Friend Of Murdered Man Presses Cause



John McCauley's wife, Carol, is the town's Main Street Manager, but it was John who fell in love with Payson first.

It all began when Carol lost her bid for re-election to the Oceanside, Calif. town council in 2002.


John McCauley

"I prefer the expression ‘wasn't re-elected," she said with a laugh.

Carol, who had served eight years on the council, found herself out of work. John, who had retired after several successful business ventures, picks up the story:

"I was retired; she was unemployed. She saw an ad for the town of Payson. We were up to our ears in traffic, people, and inflation, so we decided to take a ride up here.

"I was pretty much against it, but I was very much in favor of letting Carol know that I would support her in anything. On the way up here I thought, well, she'll see this little town, get it out of her system, and we'll go back to Oceanside.

"But as soon as we crested the hill at Mazatzal Casino and I saw the town I fell in love with it. I came from a small town to begin with back East, and I thought, this is neat. Maybe we could do something here. And I guess that's probably the end of the story."

But another story was about to unfold. In January of this year, McCauley met a man by the name of Grant Kuenzli -- a man who just months later would be dead, gunned down in the forest by a hiker who was frightened of the three dogs Kuenzli was walking.

McCauley explains how he came to meet Kuenzli and the kind of person he was:

"We have two golden retrievers, Harmony and Taco Bell. I took them to the dog park quite frequently, and that's where I met Grant.

"I was very impressed by his demeanor, his love for animals, his love for nature. He was a medically retired firefighter. He was up here trying to find himself with nature, so he had a tent and he lived out in the forest.

"He'd come to my house and we'd swap stories, and I visited him at his campsite. He had a cell phone, a laptop, a chain saw, a mountain bike, and a microwave. He lived pretty good out there.

"Even though he lived in the forest, he'd come into town every day. He had a membership in a gym, and he'd shower and shave and then go over to the humane society where he volunteered.

"He'd take out a couple dogs and take them over to the dog park and socialize them. He did a lot for the dog park itself. He built an obstacle course for the dogs."

McCauley offers his take on the tragic events of May 11:

"His thing was taking these dogs out, and that was to become his downfall.

"He was out in the forest exercising the dogs when he came upon a hiker. The dogs were barking at him, so he pulled out a 10 mm automatic pistol and fired a shot at the dogs.

"That upset Grant and he came running down the hill to stop the dogs from harassing this guy, and he was shot three times -- that's how I interpret it."

When the Coconino County sheriff's deputy assigned to the case initially called it self defense, an outraged McCauley gathered over 300 signatures on a petition urging the county attorney to press charges:

"Here was a man who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and he used that weapon in disregard for another man's life -- shooting and killing an unarmed man, stating that he was being attacked by dogs that never touched him. If they were attacking him, shoot the dogs and not the man."

Eventually, Harold Fish was charged with second degree murder, and the case is now in the hands of a grand jury.

To drive home his point, McCauley relates an incident that happened shortly before Kuenzli was killed:

"Grant brought his dog Maggie to my house many times. The three of them would roll on the carpet and play. One day we had an incident where all three dogs ran out the garage door over to my next door neighbor's house who hates dogs.

"Grant and I ran over and brought them back as this guy is shouting, ‘Get those dogs out of my yard.'

"If he'd had the same mentality as Mr. Fish, we'd of both been dead."

McCauley hopes he will be called to testify.

"If they invite me, I'd love to go because I know more about Grant than just about anybody."

In fact, he believes he was sent to Payson to play a role in the incident.

"It's providence," he said. "I was put here for a reason, and I think that reason was the gentleman I met in January. It's such a tragedy."


Name: John J. McCauley

Occupation: Retired

Birthplace: Cambridge, Mass.

Family: I'm the last of nine children. I have raised five children and am in love with my wife of 27 years. I have 10 grandkids.

Personal motto: Love of country.

Inspiration: My wife.

Greatest feat: Entrepreneurial business success. Enabling young adults to have exciting careers.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: photography, sailing

Three words that describe me best: Determined, passionate, creative

I don't want to brag, but: Risk taking has been a huge part of my life.

Person in history I'd most like to meet: Walt Disney

Luxury defined: Comfort

Dream vacation spot: Catalina Island, Australia

Why Payson? Nature, peace and quiet, no traffic, no graffiti, no gangs and no crime.

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