Year In Review -- What Shaped Our Community

A glance back as we step forward



Jan. 7 -- Convicted murderer to be sentenced

Convicted murderer Kevan Deon Kuhlman, after pleading guilty in November 2002 to a charge of second-degree murder in the October 2001 death of Susan Birchak, was scheduled for sentencing Jan. 31. Kuhlman faced a 16- to 22-year sentence.

Jan. 10 -- Book examines role of pioneer women

The Daughters of the Gila County Pioneers released a book compiling stories about the history of the Rim country, "A Cultural History of the Pioneer Women of Gila County and Their Descendants."

Jan. 14 -- High school teacher let go over sexually explicit play

High school English teacher, Dean Gundlach was let go for having students rehearse the play, "Lone Star" by James McLure, which contained obscene language, racial epithets and abusive sexual acts.

Jan. 17 -- School's code of conduct challenged

The grandparent of the Payson High School student, and a former educator, Ted Pettet Sr., successfully challenged the school's code of conduct for athletes and others involved in extracurricular activities, after his grandson, Waylon, was called to a hearing on athletic eligibility for allegedly drinking at a party in November. As a result of the challenge, the policy was to be rewritten.

Jan. 21 -- Rolled tanker closes Beeline for 9 hours

A rolled gas tanker closed Beeline Highway for nine hours. The tanker truck, owned by Beneto Inc. of Sacramento, Calif., and driven by Christopher Smith of Chandler, rolled when the driver possibly attempted to change lanes, according to Frank Valenzuela, Department of Public Safety spokesman. Smith suffered only minor injuries, but the truck was damaged and about 4,000 gallons of gasoline leaked onto the roadway, while about 3,000 gallons remained in the tanker.

Jan. 24 -- Loggers stranded by false promise

Loggers responding to calls to help clean up forests after the Rodeo-Chediski Fire -- "fall trees ... making $150-$375/day" -- discover false promises and ended up stranded in Rim country without work or funds to get home.

Jan. 28 -- Cops crack down at bus stops

The Payson Police Department began cracking down on bus stop violators. When a school bus begins flashing its red lights and puts out a stop sign, motorists approaching from both directions must stop. Police received an increasing number of reports from the school district that the red lights and stop signs on its buses are being ignored.

Jan. 31 -- Senior Center faces budget crunch

The Payson Senior Citizens Center, founded in 1985, may close its doors due to a vise-grip between rising needs and costs and stable to weakening government support. The center faced a $50,000 shortfall.


Feb. 11 -- Tonto bridge under attack ... again

Local officials tried to organize a grassroots campaign to deter possible raids on the Heritage Fund by the state Legislature. The Legislature wants to take $20 million from the Heritage Fund in 2003 and another $10 million in 2004, a move that would result in closing many, if not all, state parks, including Tonto Natural Bridge.

Feb. 11 -- Flores seeks dismissal in Roosen case

Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores has asked that the case against alleged murderer Paul Roosen be dismissed. Roosen was accused of killing Calista Wright and attempting to kill Garrett Wright on Feb. 11, 2000.

Flores said the reason she asked for the dismissal was "There is insufficient evidence to present to a third jury."

The two previous Roosen trials ended with hung juries.

Feb. 14 -- DPS completes Murphy report

After a nearly six-month investigation, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Special Investigations Unit returned its report to the Payson Police Department on an incident between Mayor Ken Murphy and former Fire Marshal Jack Babb that took place during Rodeo Weekend 2002. The mayor allegedly confronted the fire marshal over an attempt to enforce the capacity restriction at the Ox Bow Saloon. The level of the alleged confrontation was such that the police chief felt there was a possibility that assault charges could be filed against the mayor. The decision on charges, as in all cases, was placed in the hands of County Attorney Daisy Flores.

