Law enforcement has reported a number of incidences which are described below. Anyone accused of a crime is presumed by law to be innocent.

CONCHO — Apache County Sheriff Joseph Dedman, Jr., in a press release dated Sept. 23, stated that an Apache County Special Crimes Enforcement Team Deputy noticed certain “factors of criminal activity” either before or after a traffic stop in Springerville near mile marker 392 on US 60 at around 11 a.m on Sept. 22.

In this case, after the traffic stop, the release stated that “Thor,” presumably a drug dog, alerted to the scent of marijuana, which can be grounds for probable cause to search a vehicle. 43 pounds of marijauna was found in the trunk of the car, and Michael Sandoval, 49 of Fresno, California was arrested. Sandoval was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, transporting for sale the same, and possessing drug paraphernalia which could be the bags the dope was found in.

The reason for the traffic stop isn’t mentioned, but authorities do not need probable cause to pull over a vehicle; rather the law says an officer or deputy only needs “reasonable suspicion” that some kind of offense is afoot, even a non-criminal equipment violation, in order to conduct a vehicle stop. That is often accomplished by an officer running a license plate from his or her in-vehicle computer which may identify the registered owner of the vehicle (whether the owner is the driver or not) as having a suspended drivers license, having no insurance on the vehicle, or having a restraining order in the system which hasn’t been served yet, among other things.

Dedman stated that “marijuana was legalized in small amounts, however, the transportation of large amounts of marijuana is still a FELONY.” (Caps are Dedman’s.)

Also in Concho near 49 County Road 5054 the same ACSO special crimes team arrested Chad Columbia, 38, on September 20. According to a press release from the Sheriff, the ACSO received an “anonymous tip” about a wanted fugitive. The alleged crime(s) that Columbia is allegedly a fugitive from or wanted for are not listed in the release. But Columbia is described therein as having “a history of violent tendencies and threatened violence on Law Enforcement.” He was reportedly apprehended while climbing out of a window of a residence there.

Nicole Foster, 28 and Tadd Kaczmarek, 35 “are facing charges of Hindering Prosecution,” stated the release. They may be suspected of housing Columbia, an activity that could bring such a charge.

HEBER-OVERGAARD — The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating a three vehicle crash on State Route 260 at mile marker 301 which resulted in the death of Michael Lemon, 67, of Payson. According to Bart Graves, Media Specialist for DPS in an email to the Independent, at about 8:45 a.m. on September 10, a Ford F-250 traveling westbound crossed the center line and stuck a Ford Sedan and a Jeep Cherokee, both traveling eastbound. Three persons, the driver of the Ford truck and the driver of the Jeep and a passenger in the Jeep were taken to a hospital in Flagstaff. Graves said that “Impairment is being investigated.”

It should be a simple matter for hospital staff or DPS personnel to have obtained a blood sample from the driver of the Ford F-250. The law says that if blood is taken by hospital staff for medical care purposes, staff must turn over part of it to troopers if requested. On the other hand, if there is no blood drawn for medical purposes, and patient doesn’t consent to a blood draw, a telephonic warrant can be obtained if a judge finds probable cause to issue one, and a blood sample seized. The identities of the others involved in the wreck besides the deceased have not been disclosed.

GLOBE—According to an email from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation of the murder of a Whiteriver man will be headed by that office’s “Southern District.” The body of Leo Harry White, 31, was found inside a vehicle. He had reportedly been shot “multiple times.” The vehicle with White in it was discovered along US 60 near mile marker 277, about 25 miles east of Globe on an unknown date. Law enforcement responded there based on a check welfare request. According to a Facebook post, White attended Kofa High School; there is a Kofa High School in Yuma. No further information is yet available.

According to media outlets, The Gila County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information about this incident to contact Detective Phil Smith at 928-425-4449, extension 4311.

Reach the reporter at rlynch@wmicentral.com

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