Strawberry Shooting Ruled Attempted Murder

Shooter's death was suicide, officials say

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Kevin Mahaffey of Strawberry, who is recovering from a bullet wound to the chest, said his friend Don Bearden shot him Jan. 24 "with the same emotion you would toss a beer bottle" during what investigators have ruled an attempted murder-suicide.

Bearden, a construction worker, spent Jan. 24 moving into the house he built on German Ranch Road in Strawberry -- a house he intended to share with Mahaffey's sister, Kelly. The Mahaffeys spent the day helping him move Kelly's belongings into the house.

Later that evening, however, Bearden picked up his father's .45 caliber gun and shot Kevin Charles Mahaffey in the chest, three inches above the left nipple.

The bullet blew away part of Mahaffey's lung and lodged in the chair he was sitting on, Gila County Sheriff's Detective George Ratliff said.

Based on fingerprint evidence on the gun, Ratliff believes Bearden then pointed the gun at his own chest and fired one shot into his heart, killing himself instantly.

The only fingerprints on the semi-automatic World War II gun were Bearden's, Ratliff said. His father used the gun in World War II and later gave it to Bearden, he said.

The two men, who were neighbors and worked together as construction workers, weren't arguing, and there was no other obvious cause for the shooting, Ratliff said.

"I can speculate but I cannot substantiate," Ratliff said. "We will never know the motive."

Mahaffey spent nearly two weeks recuperating from his injuries in John C. Lincoln Hospital before returning to his parent's home in Pine Feb. 7 to finish recovering.

Mahaffey said, "There was no emotion, I don't know what it was about."

Mahaffey was full of praise for all those who helped save his life.

"If Jerry Pratt did not do what he did, I would not be here," he said.

Pratt was the first to attempt to stop the massive bleeding from Mahaffey's chest. Mahaffey also credited Don Chester of the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, the helicopter crew and all of the staff at John C. Lincoln for his rapid recovery. He expects to be back at work in a couple of months.

The Pine-Strawberry Fire Department Board also recognized the rescue workers' quick efforts to save Mahaffey. They awarded commendations Wednesday night to paramedics Don Chester, Lynn Larned, Mella and Don Smith, and Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Don Finger.

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