothy Tower, had told that patient “not to talk to the cops and that if he did, he was going to throw him out,” stated the report. The facility’s lawyer, during a telephonic interview with the Independent, denied any knowledge of that.

Deputies then spoke with another caregiver who “witnessed Sarah Mikeworth open Paula’s (Rivera’s) mouth by placing her hand on Paula’s cheeks and squeezing them together,” and the caregiver believed that “that was not right,” the report stated.

Deputies then proceeded to speak with manager Daniel Mikeworth, who said that around 4:30 in the morning of the incident he sat with Rivera and that his wife Sarah told him that she was trying to cut Rivers’s nails. Rivera allegedly scratched Sarah and then Rivera fell down on the way back to the patient’s room which caused the bruising to Rivera’s arms and chest.

Deputies finally spoke with suspect Sarah Mikeworth and showed her images of the elderly woman’s injuries. They said that Sarah then began to cry and stated that she didn’t do it on purpose, didn’t mean to harm Rivera, and “was told” that it was self-defense. Who told her that, or told her to say that (if anyone did) is unknown. Sarah said that she didn’t want people to think that Sarah is a “monster,” and if she could take it back, she would. Deputies promptly arrested her.

Shortly after Mikeworth’s arrest, the Independent spoke with Rivera’s daughter, Maria Garcia and her husband, Rivera’s son-in-law, Shahin Moosavi. They claim that Rivera was placed at Bannon a few years ago while it was owned by someone else. After the daughter was informed of the incident, they wanted to visit but they claim that they were not allowed to do that because of COVID-19 restrictions. It took the relatives about three weeks to move Rivera out of the facility and into a new one.

Maria and Shahin said that Rivera’s health deteriorated rapidly after the beating and she died in the second facility later on. She had been a “strong woman,” Moosavi said, and walked with a cane. But after the incident, Rivera seemed constantly scared, wouldn’t let the pair hold her hand, ate and drank very little. Her autopsy report obtained by the Independent does not list the trauma as the cause of death.

The case is now set for a jury trial. According to in-court statements over the months, the state offered to resolve the case for a prison term of five years, which Mikeworth rejected. In each of her monthly court appearances, Mikeworth is on time, dressed appropriately, respectful to the court and staff, attentive to her lawyer, and according to the ACSO’s report was remorseful about the event. There is no indication that she has any prior felony convictions. Because the charges are listed as “probation eligible,” even if she is found guilty at trial, she could avoid a prison sentence and maybe that is the defense strategy.

If that was the strategy, it may have to be revisited because it has since been discovered that a Sarah Mikeworth with same date of birth (month and year) was just charged last month in Navajo County Superior Court with four counts of driving under the influence with a child under 15 years of age, all Class 6 Felonies. Needless to say, if the defendants are indeed the same person, the new charges are a complicating factor all the way around. It is possible that the two prosecuting agencies may offer a “global” settlement, as it is called, but two felony charges against the same defendant allegedly involving an elderly victim and four felony charges allegedly involving child victims will not put the defendant in a very good light.

The jury trial date in Apache County is not yet listed. The next date for the Navajo County charges was on Wednesday, Oct. 27, but as of press time, there is yet any record available of what transpired.

• Jacob Ray Bravo — two murders

Jacob Ray Bravo, a Whiteriver man, has been charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona with two murders on the White Mountain Apache Tribe reservation, one was of Crystala Manzo whose body was discovered August 14, 2020 in a partially burned residence there. A second body, that of a male, was found in the home as well. He has been identified only as R.C. in court filings. They both had been shot in the head according to court records.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) filed its affidavit with the court in support of charges against Bravo, age unknown, for two counts of murder, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, and two counts of using a firearm to commit an act of violence under the U.S. criminal code. The case was filed in the Prescott branch of the federal court. At the time of the filing, Bravo was in custody at the McKinley County Adult Detention Center in Gallup, New Mexico for an unknown reason. He was transported to Flagstaff for initial proceedings in the murder cases.

According to court records, WMAT fire and police responded to an address in the 300 block of West Horseshoe Drive in Whiteriver to put out a fire on the morning of August 14, 2020. There they discovered two bodies in the kitchen area. “They were obviously deceased. Both victims were lying on their stomachs and were wrapped in a blue tarp,” stated the BIA agent who was called in to investigate. WMAT police recognized the male, R.C., from “previous encounters,” stated the report. In fact, records show that Bravo and R.C. had contact with the WMAT police two days before the murder—details of the prior contact are unknown. R.C. had been shot in the right side of the head; Ms. Manzo suffered “blunt force trauma” to her mouth, believed to have been caused by the butt of a rifle stock. She had been shot in the head as well.

Investigators found an empty box of .22 caliber long rifle ammunition, an empty .22 bullet casing, a live round and a plastic bottle of lighter fluid. A fire investigator concluded that the fire was set intentionally, stated the report. The bodies were removed by a “local mortuary company,” records stated.

