Temple Slaying Developments Don’t Add Up
PHOENIX (AP) _ Six people have told investigators they witnessed the bloody massacre of nine people inside a Buddhist temple, but their stories don’t add up, according to court documents and newspaper reports.
The six all are suspects. Four are men in their 20s from a Tuscon neighborhood 100 miles from the temple and two are teen-agers from Luke Air Force Base right nearby. Investigators have little evidence linking the two groups, court records indicate.
Six Thai Buddhist monks, two young men and an elderly woman were slain Aug. 10 at the Promkunaram temple.
The four Tucson men - Michael Lawrence McGraw, 24, Mark Felix Nunez, 19, Leo Valdez Bruce, 28, and Dante Parker, 20 - were arrested Sept. 13 and charged with nine counts each of murder and one count each of robbery, burglary and conspiracy.
Jonathan Doody, 17, and Alessandro Garcia, 16, were arrested this week and charged as juveniles with murder. The third youth, Rolando David Caratachea, 17, was arrested with them but wasn’t charged with murder.
Their arrests raised even more questions about the case against the first suspects, who face trials next month.
A newspaper Thursday quoted an official speaking on condition of anonymity saying investigators had recommended charges against the four be dropped.
Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos has acknowledged he has no physical evidence against the four men. The case depends on statements they made to investigators then recanted after defense attorneys claimed they were coerced.
According to police affidavits made public this week, ballistics tests linked a .22-caliber Marlin rifle of Caratachea’s to bullets taken from the bodies of the victims. A 20-gauge shotgun taken the home where Doody and Garcia lived also has been linked to the killings, the affidavits said.
The documents quote Garcia as telling police that he shot some of the victims with a shotgun and that Doody shot all of them in the head with a rifle.
They also indicate that Doody’s 14-year-old brother, David, spent the summer at the temple as a novice monk and knew of valuables there, including more than $2,000 in cash and a solid gold Buddha statue.
The affidavits said officials had been unsuccessful in linking the Tucson defendants to the temple. Agnos claims they got high on drugs and alcohol, drove to the temple and killed the monks after failing to find valuables they planned to steal.
The Phoenix Gazette, quoting an unidentified source, reported Friday that Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley and Agnos have told colleagues of a link between the two groups of suspects.
But Agnos refused to answer reporters’ questions on the case Friday and Romley’s spokesman Bill FitzGerald also declined comment.