Two unsolved murder cases and a slew of allegations have heated things up in both the Gila County attorney and sheriff races.
A string of advertisements and letters printed in Globe papers and the Roundup allege county officials mishandled numerous criminal cases and failed to properly investigate several deaths, including those of Scott Johnson and Tim Salazar.
In both cases, no one was ever charged.
Critics say County Attorney Daisy Flores and Sheriff John Armer did not do their jobs properly.
Bradley Beauchamp, a Republican vying for Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores’ job, featured those allegations in an ad he placed in the Roundup that claimed Johnson was “tragically murdered” and no one has ever been charged. The ad insists the bungled case isn’t an anomaly. “There are many other victims and victims’ families that have not been given justice or closure during these last 10 years.”
He did not return calls or e-mails prior to press time in connection with this story seeking to examine the allegations.
Now, Flores is fighting back. She says critics have presented a few “hand-picked” facts, leaving out important details in all the cases.
The first case involved the stabbing death of Johnson, which prosecutors decided represented a case of self-defense by Robert Verdugo. The prosecutors based that judgment on several facts, said Flores.
—- Johnson showed up drunk at a Globe home after midnight.
— Verdugo was in bed when Johnson demanded entrance and access to a woman inside the home.
— Johnson outweighed Verdugo by 80 pounds. When Johnson allegedly attacked Verdugo in the home’s carport, Verdugo stabbed him in self-defense, prosecutors decided.
—- Three eyewitnesses substantiated Verdugo’s version of the series of events, said Flores.
— The three prosecutors in the Gila County Attorney’s Office who reviewed the case all agreed it was self-defense.
— After reviewing the case independently, the Pinal County Attorney agreed Verdugo acted in self-defense.
Flores said she is especially bothered that Susan K. Imperatrice, a Globe reporter, has taken up writing letters filled with what she considers misinformation.
Imperatrice took out a lengthy ad in a Globe paper suggesting Flores’ improperly investigated the death of Johnson, Salazar and Deborah Damron.
Flores says Imperatrice left out critical information.
“She does not tell you that no criminal prosecution was ever requested for the Salazar death and that while the family has suspicions, there are no suspects, no physical evidence to link a suspect to a crime, and numerous officers/detectives determined it was an accidental death,” she said.
Regarding Damron, who died 45 years ago when she was 16 months old, Flores said detectives didn’t investigate the death because the girl had a birth defect and concluded her injuries probably stemmed from resuscitation efforts after she stopped breathing.
“Four decades later when her father questioned the cause of death, I ordered an investigation which determined there was no evidence of a crime,” she said.
Flores says these slams are nothing more than a desperate attempt to discredit her.
“Susan K. Imperatrice is nothing more than my opponent’s political attack dog and while I have ignored her lies for months, her political ad last week was the last straw,” Flores writes.
“With her Web site supporting my opponent, her unethically fabricated stories on KQSS and her sad attempts to vilify me and my staff, she is a discredit to true, impartial reporters everywhere.”
Imperatrice did not reply to messages requesting an interview prior to press time.
Flores said she has personally prosecuted more than 40 murder and attempted murder cases where the defendant went to prison — more than any current or former prosecutor in the county.
“Her candidate (Beauchamp) has never prosecuted a murderer, let alone a criminal speeding violation,” Flores said.
The Roundup contacted Beauchamp by e-mail, but he did not return a comment as of press time.
In an earlier e-mail to the Roundup, Imperatrice also wrote that the GCSO, under the direction of Adam Shepherd, then undersheriff, did not follow through on criminal cases.
Sheriff John Armer has also responded to the recent rash of attack ads.
In a letter appearing in today’s Roundup, Armer defended the handling of the cases.
“At this point, thousands of hours have been expended in these investigations costing a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money and resources by these agencies,” Armer wrote. “The county attorney’s office has reviewed these investigations and there is no one to prosecute.”