Feb.18 -- Council appoints 15 to select bond projects

The Payson Town Council appointed 15 residents to an Ad Hoc Capital Improvement Projects Committee. Asked to serve are: Bruce Whiting, who was named chairman, Louis Adams, Rich Crockett, Lucille DeSomma, Barbara Ganz, Cindy Kofile, Allen Lehman, Lisa Lyons, John A. Martin, Blair Meggitt, Judy Miller, Sarah J. Nelson, Cliff Potts, Steve Solcz and Lois Sobotka. The group's task is to hear departmental and public proposals for projects to be considered for funding through a bond issue.

Feb. 25 -- Pursuit leads to Round Valley home

Pursuit of a stolen vehicle led officers from the Department of Public Safety and the Gila County Sheriff's Office to a Round Valley home where the suspect barricaded himself inside. Sgt. Craig Smith went into the home to search for the suspect, who was arrested without incident when found hiding between the frame and mattress of a waterbed.

Feb. 28 -- Storms soak Rim country

The Rim country got a brief respite from the on-going drought when a series of storms dumps more than three times the 30-year average. More than 7 inches of rain fell during a month that usually sees close to 2 inches.


March 7 -- Casino begins dealing blackjack

Mazatzal Casino opened live blackjack tables in its former poker room. Six tables began operating between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. The new game resulted in additional training for 18 casino employees. "They could now go to 100 different places around the country to work," said Jim Gannarelli, chief executive officer and manager of the casino.

March 7 -- Violence escalating, police chief says

Police Chief Gordon Gartner says violence is escalating in drug related incidents; weapons are being used more and home invasions are up in numbers.

March 14 -- Committee considers 24 street projects

The town's Capital Improvement Project Committee considered 24 street projects in a September election bond proposal.

March 14 -- Town manager now in charge of hiring, firing

The town council reorganized the chain of command in the town staff. The town manager was put in charge of everyone, except the town attorney. Both the manager and the attorney are the only members of the town staff reporting directly to the town council.

March 21 -- America goes to war

The United States went to war with Iraq. Residents voiced their opinions on the declaration of war: "I think it's something that has to be done ..." Lois Lenocker; "I think it's necessary, they've walked on us enough ..." Pat Helmick; "We need to come together and not grow apart ... God wants us to come together instead of fighting ... It isn't right. Innocent people are being killed ..." Charlene Boyd.

March 21 -- Supervisors declare emergency in Tonto Basin

Gila County Supervisors declared a state of emergency in the Tonto Basin area where almost a foot of rain stranded residents and caused water damage to just about every home in the Roosevelt Estates subdivision.

March 25 -- Fire chief resigns

Payson Fire Chief John Ross resigned after five years with the town to take a job as assistant chief of the Contra Costa, Calif. Fire Protection District on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, with 409 fire fighters, 31 fire stations and a $74 million budget.

March 28 -- Mom, grandma share pride in military family

A Payson perspective on the war in Iraq: Dawn Hess and her mother, Cathie Roland, shared letters from Kuwait, where Dawn's daughter waited for orders to go into Iraq with the Army Medical Corps.


April 4 -- Pine Water asks ACC for rate increase

Pine Water Company asked the Arizona Corporation Commission for a rate increase, potentially raising rates by 95 cents per 1,000 gallons.

April 8 -- Arson on tribal land goes to FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into a vehicle fire on the Tonto Apache Reservation believed to be arson.

April 11 -- Body found off Granite Dells Road

Teen hikers found a body off Granite Dells Road. No identification was found on the body and no missing persons reports matched the description from the sheriff's office.

April 15 -- Woman shot by ex-husband in Star Valley

Manuel M. Diaz, 53, of Payson, was arrested on the charge of attempted murder of his ex-wife, Francisca Alatriz, 46, of Star Valley. Diaz reportedly fired shots at Alatriz's vehicle April 12 while it was at the intersection of Moonlight Drive and Highway 260 in Star Valley. Alatriz was hit twice in the chest by the gunfire.

