Defendant in 3 murders in 2012 to get competency evaluation

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Michael Crane has pleaded not guilty to three murders he is charged with committing in late January 2012, but during one of his many outbursts in court on Friday, he declared the opposite.

“I take the blame for all these crimes and would like to go home,” Crane said, pointing his finger skyward.

Crane, 36, is charged with first-degree murder in the January 2012 deaths of Glenna and Lawrence Shapiro of Paradise Valley and Bruce Gaudet of Phoenix. The deaths were part of two separate home invasions that Crane is accused of being involved in. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

His admission in Maricopa County Superior Court during a routine hearing gave Judge Warren Granville pause. The judge told Crane that his sudden change of heart was alarming and, combined with his unpredictable behavior in court, again brought into question Crane’s mental competency.

Granville explained to Crane that he wanted to approve the Rule 11 motion filed by his defense attorney and the state to determine if his “intent to change his plea was voluntarily or if his mental stability was playing a part.” A Rule 11 in Arizona is defined such that a person who may have a mental illness, defect or disability cannot stand trial, be convicted, sentenced or punished for any public offense.

“Fine, fine,” Crane said, “get ‘er done.” Before the judge could finish, Crane hollered out “We done?” becoming visibly more agitated.

“Irregardless to whenever the change of plea is submitted in this case, it is the state’s intention to take this case before a jury,” Deputy County Attorney Patricia Stevens said, adding that because this is a capital-murder case, they would not be offering a plea deal to Crane.

As Crane was being escorted out of court by sheriff’s deputies, he turned to his family members in the gallery and said he loved them. He then swung all the way around to look at Stevens and, after calling her names, said, “Rule 11 is ridiculous and unnecessary.”

Crane spat expletives at Granville, as well, as he exited the courtroom.

Disruptions and profanity-laced tirades are par for the course when Crane appears in court. Such behavior prompted officials to look into his mental stability in early April 2015. He is expected to be back in court May 19 after his defense team and the state have had time to review the court-ordered mental-health assessment.

Crane pleaded guilty last month to two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of armed robbery and burglary in a separate case. His sentencing is set for April.

, The Republic | azcentral.com

 

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Endangered Species Act under fire from lawmakers

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Recently, a Senate hearing was held to discuss the possibility to change or modernize the Endangered Species Act.

Republican lawmakers including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said that the act wasn’t working and went on to say that it was hindering job growth and keeping protected lands from mining and development.

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There are other Republican lawmakers who want to see the act changed to only allow one species on the list at a time. Currently, there are over 1,600 species on the list.

Here in Arizona, the state is home to more than 70 species that are endangered or threatened. Conservation efforts have been able to help some populations including the Black Footed Ferret. The small, cute creature is the most endangered species in North America. In the early 1980s, it was believed the species had gone extinct, but 24 were found and saved.

Today, 1,000 live in facilities, and another 1,000 are in the wild. The population is slowly recovering, and it’s all thanks to the Endangered Species Act.  It helped to fund research, staff and studies to find the best ways to save the Black Footed Ferret.

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There are several facilities across the country that help to build the population, and one of them is at the Phoenix Zoo. The Black Footed Ferret’s population declined dramatically when its primary food source, the prairie dog, was being killed off by land development and farmers.  It also experienced a terrible plague that nearly wiped them out.

Conservationists say that with their help, the population of the Black Footed Ferret could reach stable levels in a decade and it could be taken off the endangered species list.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Posted: Feb 17, 2017 11:09 AM TST

Updated: Feb 17, 2017 2:20 PM TST

By Jeff Van Sant

DPS: Carjacking suspect fires at troopers; ends in crash with semi

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CAMP VERDE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) –

A carjacking suspect fired at troopers on Interstate 17 near Camp Verde Sunday morning, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Frank Milstead tweeted.

All troopers are OK, he tweeted.

Authorities said they began getting reports of a vehicle driving recklessly southbound along I-17 north of Camp Verde just before 10 a.m.

The Mustang collided with another vehicle.

“The suspect then took a white GMC SUV from that crash scene with a rifle and fled,” troopers said.

Troopers pursued the suspect who began firing at them, DPS said.

At around 10:20 a.m., the suspect plowed head-on into a commercial semi-truck about 15 miles south of Munds Park, troopers said.

“The suspect suffered serious life-threatening injuries and was flown to a hospital,” DPS said.

Earlier, DPS tweeted that the suspect had died.

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DPS said in a tweet their detectives, troopers and Yavapai County sheriff’s deputies were investigating two crime scenes southbound along I-17 between Munds Park and Camp Verde.

The southbound lanes of I-17 were closed south of Munds Park at milepost 317 for about 10 hours, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

The northbound lanes remain open.

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Motorists on Interstate 40 eastbound were advised to use State Route 89 to State Route 69. For those on I-40 westbound, use State Route 87 to State Route 260 to I-17, ADOT said.

[ADOT map of alternate routes]

Milstead said it may be a long closure while DPS investigates what happened.

No other details were provided. We’re working to gather more information.

Posted: Feb 13, 2017 2:04 AM TST Updated: Feb 13, 2017 12:24 PM TST

UPDATED: ‘All-Clear’ Given After Flight Diverted to Lambert for Security Check

ST. LOUIS (KMOX)(UPDATED 10:52 a.m.) Passengers on an American Airlines flight were unloaded on the tarmac at Lambert – St. Louis International Airport when the airline requested a landing for a security check.

Lambert Airport spokesman Jeff Lea says flight No. 534 left Columbus, Ohio, at 7:09 a.m., headed for Phoenix, Arizona.

