Two murder trials set to start at the end of this month have been either postponed or resolved with a plea deal.
The first trial, involving a man facing second-degree murder for the death of his daughter in a vehicle rollover last year, was set to start Jan. 29, but has been pushed back.
Gasoa “Josh” Balas faces seven felony charges, including child abuse, DUI and assaulting an officer for the Aug. 1 rollover that claimed the life of his daughter, Calandra.
Police say Balas was trying to avoid arrest after reportedly assaulting a woman in a trailer park. He has not been charged in that assault, however.
As Balas sped south from town, he reportedly lost control of his vehicle north of Corvair Curve and rolled into a ditch. His 7-year-old daughter was thrown from the Toyota Camry’s back window.
She died on scene while he received just facial lacerations. It is unclear when the trial will start now, but a status hearing is set for Feb. 4 in Globe before Superior Court Judge Gary Scales.
Andrew James Hargis’ trial was also set to start Jan. 29 in Globe, but has been vacated due to a plea. Hargis faced charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and four other counts for an October 2011 stabbing in Payson. Police say Hargis and his girlfriend, Brook Lynn Johnson, assaulted a man at his home where a child was present.
Hargis and Johnson both took plea deals, admitting only to aggravated assault.
Scales sentenced Hargis Dec. 31 to 3.5 years in prison with credit for 383 days served.
A judge sentenced Johnson to three years of probation.
If and when the Balas trial starts, attorneys are expected to call a number of witnesses, including several motorists who saw his vehicle speeding down Highway 87 just moments before it rolled.
One motorist told a Department of Public Safety detective that Balas’ vehicle appeared to be going 110 mph and when it drove past her, it felt “like she was standing still.”
At the time, Balas’ license was suspended and tests revealed he was driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent (nearly twice the legal limit) and with marijuana in his system. He also admitted to officers he was on various prescribed drugs, including Zoloft, according to a report.
Police reports indicate a fight with neighbors and an alleged assault led up to Balas’ flight.
Balas told officers he went to a trailer park to see a friend. They drank and had sexual intercourse. When her boyfriend showed up and tried to beat him up, he jumped in his vehicle and left.
Balas said he didn’t remember officers trying to stop him. He said that he also didn’t know his daughter was in the car. He claimed he had blacked out.
When officers told Balas his daughter had died in the accident, he expressed shock, according to a police report.
“Are you kidding me?” he moaned repeatedly. He then begged the officer, “Please put a bullet in my head, man. Please, I, that’s all I had, man (crying), do it,” he said, according to the police report.
Calandra’s mother was reportedly not involved in the child’s life.
Later, Balas again told a detective he did not realize his daughter was in the car and expressed desperate remorse for his actions.
“It’s not fair. Punch me right in the face. I don’t deserve this life,” he told the detective. “I don’t deserve to be human. Where am I? ... I’m in some sort of a nightmare ... She never did anything to anybody, she was my little buddy.”
While Balas told officers he was with a friend at the trailer park, the woman told police she barely knew Balas.
While Balas is not facing charges for assaulting that woman, officers noted she had injuries consistent with rape.
That woman has refused to press charges, but police have not closed the case, said Police Chief Don Engler.
The woman told officers Balas showed up at her home, assaulted her, left and then came back with his daughter in tow.
Eventually, neighbors arrived when they heard screaming. One neighbor said Balas appeared erratic, yelling bizarre things. They called police and when officers arrived, Balas jumped in his car and reportedly nearly hit two patrol vehicles exiting the park.
Officers briefly followed Balas, but stopped when he entered the highway and continued to drive aggressively. He rolled moments later south of town, shutting the highway down for hours.