Police May Have Break In Murder Investigation

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Payson police arrested a man Thursday who may be able to provide some information about the March kidnapping and murder of 56-year-old Ira Eastman.

Timothy Wallis, 32, was arrested in Young on charges of being a prohibited possessor of a firearm -- the same firearm found in the East Verde river along side Eastman's body on March 18.

"We believe Mr. Wallis, at one time, was the possessor of the weapon recovered from the East Verde river," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said. "In a way, it ties to the homicide case. We can't say, at this point, that he possessed it at the time it ended up in the Verde -- just that our investigation revealed that, at one time, he possessed that weapon while he was a prohibited possessor. We are not implicating him in Mr. Eastman's death and we are still waiting on the physical evidence to show that the weapon was associated with the homicide."

Engler said Wallis can be charged with the felony after the fact because enough witnesses corroborated that he once owned the gun while he was prohibited from doing so.

"The actual charge is misconduct with weapons," Engler said. "We developed enough information to show that he had possessed the weapon back in August of 2003. As long as we can prove that in that period in time he possessed the weapon, we have probable cause for the charge."

Eastman was kidnapped from his home on Luke Drive March 15, while his wife, Peggy Tepolt, was at the gym. Police said there were signs of a struggle in the home, but no items were taken.

On March 17, the Gila County Sheriff's Office received a call from a woman stating that her 12-year-old son found a gun near the swimming hole at the river.

GCSO Det. George Ratliff said the boy became frightened and threw the gun into the middle of the river. Divers from the sheriff's office went to the spot where the boy said he threw the gun, near the first crossing off Houston Mesa Road.

"When the dive team went into the water, on their very first pass, they found the body," Ratliff said. "We contacted the Payson Police Department."

Engler said the autopsy revealed that Eastman died of a single shot to the head.

Since then, police and the sheriff's office have been following up on what Engler called "substantial" leads.

The arrest of Wallis is the first related to the homicide, but Engler said the connection, so far, is peripheral.

Wallis had been associated at different times with Eastman's stepsons, Reuben and Brian Wallace, who now goes by the name Torsten Tepolt.

Detectives are interviewing Wallis and continuing to follow up on numerous leads in the case, but Engler said no other arrests are imminent.

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