According to the affidavit an eyewitness came forward, a person who was with Bravo and saw what happened. According to that witness, she went to Bravo’s home to give him a ride somewhere and returned him to the home. Once back there, it appeared that R.C. was in some kind of medical distress, having a seizure. This allegedly angered Bravo and he demanded to know what had happened to R.C. He then reportedly grabbed a rifle and smashed Manzo in the mouth with it. By that time, the witness said that R.C had begun to stand up when, “without saying a word” he allegedly shot R.C. in the head and then allegedly shot Manzo where she was lying, killing them both. Autopsies found a bullet and bullet fragments in the heads of the victims.

The witness, who said she “stood there in shock,” watched Bravo wrap the bodies in a tarp and drag them to the kitchen area. Bravo then told the witness to take him to the Apache Service Station to buy gasoline to torch the place, and that he would he cut the heads off the bodies. It turned out that the service station didn’t sell gas cans, and at that point, the witness found an excuse to leave and dropped Bravo back at the scene. Bravo reportedly warned the witness that if she said anything to anyone, the same thing would happen to her as what happened to R.C. and Manzo.

In the federal system, cases are set to trial right away and are periodically continued as the investigation proceeds. In this case, Bravo’s fifth trial setting is now scheduled for Dec. 7. The latest moves in the case, and the only substantive ones thus far, involve the government seeking a buccal swab of Bravo’s inner mouth cheek for “DNA comparisons,” according to its Oct. 20 motion.

It seems the defense has asked for the personnel file of one of the federal “employees” involved with the case, possibly an investigator, and under the rules of court, is entitled to it. The tactic is common in cases wherein say, an investigator, may have had problems with discipline during their tenure, especially for issues reflecting on the employee’s truthfulness or candor.

In this case the government told the court that it is getting ready to “disclosing adverse information, including information from the personnel file, of a federal employee witness.” Therefore, the government wants a “protective order” that once the information is disclosed, the defense must not share it with anyone other than those persons entitled to it, namely the defendant, his attorney and “any experts designated by the defense.” Copying or disseminating the documents are restricted, the information must be kept secure and stored with a copy of the protected order.

• Kyle Suon Chea — armed robbery

SHOW LOW — Kyle Suon Chea 19, of Show Low, has been charged in connection with an armed robbery which allegedly occurred in the 1300 block of Siesta Drive in Show Low, which left a male victim with a badly injured eye, according to court records.

In a Feb. 19, press release, the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office characterized the matter as “an ongoing sensitive investigation.” According to the press release, the robbery occurred on Feb. 13, but that appears to be the date that a NCSO deputy responded to a call for service at 1:05 in the morning. The direct complaint filed in the Show Low Justice Court alleges the crimes happened Feb. 12.

A Navajo County Grand Jury handed up its indictment against Chea on March 3 which trumped the direct complaint in justice court. The indictment charged two counts of armed robbery, Class 2 Felonies, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, trafficking in stolen property, all Class 3 Felonies and possession of dangerous drugs, a Class 4 Felony. But the prosecutors were not done with Chea in this on-going sensitive investigation; a grand jury handed up a new indictment in July alleging trafficking in stolen property, and two counts of aggravated assault. It is noteworthy that the state did not file to revoke Chea’s release conditions set on the March charges; rather the court ruled that the release conditions on the July charges to be the same as the March ones, that means Chea is still out on the $1,500 bond. That suggests that the new allegations were not committed while Chea was on release from the March charges; rather the grand jury found three different causes to indict related to that same incident.

The whole case started when an NCSO deputy responded to a home in Linden. The female caller said that a male was at the residence and was injured, that “his face was all bloody and he was blaming her for being jumped,” according to the deputy. The man seemed reluctant to get medical attention (he ended up getting stitches) because he “feared retaliation,” stated the deputy.

Another man, Samuel Mendoza, who turns 21 in December and apparently goes by “Stomps,” was indicted in March and in July for various, but fewer alleged crimes than Chea. Mendoza reportedly posted a bond of $1,000.

It appears the two men accused of the crime and the battered victim are acquainted with each other. Additionally, there was a third “unknown male subject who struck him and kicked (the victim,)” according to NCSO records. The male victim told the deputy that while he was being assaulted, one or more of the assailants said, “This is for (female name redacted.)” It turns out, the female referred to is the Linden woman who initiated the call to the sheriff’s office, possibly explaining why the victim said it was the woman’s fault.

The men allegedly took from the victim clothing, a cell phone, an iPad, speakers, cash, and drugs. Authorities swore out search warrants and confiscated the stolen cash, shoes, a machete, wallet, chains, a ring, brass knuckles, clothing and drugs. Where these items were found is not disclosed. Deputies allege that meth was found on the person of Chea.

Chea and Mendoza have court dates on two files each on Nov. 8.

Reach the reporter at rlynch@wmicentral.com

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