Search Continues For Clues In Death Of Payson Man

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Payson police detectives searched the muddy bottom of the East Verde River Monday hoping to find more clues in the March kidnap and murder of 54-year-old Ira Eastman of Payson.

Yet, according to Payson Police Det. Matt Van Camp, the search yielded no new evidence to help solve the case.

"Unfortunately, we didn't find any items of evidentiary value that would assist us in the case," Van Camp said. "But, we felt the river needed to be searched thoroughly."

Eastman's body was found at the bottom of a swimming hole near the first crossing off Houston Mesa Road along with a .22 caliber handgun. An autopsy report concluded Eastman had died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

The police contracted the services of Roy Haught to drain water from that area of the river so officers could comb through the mud.

Van Camp said he could not elaborate, but they were looking for certain items of clothing belonging to Eastman.

The detective said Eastman was naked when they found his body and officers found some of his clothing near the river.

Eastman disappeared from his home on Luke Drive the morning of March 15. His wife, Peggy Tepolt, returned from the gym to find her husband gone and signs of a struggle. That evening, Payson Police Lt. Don Engler held a press conference announcing that Eastman's disappearance was suspicious.

His body was recovered two days later by sheriff's office divers who were looking for a gun reportedly found by a swimmer and thrown back into the murky waters.

By May, some of the evidence found at the river, including the gun and items in the home had been processed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab in Phoenix. Engler said the results did not further the investigation.

Police still cannot definitively link the gun at the scene to the wound because the bullet was never recovered.

A second round of evidence is still being processed, the results of which may assist detectives in solving the case.

"We are looking at several different theories of what might have happened," Van Camp said. "We are trying to prove or disprove each theory and as we do that, it will hopefully lead to one theory."

"We have to explore every possibility," Van Camp said. "We must look at every possible lead."

Anyone with information about the Eastman killing is asked to call Det. Van Camp at the Payson Police Department, (928) 474-5177.

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