Deputies Searching For Lead In Murder

Victim's associate wanted for questioning


Gila County Sheriff's investigators are looking for 45-year-old David A. Stark, a business associate of a Paradise Valley man who was found dead of gunshot wounds last month north of Tonto Village.

Stark is considered an investigative lead in the death of 54-year-old Ronald Bianchi, who was killed by a gunshot to the heart, Gila County Det. George Ratliff said.

Stark is 5-feet 10-inches tall, weighs 220 pounds and has brown hair. The sheriff's department was unable to provide more information about the man, including where he lives.

The sheriff's department and the Gila County Attorney's Office have five investigators working on the case, said Chief Deputy Byron Mills of the Gila County Sheriff's Department. Investigators have gathered a lot of information about Bianchi, who was a columnist for the Phoenix Gazette in the early '80s and a former editor of Major League Baseball's Diamond Magazine, he said.

"We're working frantically on this day and night," Mills said. "But we have nothing yet to tell us who done it. We've looked everywhere for Stark who has information we need. Sometimes in these cases, you have so many people to look at. We suspect everybody at this point."

Bianchi talked to his wife, Merle, Sept. 7 from Los Angeles, Lt. Ron Warner of the Paradise Valley Police Department said.

The couple were getting divorced, the Arizona Republic reported this month, and Bianchi was having legal and financial difficulties.

Mrs. Bianchi expected her husband to return to Phoenix, but when he didn't, she filed a missing person report Sept. 10 with the Paradise Valley Police Department, Warner said.

Campers in the woods north of Tonto Village found Bianchi's body at 10 a.m. Sept. 18.

Investigators said at the time that he had been in the forest two or three days. Heavy rains washed away any footprints or tire tracks that might have been in the area.

The Gila County Sheriff's Department is asking for help with the investigation. Bianchi was 5-feet 8-inches tall, weighed 175 pounds and had graying hair. Anyone with information about where Bianchi and Stark were and what they were doing between Sept. 10 and Sept. 18, or where Stark is now can call Ratliff at the sheriff's office in Payson at 520-474-2208.

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