SHOW LOW — The Independent has been following a number of high interest criminal cases and below is an update on three of them. Anyone accused of a crime is presumed by law to be innocent.

Kaleb Gardner Smith

Kaleb Gardner Smith, 18, a Navajo County man has been indicted by a grand jury for one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon a Class 3 Felony after allegedly shooting a 42-year-old man, whose name and relationship to Smith are unknown. According to a press release from Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse, on Nov. 8, 2021, at approximately 9:18 a.m., the victim called the NCSO emergency line and reported he had been shot while on Old Woodruff Road. The victim was transported to a medical facility with non life-threatening injuries.

The case is still relatively new and not much of substance has happened, with the exception of Smith being released to pre-trial services pending the conclusion of the case. Pre-trial services is an arm of a county’s probation department and exists so that defendants who are not considered a huge risk to public safety, or a flight risk, are allowed to leave the county jail under monitoring and conditions, which that department oversees.

A release hearing took place on Dec. 17 and the prosecutor avowed to the court that the alleged victim had been consulted per the broad victim rights statutes, court rules and an amendment to the Arizona Constitution. According to court records, it is not known what the victim’s views on the release were, but considering the seriousness of the charge, it is unlikely that the court would release Smith if the victim opposed it.

A report from pretrial services lists no prior felony charges or conviction for Smith, but he has a misdemeanor conviction in 2020 out of the Holbrook Justice Court for a minor with alcohol charge. Release conditions for Smith require that he have no contact with the victim and he is prohibited from possessing firearms. If it is proved that Smith violated any of the terms of release, he will be re-arrested and held until the case is resolved.

Hannah Montez Dike

PHOENIX — Hannah Montez Dike, 26, a Show Low High School graduate and former staffer at the both the White Mountain Independent and Show Low T.V. has been charged with killing 31-year-old Navy Veteran Robert “Bobby” Kramer, a married father of one, in a head on vehicle crash on Feb. 10, 2021 in the valley.

She was originally charged with manslaughter, a Class 2 Felony for “recklessly causing the death of a person, but a grand jury later indicted her for second degree murder, a Class 1 Felony, for causing the death of someone while acting with “extreme indifference to human life.” That charge is more serious than the Class 2 Felony manslaughter charge with which the state originally charged her.

The parties have not come to an agreement and Dike’s jury trial is set for April 5. There is a plea offer on the table, the parties have told the court, but the details are not yet known. However, if she intends to accept the offer, she must do so by Feb. 18 or the offer will no longer be available and if she is found guilty, the range of prison can be from 10 to 25 years, according to Arizona sentencing statutes.

Thus far, the parties have been litigating the state’s request for the court to ”reconsider” Dike’s release conditions. She posted a $100,000 bond and is currently not in custody. Specifically, the prosecutor asked the court to add the condition that she wear a device called an alco-sensor on a wrist or ankle so that the pre-trial service monitors could tell if she is complying with the court’s order to not consume alcohol. After a hearing, the court denied the request citing the fact that a reconsideration or amendment of release conditions must follow a change in circumstances, and there hasn’t been any since Dike’s release.

The Department of Public Safety stated in a news release that DPS troopers were alerted to a 2007 Infinity silver sedan with one headlight driving the wrong way on the I-10 freeway near the Chandler Blvd. off-ramp at 12:31 that morning. Around two minutes later, troopers were notified of a crash which investigators say was caused by Dike driving west-bound in the east-bound lanes of that freeway and collided with the 2019 Nissan Altima that Kramer was driving. He died at the scene.

Kramer was the father of a young son, Arthur, and wife Lindsey, reported AZcentral on April 26, 2021.

Kramer was also a beloved bartender in a Chandler eatery and president of the U.S. Bartenders Guild, Phoenix chapter. Dike was injured in the crash and spent the next couple of months in medical facilities. When she was taken to a trauma center on the early morning of the crash, investigators obtained a sample of her blood which was analyzed and allegedly found to contain a 0.27 percent alcohol level, more that three times the presumed impairment level of 0.08 percent.

In an illustration of how alleged criminal conduct can result in adverse impacts besides incarceration, Kramer’s young son and widow have sued for money damages in civil court. It might be noted that anyone who pleads guilty to a crime in criminal court in Arizona can not deny it in civil court; the only issue for the jury in such a case is the amount of damages caused by the conduct.

The suit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court seeks damages from Montez, the owner of the Infinity car she was allegedly driving, three bars and the holders of the liquor licenses for those bars. The establishments were sued under a theory of “dram shop” liability, essentially alleging that Dike was over-served alcohol at the establishments during the evening before the crash. A dram is an old time unit of measure, like the contents of a shot glass. The measure was created by Greeks and used in old England; patrons could buy a dram of liquor at a dram shop, an establishment later called a “pub,” for public house.

In any event, the amount of damages sought is not specified; rather the parties may negotiate a settlement or a jury could arrive at a figure. One thing is clear: the plaintiffs declared that the case was not subject to mandatory arbitration; that indicates that the amount in question will exceed $50,000.

Thomas Michael Burress

Burress, a former Navajo County juvenile probation officer is facing three felony charges for sexual conduct with an in-custody minor, which conduct allegedly occurred while the 15-year-old female juvenile alleged victim had been placed into custody at a county facility called The Respite Center, probably a new, softer phrase for a juvenile detention center.

Thomas Michael Burress 30, of Winslow is himself now in the Navajo County Jail on a bond, reportedly in the amount of $250,000 cash. On Jan. 31, he pleaded guilty to all three charges and is expected to be sentenced on March 27 in the Navajo County Superior Court.

Navajo County Sheriff’s deputies along with the region’s Major Crimes Apprehension Team arrested Burress on Dec. 8. Apparently jail personnel reported to the sheriff’s office inappropriate behavior between Burress and the juvenile which was captured by surveillance cameras at the facility on Sept. 28. The plea agreement lists three specific sexual acts Burress engaged in with the minor inmate.

Arizona law prohibits an employee of any juvenile probation department from “intentionally or knowingly engaging in any act of a sexual nature with an offender who is in custody of….a juvenile detention facility...” If the inmate is between 15 and 17 years old, the offense is a Class 3 Felony. The sentence for a general Class 3 Felony is between two and 8.75 years in prison. In Burress’ plea agreement he faces that range, but probation is available; that means that the judge may place him on probation (for up to the rest of his life) and as part of probation, commit him to one year in the county jail, less any jail time that he has already served since his arrest in December.

But speaking of other consequences of criminal behavior, his wife of five years has filed for divorce and seeks sole custody of their child. They were married in Flagstaff in 2016. She is a teacher according to court records; she lists Burress’ occupation as a sales associate.

Reach the reporter at rlynch@wmicentral.com

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