April 18 -- Body identified as missing Macky's employee

Dental records and fingerprints enabled scientists at the Forensic Science Center in Tucson to identify a body found April 9 as James Munro, 42, of Payson.

April 22 -- Report paints parched picture

The town's annual water report painted a parched picture of Payson water supply. Consumption of water was up 9 percent, but some of the town's wells were not fully recharging due to the ongoing drought.

April 25 -- Hospital takes precautions against SARS

Concern with the threat of Sudden Acute Syndrome (SARS) resulted in special precautionary measures at Payson Regional Medical Center.

April 29 -- New fire station likely for bond election

The 15-member Capital Improvement Projects Committee considered recommending construction of a new fire station and a cover for the arena at the Payson Event Center.


May 2 -- Proposed audit of PD gets cool reception

An incident between the Payson Police Department, the Gila County Sheriff's office and the Department of Public Safety prompted Payson Town Councilor Robert Henley to propose an external audit of the police department. The incident involved allegations by Police Chief Gordon Gartner regarding a drug search warrant that led to an internal investigation of the sheriff's office. Gartner claims two Gila County Narcotics Task Force agents may have deliberately compromised service of the search warrant in a drug manufacturing case.

May 2 -- Impact of safe yield explored

The Payson Town Council struggled with perhaps the most important challenge it faces -- how to manage the town's water supply to ride out a drought that could go on for another decade or longer. The issue was the subject of a special meeting held to address information contained in the recently released 2003 Water Status Report that the town reached 99 percent of safe yield in 2002. Safe yield, the concept that the amount of water taken out of the ground be equal to or less than the amount put in, has for years been the guiding principle upon which the town's water policies are based.

May 6 -- Schums trade cool pines for Palm Springs

Former Mayor Ray Schum and wife Lee announced they were leaving Payson for Palm Springs. Schum said infirmities associated with age were the primary motivation behind the decision.

May 9 -- Judge OKs Pine water rate increase

Administrative Judge Dwight Nodes ruled that Pine Water Company's interim rate request met the established criteria. The new rate includes a surcharge mechanism based on the cost of trucking water to the community during the summer months.

May 13 -- Non-credit courses benefit seniors

Gila Community College President Barbara Ganz named Sarah Nelson director of outreach at the Payson campus. Nelson's primary responsibility will be to build a non-credit program for lifelong learning.

May 16 -- Community responds to library vandalism

Community members replaced a stone-cut bench broken by vandals at the new Payson Public Library with three benches, including one built by Payson High School sophomore Amanda Palandri in her woods class.

May 20 -- Mayor creating ‘hostility,' chief says

Mayor Ken Murphy's latest statements about the Payson Police Department prompted Police Chief Gordon Gartner to write a memo to Town Manager Fred Carpenter declaring a "hostile work environment" at town hall.

May 20 -- All survive two aircraft emergencies at aerofair

Two planes crashed on landing at the annual Payson Aerofair held Saturday, May 17. Pilots and passengers all escaped without serious injuries.

May 20 -- Campfires, smoking banned in forest

A combination of continuing drought and thousands of acres of dead trees from bark beetle infestation resulted in campfire and smoking restrictions in a large part of the Rim country's forests.

May 23 -- Governor declares bark beetle emergency

Gov. Janet Napolitano signed a proclamation Thursday declaring a state of emergency in Arizona as a result of the devastation caused by the growing pine bark beetle infestation and the simultaneous threat of fire in areas affected by the beetle.

May 27 -- Tyler speed limit controversy ends in compromise

After a handful of vocal residents urged the Payson Town Council to reconsider the 40 mph speed limit approved two weeks earlier for Tyler Parkway, the council did just that -- unanimously lowering the speed limit to 35 mph. The original speed limit on the parkway was 25 mph.

May 30 -- Pine goes to Stage 5 water measures

Pine Water Company imposed Stage 5 restrictions over the Memorial Day weekend when water storage levels plunged to 40 percent of capacity. The company began hauling extra water to Pine over the weekend.


