Report: Investigators Recommend Freeing Four Temple Slaying Suspects
PHOENIX (AP) _ Investigators have failed to link four men awaiting trial in the murders of nine people at a Thai Buddhist temple with two teen-agers arrested this week and charged with the killings, a newspaper reported Thursday.
An official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators had recommended the county prosecutor dismiss charges against the four men in light of the new arrests, The Arizona Republic reported.
Six Thai monks, two young male disciples and an elderly monk were killed Aug. 10 at the Wat Promkunaram temple west of Phoenix. Four men from a poor Tucson neighborhood were arrested Sept. 13 and await a December trial on murder and robbery charges.
Meanwhile, authorities released search warrants issued Oct. 25 detailing the alleged involvement of the teen-agers.
In affidavits, investigators said one of the youths, 16-year-old Alessandro Garcia, described how he and 17-year-old Johnathan Doody shot the victims during a robbery.
Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos alleges the four Tucson men, high on drugs and alcohol, drove 100 miles to the temple and killed the monks after failing to find valuables they planned to steal. But prosecutors lack any physical evidence against the men, and base their case on confessions that defense attorneys claim were obtained improperly.
On Monday, a spokesman at Luke Air Force Base, near the temple on the outskirts of Phoenix, announced that authorities had picked up three teen- agers associated with the base in connection with the case.
The sheriff and Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley have refused all week to comment, but court records show Doody and Garcia have been charged as juveniles with the slayings. The third youth, Rolando David Caratachea, 17, faces juvenile charges in a burglary that netted a semiautomatic pistol.
″We can’t make a match between the two groups,″ the newspaper quoted an official as saying. ″We’ve been trying damn hard to make that match. But we are convinced it does not exist.″
Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Phoenix police, didn’t immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Thursday.
According to one affidavit quoting Garcia, he told investigators that Doody shot the victims in the head with a rifle and that he shot some of them with a shotgun.
According to affidavits, Doody’s 14-year-old brother, David, was a monk who spent the summer at the temple as a novice monk. David told investigators his brother had visited him at the temple and knew of valuables, including rolls of cash carried by monks and a gold Buddha statue.
Ballistics tests also linked a .22-caliber Marlin rifle of Caratachea’s to bullets taken from the victims, according to affidavits. Also linked to the killings was a shotgun confiscated from a home shared by two of the youths, the affidavits said.
Doody allegedly told investigators he was among about nine robbers who went to the temple, according to the affidavits. And statements from the first group of four defendants indicated that others were involved who hadn’t been arrested.
The Tucson men charged are Dante Parker, 20; Michael Lawrence McGraw, 24; Leo Valdez Bruce, 28; and Mark Felix Nunez, 19.