'Substantial Leads' In Eastman Homicide

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The Payson Police Department and the Gila County Sheriff's Office are following what they call "substantial leads" in the murder of 56-year-old Payson resident, Ira Eastman.

"We haven't made any arrests," Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said, "but we have been working quite a few good leads that have allowed us to focus our investigation."

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A crime scene technician from the Department of Public Safety lab dusted for fingerprints at Ira Eastman's home on Luke Street last week. Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said investigators are piecing together the physical evidence and conducting interviews to get the the bottom of who murdered the 56-year-old.

Engler confirmed that Eastman was shot to death prior to being dumped into the East Verde River off Houston Mesa Road.

"The autopsy revealed that he did have a gunshot wound," Engler said. "A single shot to the head is what the pathologist said."

Eastman's body was discovered Thursday morning by divers from the GCSO looking for a gun that a 12-year-old found and threw back in the water.

Sheriff's Det. George Ratliff said they immediately discovered the body near the location the boy had found the gun. Deputies notified the Payson police and continued to search for the gun, which they recovered later that day.

Engler said he can't confirm whether the gun found is connected to the homicide, but the firearm and other pieces of physical evidence are being analyzed.

"The physical evidence will also help us get to the bottom of this case," Engler said.

Family members are stunned by the brutal murder of a man they describe as "a gentle soul."

Eastman and his wife, Peggy Tepolt, moved to Payson in 1992 from Newport, Ore.

Tepolt said her husband was known for his knowledge, intelligence, patience and gentle nature.

The couple started their own business in 2002, called Cabinets, Doors and Dreams.

"He was deeply involved in the community theater and music groups in Newport," Eastman's brother, Mike, told the Roundup. "My brother was the kind of man who probably never even got a speeding ticket in his life."

A memorial service for Eastman will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 24 at the Church of the Holy Nativity.

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