The airline requested a security check, and when the plane landed, passengers were unloaded and placed on a bus.

Emergency vehicles were on the scene, and a police dog was seen sniffing passengers as they exited the plane.

KMOX’s Michael Calhoun was on the scene.

(TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Arizona’s newest roadside oddity looks like it fell from space

An abandoned concrete mixer along I-10 has been transformed into a space capsule.

Adding to roadside attractions such as concrete tepees and dinosaurs, Arizona added its newest oddity Sunday with a space capsule between Phoenix and Tucson.

The artwork made use of an abandoned concrete truck off Interstate 10 near Casa Grande.

“I think its going to be known as the ‘Casa Grande Capsule,’ ” said artist Jack Millard, 53, of Scottsdale.

“The cement mixer was abandoned there for 30 years just rusting in the field,” Millard said.

He was driving by on his way to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he said he saw the mixer and was inspired. He chuckled to himself and thought it looked like the capsules astronauts use to return to Earth after space missions.

Arizona drivers traveling from Phoenix and Tucson along I-10 are noticing a peculiar sight for the desert. Artist Jack Millard repurposed an abandoned cement mixer to look like a spacecraft had crashed in the Casa Grande field.  Tom Tingle/The Republic

“I just get these impulses to create,” he said.  “Its a glorified yard ornament.”

The capsule is two miles north of Florence Boulevard on a ranch on the west side of Interstate 10.

He reached out to the owners to ask about the project.

“At first they were skeptical,” he said. But he convinced them.

“I think they were tickled by the idea,” he said.

On Feb. 2, Millard started transforming the concrete mixer into a space capsule. He had help from another artist, Ren Eide.

The capsule was made to look like it descended from space, with a used cargo parachute that Millard bought at a military surplus store attached for effect.

About 10 cars pulled over as he worked on the piece, and some thought it was authentic, he said. He explained that it was an art project to the commuters as well as to the police who stopped by.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “If they enjoy it, that’s great. We live in such a cynical, jaded world. If it distracts them for a moment, that’s a wonderful thing.”

But Millard said sometimes art speaks deeper to people, saying he imagines one day someone might look at it and see “hope or pride,” or think about America and putting men on the moon.

“It certainly will outlive me,” Millard said.

Millard has been working as a professional actor for 25 years, and had minor roles in “The Big Short” and “Star Trek.”

To find the capsule, if heading to Tucson from Phoenix, it will be on the right side south of McCartney Road. If heading towards Phoenix it will be on the left side, north of Florence Boulevard/State Route 287.

, The Republic | azcentral.com

Arizona hitchhiker steals vehicle of helpful motorist

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SEDONA, AZ (AP) – A hitchhiker is accused of stealing the vehicle of an Arizona man who stopped to help him and buy him breakfast.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office says the 69-year-old motorist was driving south of Sedona on Friday when he spotted the hitchhiker, who looked like he spent the night outside.

After stopping at a cafe, the motorist offered to get $20 from his bank to help the hitchhiker – identified as 31-year-old Ricardo Munoz Ayala. Because it was cold, he left the car running with Ayala inside.

When the motorist came out, Ayala and the car were gone.

Authorities say Ayala failed to stop when he was spotted south of Phoenix. Spike strips were used but he continued driving for another 20 miles on flat tires.

Ayala was booked into the Pima County jail on numerous charges.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted: Jan 31, 2017 11:09 AM TST

Updated: Jan 31, 2017 11:09 AM TST

 

 

2 dead in airplane crash at Tucson airport

A small, private airplane crashed Monday afternoon at the Tucson airport, killing at least one person aboard, authorities said.

A twin-engine plane taking off from the Tucson airport crashed Monday afternoon, killing the two people on board, authorities said.

The crash of the Beechcraft 300 occurred at about 12:40 p.m. and resulted in a large fire near the main terminal. The plane was privately owned.

John Ivanoff, chief of public safety at the airport, said it wasn’t known why the plane crashed.

“It hit the ground, skidded for some distance before coming to a rest,” he said at a news conference.

Airport fire crews, assisted by the Tucson Fire Department and Air National Guard firefighters, put out the fire.

“I can’t offer a reason for the event. It’s only a few hours old and, therefore, we have a lot of work to do to find out why exactly this occurred,” Ivanoff said.

He said the plane was on its way to Mexico.

The plane did not crash into the airport parking garage, but hit a wall near the structure, the airport said.

Ivanoff said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash. Federal Aviation Administration officials were on the scene Monday and NTSB investigators were expected to arrive Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The crash occurred shortly after takeoff, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.

The NTSB usually releases a preliminary report of its investigation about one week after a crash, Weiss said.

A photograph posted on Twitter by someone at the airport shows a large plume of black smoke billowing above the airport’s parking garage. A video posted by another person shows burning wreckage against a wall on the tarmac of the airport.

The Beechcraft 300 is described as a twin turboprop airplane that has a crew of two and can carry between 6 and 14 passengers. It is commonly used as a corporate airplane.

The names of the pilot and passenger were not released as of Monday evening. Officials were in the process of notifying their relatives.

“We give our greatest condolences to the family members of the victims,” Ivanoff said.

There were no injuries on the ground, he said.

Commercial flights were not affected by the crash, the airport said in a tweet.

Ivanoff said it has been many years since a fatal airplane crash has occurred at the airport. A search of Star archives show that two people were killed when their small airplane crashed during takeoff at the airport on April 25, 1993.

Curt Prendergast, Arizona Daily Star | tucson.com