June 6 -- Forests around Pine, Strawberry closed

Portions of the Tonto National Forest around Pine and Strawberry were closed due to lower than average winter precipitation, continuing drought and the thousands of acres of dead trees due to the bark beetle infestation.

June 13 -- Main Street manager moves on

Main Street Manager Karen Greenspoon accepted a position as an economic development specialist for a small town near Tucson. She left Payson June 27, noting that a small group of Main Street naysayers were allowed to impede the revitalization project far beyond their numbers.

"All one has to do is drive down Main Street to see her accomplishments," Town Councilor Dick Wolfe said.

June 13 -- Myers named PHS principal

Retired Frontier Elementary School Principal Sue Myers agreed to take the reins at Payson High School. She replaced Phil Gille who retired after 14 years as PHS principal -- the longest tenure ever for an administrator in the Payson Unified School District.

June 17 -- deMasi named new fire chief

After serving several weeks as interim fire chief following John Ross' resignation in March, Marty deMasi was officially named fire chief. He originally joined the Payson Fire Department in 1978 as a volunteer.

June 17 -- Group seeks to remind leaders of Christian values

An accountability group whose members include Payson Mayor Ken Murphy and Councilor Dick Reese crossed the line separating church and state in the eyes of some, including Councilor Dick Wolfe, who refused to join. Although the group claims to be "non-religious," its one-page mission statement makes 13 references to God, six to Jesus Christ, and quotes the Christian Bible.

June 20 -- New bark beetle hits Rim country

As the Picture Fire south of Payson doubled in size to 2,000 acres, University of Arizona Extension Agent Chris Jones announced that a new pest had moved into the drought-ravaged Rim country. The wooly oak aphid attacked and killed junipers and Emory oaks.


July 1 -- 2 dead in home invasion

Two people in Beaver Valley were killed following a home invasion. Anne Friesen, 73, and Mitchel Bell were killed at the Friesen home after a transient entered to borrow the phone.

July 1 -- Vice mayor files order of harassment against mayor

Payson Vice Mayor Barbara Brewer filed a court order prohibiting harassment by Mayor Ken Murphy. Brewer said she filed the petition after Murphy allegedly made profane phone call to her. Councilor Judy Buettner said she received a similar call from Murphy.

July 11 -- New program squeezes dollars out of dead trees

A new Gila County-approved program provided local residents with tax deductions for dead or dying ponderosa pines that can be turned into lumber products. Trees eligible for the program must be "saw-log sizes," according to Ron Lodge, the Payson resident who is coordinating the project.

July 11 -- Citizens ask mayor to quit

Two members of Citizens for Better Payson Government called for Mayor Ken Murphy's resignation at the regular council meeting. Gordon Metcalf and Sharon Jackson, both of whom were involved in an earlier effort to recall the mayor, asked the mayor to make good on his pledge to step down if he further embarrassed the town.

July 18 -- Teachers spared

Teachers who were told last March that their positions were being eliminated were offered employment by the Payson Unified School District.

"We actually lost 12 positions, but when all the resignations came in, all of them had a chance to come back," PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said.

July 18 -- Source of water may be hiding under Rim

There's a mother lode of water in Pine and Strawberry according to a new hydrogeologic study. Sponsored by the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District, the study details with a "high degree of certainty," where to find more than enough water to meet the summer demand of the two communities. The study delineated where to drill on private land with the best chance of tapping into the new water. The site is in the northwest corner of Strawberry.

July 22 -- Residents lobby board for Payson bypass

Residents met with the state transportation board in Payson to lobby for a bypass around town that would reduce traffic on Highway 87.

July 29 -- Human bones found in school crawlspace

A plumber looking for a place to run pipes under Julia Randall Elementary School stumbled upon human skeletal remains. The police called in local archaeologist Penny Minturn who theorized that they might be the ancient bones of white Europeans. Payson resident Duane Kaufman later confessed that, as a seventh-grader at JRE in 1963, he put the bones in there to scare girls.


