Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved by the FDA for pain relief and regarded as 100 times stronger than morphine. However, it has gained traction as an illicit drug and has sharply risen in its prevalence across the country. According to the DEA, fentanyl-related overdose deaths tallied 2,666 in 2011. That number dramatically increased to 31,335 in 2018.
In Pinal County, there has also been a sharp rise in the drug's prevalence. When looking at fentanyl as a percentage of drug-related charges filed by PCAO, the increase is alarming:
2019: <2% 2020: 11% 2021: >22%
"I don't know where the end is," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. "The issue is we have an addiction based society. As long as it is cheap, as long as it gives an incredible high, I don't know where the end is."
"Pinal County is witnessing, overall, about one overdose every single day...that's tragic"
What makes fentanyl so dangerous is its level of toxicity. It takes a very small amount to lead to an overdose. Oftentimes, those using fentanyl either don't know it is laced in the product they are using, or the illegally produced fentanyl pill contains significantly more of the drug than the user thinks.
"You could buy ten from a particular dealer, you could take the first seven, take one and be perfectly fine," County Attorney Volkmer said. "That eighth pill could have a little bit of additional fentanyl in there, and that would be the amount that you would overdose on. That's part of the danger is you don't know what you're getting."
It is incredible important to talk with kids about the dangers of fentanyl. Pills can be passed around by students at parties or other social gatherings.
"They go to a party and somebody says, 'hey, this will get you high, it's easy, you don't have to get injected, you don't have to have any of that stigma, you can pop a pill and you're just going to chill," Volkmer said. "What happens is it is the unregulated, black market fentanyl, and we're seeing young men and women die."
"What was I thinking? I really must have had a death wish. Deep down I must have really wanted to die because I can't explain it any other way. It's that deadly"
"It's really important to me that we make this very real for people to understand that this can happen"
"I want her life to have meaning and I want us to save people"
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national hotline for treatment referral and information. That number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
The Arizona Department of Health Services has a list of community resources for opioid addiction treatment both in Arizona and nationally.
FLORENCE, Ariz. (July 22, 2019) – Pinal County Superior Court Judge Patrick Gard sentenced Andrew Salazar to 19 years in prison for the manslaughter of Robert Ben DeArman III. Salazar was already serving time for a gun violation case. The manslaughter sentence will run concurrently with the gun violation case. Salazar was facing a minimum of 10.5 years and a maximum of 21 years in prison on Friday, July 19, 2019, when he received his sentence.
FLORENCE, Ariz. (May 23, 2019) – On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, a jury found Andrew Salazar guilty of manslaughter, a class two dangerous felony.
On October 11, 2013, Robert Ben DeArman III was shot and killed at a party with friends in Florence. According to investigators, Andrew Salazar was drinking at the party for several hours. During the event, Salazar pointed a gun at the victim and shot him once in the chest, killing him. Investigators determined Salazar was intoxicated and using prescription medication when DeArman was shot.
At the time of the shooting, the defendant was a convicted felon. Salazar was also on probation and was unlawfully in possession of the firearm.
Salazar faces a mandatory minimum of ten and a half years and a maximum of 21 years for manslaughter. Salazar is expected to be sentenced on July 19th at Pinal County Superior Courthouse.
DeArman Family Statement:
"I just have to thank you again for getting us JUSTICE yesterday. Your professionalism, determination and strength in our case gave us the verdict we've been waiting for for the last 6 years. I truly believe that you were sent to us by a higher power. Robert can now finally rest in peace. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
FLORENCE, Ariz. (June 4, 2019) – Globe resident Jaeden Spurgeon, 20, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge. He pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault.
- Manslaughter, a class 2 felony
- Aggravated Assault, a class 3 felony, endangering an officer
- Aggravated Assault, a class 3 felony, recklessly causing an injury with a dangerous instrument
On April 10, 2017, Globe Police Department took a domestic violence report about a man who reportedly stole his girlfriend’s black SUV. When police found the SUV, Jaeden Spurgeon was driving in a parking lot. When one officer tried to approach Spurgeon’s car on foot, Spurgeon sped up and nearly hit the officer before he fled on US60. Multiple police agencies pursued Spurgeon for about 20 miles but stopped their pursuit after Spurgeon began driving the wrong-way on a divided highway for another nine miles. During that time, at least five people called 911. The defendant later admitted to police he was driving up to 100 miles per hour. When police caught up to Spurgeon, they discovered he collided with two other cars.
While Spurgeon was driving the wrong-way, he killed one woman and seriously injured her male passenger. The woman, pinned in the car, died of blunt force trauma. Another woman, driving a third car, was also involved in the collision, but was not injured.
Spurgeon pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. One count of aggravated assault was for intentionally putting an officer in reasonable fear of imminent physical injury. And the other aggravated assault for recklessly causing an injury with a dangerous instrument.
“We feel we have given the victims justice, but their pain continues. The decedent’s mother told the judge that she is losing her eyesight. Her daughter promised to help her when she went totally blind. Now, she needs her daughter’s help, but the Defendant killed her while he was fleeing from the police.” Prosecutor Matthew Reed said.
