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Sheriff: Two Sets of Suspects in Temple Slayings Linked

November 7, 1991

PHOENIX (AP) _ Investigators believe there is a connection between two groups of people charged in the murders of nine priests and disciples at a Thai Buddhist temple in August, a sheriff said Wednesday.

Four Tucson men and two Phoenix teen-agers have been charged with the slayings. Until Wednesday, officials hadn’t acknowledged a connection between the groups.

″There are some bits and pieces that indicate that these guys (Tucson men) probably were connected (with the Phoenix teens) but didn’t know one another. But it’s not evidence we can take into court,″ Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos said at a meeting with members of the Thai community.

His comments were taped by a reporter for a Thai-language newspaper and played by television station KTVK.

″You’ve got some young kids that think there was a lot of money, and a lot of valuables in that temple,″ Agnos said. ″They decide well, maybe we better bring some more experienced, or get some more experienced people involved ... and they call up a guy they know and the guy says ’Yeah, I know some folks and I’ll have them meet you somewhere in Phoenix.‴

Sheriff’s spokesman Duane Brady didn’t return telephone calls Wednesday from The Associated Press.

The four Tucson men awaiting trial in December on murder and other charges are: Leo Valdez Bruce, 28; Michael Lawrence McGraw, 24; Mark Felix Nunez, 19; and Dante Parker, 20.

Jonathan Andrew Moody, 17, and Alesandro Garcia, 16, both of Phoenix, have been charged as juveniles with murder.

Investigators have said the slayings may have resulted from a robbery gone awry. Six Thai monks, two disciples and an elderly nun were shot and killed at the Wat Promkunaram temple west of Phoenix.

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