Aug. 1 -- Forest reopens

Closures and campfire and smoking restrictions on Tonto National Forest lands within the Payson Ranger District were lifted. All areas of the district received at least an inch of rain and humidity levels were significantly higher than earlier in the summer.

Aug. 5 -- Boy blamed for cracked skull

A tourist visiting the Tonto Natural Bridge was airlifted to John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix after a rock thrown from above cracked her skull. The 2- to 3-inch rock came from the lookout point above the bridge where children were playing.

Aug. 15 -- Gas shortages

A gasoline pipeline between Tucson and Phoenix that was shut down caused shortages, price gouging and consumer irritation around the state, and Payson was no exception. The Safeway gas station on Highway 260 ran out of gas one afternoon and was forced to close until a shipment arrived. Texaco's prices rose 15 cents a gallon in one week.

Aug. 29 -- Monsoon storms stop traffic and flood roads

Nearly 1.5 inches of rain fell in Payson Tuesday and an additional 1.78 inches was recorded by the Payson Ranger Station Wednesday as monsoon storms fueled by extra moisture from tropical storm Ignacio engulfed Arizona.


Sept. 2 -- Johnson pleads guilty to murder

Charles Johnson, 54, entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Mitch Gingry, 36. Johnson allegedly stabbed Gingry to death in his Payson home and dumped his body off Highway 87 in May 2002. Judge Peter Cahill sentenced Johnson in October to 23 years in the department of corrections, without the possibility of parole.

Sept. 5 -- Babb resigns as fire marshal

Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb announced his resignation. Babb accepted a position with the Show Low fire department. Babb refused to elaborate on his reasons for leaving Payson but said it was best for his family.

Sept. 5 -- Sheriff's office looks for more victims

The Gila County Sheriff's Office continued to investigate the case of a former owner and operator of the Samarippas Center accused of sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled woman in his care.

Sept. 9 -- Mayor cleared of domestic violence charges

Mayor Ken Murphy was cleared of domestic violence charges brought against him. Judge Pro Tem John Perlman dismissed the charges stemming from a November 2002 incident involving then fiancée, Julie Barcom. After key witnesses recanted their initial statements to police, Perlman found no grounds to charge Murphy with any wrongdoing.

Sept. 12 -- Roosevelt residents left homeless after flooding rains

When more than 10 inches of rain fell over the Roosevelt Estates area in a matter of a few hours, residents were trapped in their homes by flood waters reaching 12 feet in some areas. Three homes were completely destroyed, and many were damaged. The Governor's office determined the damage did not meet the threshold to be declared a disaster area, which meant the flood victims would not receive any federal assistance.

Sept. 12 -- Public Safety bond initiative passes, others fail in special election

One bond initiative passed and two others went down in defeat during Payson's September 9 Special Election.

The public safety initiative that would fund a new computer system for the police and fire department, a remodel of the Main Street fire station and the construction of a third station on Tyler Parkway and Highway 260, passed by 42 votes.

The public works initiative that would fund street repair and construction, failed by 42 votes.

The Parks and Recreation initiative that included synthetic turf on two additional ballfields in Rumsey Park and a roof over the Payson Events Center, failed by more than 500 votes.

Sept. 16 -- Deming honored by Weather Service

Local meteorologist, Anna Mae Deming, was honored by the National Weather Service for 55 years of service. Deming has reported observations from her elaborate weather station on Main Street since June 1, 1948.

Sept. 16 -- Human skeletal remains found by campers

Campers stumbled upon human skeletal remains a mile east of Colcord Road.

The remains were later identified as those of an Avondale man who went missing in November. Evidence at the scene as well as a note left at the man's home point to a possible suicide, Sheriff's detectives said.

