WHITE MOUNTAINS—The Independent has been covering a number of high interest criminal cases and below provides an update on some of them.
Kevin Eagar, 39 a chiropractor from Eagar, has faced 198 felony charges in connection with what the state believes to be series of actions by him to record women in various states of undress while using the restroom or changing room in his clinic. The case started in January 2019, and Eagar has been in the Apache County jail ever since on a $1 million dollar bond. He has also been charged with forgery by allegedly altering medical records, practicing medicine without a license by allegedly performing “treatments” not recognized by the Arizona Board of Chiropractors, according to a motion filed by the Apache County Attorney’s office in October, 2019. He has been charged with sexual assault, attempting to commit sexual and sexual abuse, the basis of those charges are still unknown but may have something to do with the above-mentioned “treatments.” Eagar agreed to an interim suspension of his chiropractor’s license pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Up to now, his defense counsel Adam K. Zickerman of The Zickerman Law Office, PLLS of Flagstaff has spent over a year urging that the prosecutor has not been forthcoming with required disclosures of evidence, the subject of many filings and hearings. Zickerman also has been trying to secure Eagar’s release, (the judge denied that) have the case moved out of Apache County (the judge denied that) but succeeded in getting a dozen or so charges dismissed because the charges contained errors of law. Prosecutors were granted leave to amend other charges containing “scrivener’s errors,” ruled the court.
In December 2020, visiting Judge Robert Higgins conducted a settlement conference and the parties announced that they had a resolution. Eagar agreed to plead guilty to certain charges, but the specific terms were unknown. And the terms of the agreement won’t be disclosed because Eagar hired a new lawyer, who tore up, figuratively speaking, the settlement agreement. Eagar’s new lawyer filed a notice of appearance on December 10; he is Michael S. Reeves, Attorney at Law from Phoenix and his firm’s web site says that Reeves has been practicing law in Arizona since 1983. On Jan. 7, 2021, at the time set for the change of plea Reeves told the court that Eagar has decided to reject the deal after all, and the matter will be set to trial.
The COVID pandemic has made it impossible for the court to assemble a group of potential jurors and there is about 50 jury trials backed up in that court, according to former pro tem Judge C. Allan Perkins at that January hearing. The Arizona Supreme Court has suspended the rule that sets time limits for accused persons to be tried, because of the pandemic. However, some of Eagar’s alleged victims have hired lawyers to look after their victims rights and one of the victims’ attorney argued to the judge that victims, not only defendants, have speedy trial rights, too. Because victim rights are now part of the Arizona Constitution, the supreme court doesn’t have the authority to change that. That issue however, appears to have gone nowhere.
Eagar is presumed by law to be innocent and his next court date is Feb. 23.
School bus driver Ernest R. Feight 56, of Snowflake was reportedly arrested in the parking lot of a grocery store in Payson on Oct. 1 after erratically driving off from the Circle K store in Star Valley where he allegedly stole alcohol and began drinking it in a school bus packed with students from the Snowflake-Taylor Unified School District. They were reportedly on the girls’ soccer team headed back from a game in Sedona which had started at 6 p.m. that evening. Feight was an employee of a company which provides school bus services to the district.
A Gila County grand jury indicted Feight for 22 counts of abuse of a child, Class 3 Felonies, probably the students, two counts of endangerment, Class 6 felonies, probably the coaches, one count of driving while impaired, its companion charge of, within two hours of driving having a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater, and one count of shoplifting. The DUI and shoplifting charges are Class 1 Misdemeanors. Feight was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI, which applies if a minor 15 years of age or younger was in the vehicle, but apparently that was not the case because the grand jury did not indict him for that.
Feight is out on a $25,000 bond. The court selected one of its court appointed lawyers, Michael Bernays of Phoenix as Feight’s counsel, and there was some talk in court about a plea offer. Prosecutors regularly offer plea agreements, but there is no law that says they have to. Typically, a plea offer is made with a deadline for acceptance. If not accepted by the time established, the matter is typically set to trial and no other plea offers are extended. In this case, the plea offer was set to expire on Dec. 21.
But Feight hired attorney Ronald Wood of Show Low to represent him, and Wood filed a substitution of counsel on Jan. 14, days before an upcoming court date set on Jan. 19. Wood moved to continue that setting because his client “is currently in rehab at (a facility) and is quarantined due to COVID-19,” stated Wood. That particular court date was to coordinate calendars in anticipation of setting a jury trial date which suggests the plea offer either expired or was rejected. In situations wherein a new attorney appears who doesn’t yet have the police reports and other disclosure, it is not uncommon for the prosecutor to extend the deadline under the circumstances. It is unknown if that happened, but on Tuesday, Feb. 16, a hearing was scheduled to set the trial. Court video wasn’t available and one division of the Gila County Superior Court issued a blanket reset of all its cases that day, possibly because of weather conditions, and Feight’s may have been one of them.
Feight is presumed by law to be innocent.
Bravo, of Whiteriver, age unknown, has been charged with two murders on the White Mountain Apache Tribe reservation, one was of Crystala Manzo whose body was discovered August 14 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; allegedly by Bravo.
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. 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. 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.
According to an affidavit filed with the court, an eyewitness has come 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 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” shot R.C. in the head and then shot Manzo where she was lying, killing them both. A later autopsy found a bullet and bullet fragments in the heads of the victims.
It is suspected that someone, maybe Bravo, found some lighter fluid to burn the place down. The BIA filed its complaint on Sept. 4, 2019, but a federal grand jury superseded that with an indictment on Sept. 30, alleging six counts: two (for each alleged victim) of murder “with malice aforethought,” two of assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of using a firearm. Bravo was arrested on Dec. 16. He was reportedly held in Gallup, New Mexico and taken to Flagstaff for his initial court proceedings. On Dec. 22, the federal magistrate there arraigned him (formally reading the charges and entering a plea of not guilty) and held a detention hearing to determine what to do with Bravo while awaiting trial.
At the hearing, the federal magistrate found that Bravo is a “flight risk” and a “danger to the community” and ordered him detained. A jury trial was originally set for Feb. 22, but nothing moves that fast in the federal system. After switching out federal public defenders, the jury trail was reset to April 6 in Phoenix, Judge Douglas L. Rayes to preside. Chances are, that date will also be moved further out.
Bravo is presumed by law to be innocent.