Sept. 19 -- Council approves funds to look for water

The town council approved spending $300,000 from the town's water fund to conduct a non-invasive hydrology study in the Diamond Rim area. Electromagnetic measurements are taken every few feet and the information is analyzed to see where drilling should occur.

Sept. 19 -- Officer uses Taser to subdue dangerous suspect

Trying to avoid using lethal force, a Payson police officer deployed his Taser to subdue an armed man who was mentally ill and under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Instantly compliant, the suspect was taken to jail without further incident.

Sept. 23 -- Museum will have Zane Grey cabin replica

The Zane Grey Cabin Foundation announced plans to erect a replica of the author's cabin near the Rim Country museum in Green Valley Park. Grey's cabin was burned down in the Dude Fire.

Sept. 23 -- Preschool closure leaves parents in the lurch

Frontier Preschool closed down after providing daycare to local children for 20 years. Owner Doris Frerichs tried to sell the preschool for eight months before deciding to close its doors. Many local parents were left without daycare and scrambled to find alternatives.

Sept. 26 -- Attorney wants gag order for defendant, judge says no

Attorney Harlan Green filed a gag order motion in the trial of a day care operator accused of sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled woman. The Roundup's attorneys filed a motion to intervene, asking the judge to reject the request. Judge Peter Cahill rejected attorney Harlan Green's gag order motion. Cahill opined that the Roundup's coverage was not impinging on the defendant's right to a fair trial.


Oct. 7 -- Multi-million dollar pot grove up in flames

A Game and Fish officer stumbled upon a marijuana grove 15 miles south of Young. Several law enforcement agencies joined forces and seized close to 20,000 marijuana plants worth between $23 and $46 million.

Although officers surveilled the grove from cliffs high above the canyon, the suspects tending the plants were gone when a sweep was made.

Most of the plants were bundled and transported by helicopter. Officers set the mound ablaze.

Oct. 7 -- Woman sexually assaulted at campground

A Valley woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by a member of the group she was camping with at the Houston Mesa Campground. Campers awoke to screaming. The victim said the suspect crawled into her tent and sexually assaulted her.

Oct. 14 -- Teen dies in fall off rim

A Valley teen camping on the Mogollon Rim died when he fell 300 feet. The teen was standing near the edge of the Rim off Forest Road 300, when he fell and suffered fatal head injuries.

Oct. 14 -- Mayor found guilty in second trial

Mayor Ken Murphy was found guilty of disorderly conduct in the incident at the Oxbow Saloon on Rodeo Weekend of 2002. The Mayor allegedly had a confrontation with former Fire Marshal Jack Babb when Babb enforced the capacity requirements.

Judge Pro Tem John Perlman sentenced Murphy to pay a $500 fine and to pay $500 worth of court costs.

Oct. 17 -- "Shakey" Joe Harless heads east

After a decade of bringing the Blues to Payson, June Bug Blues Festival Organizer, "Shakey" Joe Harless left Rim country for greener pastures.

Harless and his family bought a ranch in northern Arkansas where they will continue their microphone business and raise horses.

Oct. 28 -- 11-year-old boy admits to attempted armed robbery

An 11-year-old boy admitted to the attempted armed robbery of the Star Valley Circle K store. According to Gila County Sheriff's detectives, the boy was in possession of three stolen guns.

Oct. 31 -- Harry Potter protesters cause stir

Members of Victory Chapel protested the reading of a Harry Potter book at a Payson Public Library. Members of the church used bull horns shouting at children attending the reading, telling them they were going to hell.


Nov. 7 -- Payson's low-income apartment complex opens

The apartment complex on South McLane Road opened 40 units dedicated to residents who qualify. The complex was almost fully occupied by the time it officially opened.

Nov. 11 -- Spencer takes job in Tucson

Payson Regional Medical Center Administrator Missy Spencer resigned after a decade at the hospital. Spencer took at position as vice president of business development at Tucson Heart Hospital.

Nov. 18 -- Officer on DUI detail injured in alcohol-involved accident

A Payson police officer was injured and his patrol car destroyed while on DUI detail. A driver failed to yield at a stop sign and pulled out in front of Officer Chad Deschaaf. Deschaaf swerved to avoid the car and hit a retaining wall. The Department of Public Safety that investigated the accident believed alcohol was a factor.

Nov. 21 -- A portion of the Beeline named a scenic road

A 42-mile stretch of Highway 87 from milepost 204 to 246 was designated an Arizona scenic road. The designation was granted by the States Parkways and Historic and Scenic Roads Advisory Committee.

Nov. 21 -- CNA student saves man's life

A nursing student at Gila Community College was honored for using her newly learned CPR skills to save a man at Wal-Mart. The Mogollon Health Alliance, Payson Regional Medical Center and the fire department honored Delaine Brooks for her swift action when she performed CPR on a man who had collapsed in the store.

Nov. 21 -- Renzi takes first step towards Tonto Creek bridge

Congressman Rick Renzi announced that he secured $100,000 for an environmental assessment in preparation for the construction of a bridge across Tonto Creek. Several hundred people live across the creek from Punkin Center and two have died attempting to cross the creek during high water. The residents have requested a safe water crossing for 20 years and say they hope Renzi's actions will get them one.

Nov. 25 -- Tonto Apaches announce plans for new casino and hotel

The Tonto Apache Tribe unveiled plans for a new casino. The 45,000-square-foot casino will include a 40-guestroom hotel and 100 more slot machines and provide 50 new jobs. If the project moves as projected, it may be completed in 10 months.

Nov. 25 -- Local Fight Clubs spring up around Payson

Local teens discovered a new activity on weekend nights -- fight clubs. Large groups began gathering at Rumsey Park to watch boxing matches. Masks and gloves made for a more benign version of fight club.

The activity continued until the Payson police discovered it was a misdemeanor to have an organized boxing event without the proper permit. This forced them to disperse the gatherings and warn participants of the statute.


Dec. 2 -- Goats help reduce fire danger

Payson Ranger District announced plans to use goats to reduce fuel levels on 1,600 acres of forest land. Using goats costs about $173 an acre while other methods can cost up to $450 per acre.

Dec. 5 -- Loose dogs results in woman's death

A 78-year-old Payson woman was taken off life support and allowed to die after suffering head injuries when two loose dogs knocked her to the ground.

As Naomi Walton left her home, two young dogs jumped on her and knocked her to the cement sidewalk.

Walton was transported to the Valley with a fractured leg, but began having seizures and eventually went into a coma. After several weeks and no improvement, relatives decided to take Walton off life support.

Dec. 5 -- Man missing in Mazatzal wilderness

A Forest Lakes man went missing in the Mazatzal Wilderness. Ronald Hamby, 52, passed through Doll Baby Ranch on his way to Yuma with his two horses. When the horses returned without tack and Hamby, a concerned ranch caretaker called the Sheriff's office and a search effort began.

Hamby was found a week after the search began by people riding ATV's near Bloody Basin Road. Hamby was treated at a valley hospital for dehydration and starvation.

Dec. 12 -- Flu sweeps through Payson

The influenza virus swept through Rim country earlier and harder than previous years. Schools emptied and doctor's offices filled up with those suffering from the virus.

By mid-December, the area ran out of the vaccine. The alternatives for those who did not get a flu shot were either the live intranasal vaccine or taking anti-viral medications.

Dec. 13 -- Fugitive Iraqi President captured by U.S. forces

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a one-man hole in the ground beneath a ramshackle compound in Adwar Iraq. Residents of Rim country are proud to have many soldiers serving in the military who have been directly involved in, or supporting the war in Iraq.

Dec. 19 -- Mayor calls DUI patrols a ‘damper'on local nightlife

At a Corporate Strategic Plan meeting, Mayor Ken Murphy denounced the town police department's participation in DUI saturation details.

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