The judge sentenced Spurgeon to the maximum 20 years in prison. Spurgeon received a twelve-year sentence for manslaughter followed by another eight years for aggravated assault. The second aggravated assault sentence of 7.5 years will run concurrently with the manslaughter charge.
Here is the Spurgeon Sentence Press Release.
“The sentence will act as a stern deterrent. It’s been two years, and I am still scared when I drive. You wonder when it will stop, but it’s just something you have to learn to live with.”
- Ana Campos, Victim
“The sentence was right. He killed my mom. He nearly killed me and he nearly hit that cop. Someone with a driver’s license takes on a big responsibility. He put multiple lives in danger. I saw his head lights coming at me and I knew he was on the wrong side of the road. I believe he was fully aware of what he was doing. I just hope that he reflects on what he did and one day he will realize what he did to my grandma.”
– Brandon Gee, Victim
“Nobody should think the sentence was too harsh. He was charged with second degree murder and he pleaded to manslaughter. He was charged with ten counts and he pleaded to three. If he went to trial on what he was charged with, he would have served a much longer sentence. The only person he cared about was himself. He was so selfish. I’m glad the judge considered his prior contact with the law. He is young, but he has four prior adjudications and one for a felony offence. The judge was fair. He considered the mitigation and the aggravation. Any judge who considered all the aggravation would have given that sentence.”
– Karen Todd, Victim
FLORENCE, Ariz. (May 24, 2019) – On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, a jury found Andrew Salazar guilty of manslaughter, a class two dangerous felony.
On October 11, 2013, Robert Ben De Arman III was shot and killed at a party with friends in Florence. According to investigators, Andrew Salazar was drinking at the party for several hours. During the event, Salazar pointed a gun at the victim and shot him once in the chest, killing him. Investigators determined Salazar was intoxicated and using prescription medication when De Arman was shot.
At the time of the shooting, the defendant was a convicted felon. Salazar was also on probation and was unlawfully in possession of the firearm.
Salazar faces a mandatory minimum of ten and a half years and a maximum of 21 years for manslaughter. Salazar will receive his sentence on July 19th at Pinal County Superior Courthouse.
Family Statement of Robert Ben De Arman III:
To whom it may concern,
Our family would like to take this time to thank everyone that assisted with getting the justice that we received. This has been a long road not only for our family but also for those who have worked so hard on the case.
We would like to personally thank Sgt. James Rimmer, Vince Goddard, David Ahl, Barbara Marvel, Jesus Pacheco, Gina Ramirez and Arizona Voice for Crime Victims. Most of these individuals have been with our family since the start of all this and never once did our family feel alone or doubt that we wouldn’t get the justice that was much needed. Thank you again to all of you for your hard work and dedication.
The Family of Robert Ben De Arman III
Florence, Ariz. (May 8, 2019) – A jury convicted 34-year-old Kathryn Sinkevitch of first-degree premeditated murder on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Major Crimes Bureau Chief Shawn Jensvold and Deputy County Attorney David Ahl lead the prosecution.
“We are pleased with the jury's verdict because it is entirely consistent with the evidence presented at trial. The evidence, which was both direct and circumstantial, pointed directly to Sinkevitch and there is no reason to suspect that anyone else killed Michael,” Shawn Jensvold said.
On December 16, 2016, City of Maricopa Police Department received multiple 911 calls of shots fired. When police arrived on scene they discovered 31-year-old Michael Agerter shot in the head and back. Agerter was seated in his car, parked in his garage. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police soon discovered that Agerter was on the phone with his younger sister at the time he was murdered.
Police discovered Agerter had a home surveillance system at his residence. After watching some recorded footage, detectives saw what appeared to be a female subject walking quickly from a white minivan parked across the street from Agerter's house just after he pulled into his garage. The subject was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and shoes, gloves, and carrying papers in one hand with a bag draped over her shoulder. The subject was outside the views of the cameras briefly, then reappeared and scurried back across the street to the white minivan and sped away. Police ran a background check on Agerter and discovered that he had been in several legal disputes with the defendant, Kathryn Sinkevitch.
Agerter and Sinkevitch were romantically involved until they broke up in March 2016. In April 2016, Agerter was granted an order of protection in Maricopa County Superior Court against Sinkevitch. Records show Agerter made efforts to conceal his new address from Sinkevitch. Police also discovered Michael filed a motion to establish paternity and requested parenting time for his and Sinkevitch's son, who was born in October. Agerter never saw his son before he was murdered, and the paternity results later confirmed he was the boy's father.
During the investigation, police tracked Sinkevitch to a residence belonging to her friend and co-worker. Sinkevitch's gray Mitsubishi Mirage and her co-worker’s white Chrysler Town and Country were parked outside the residence. The van appeared identical to the van seen on Agerter’s home surveillance system. Sinkevitch’s co-worker denied driving to Maricopa during the afternoon of Agerter’s murder. Upon reviewing workplace surveillance video, detectives discovered Sinkevitch was not at work all day as she claimed in an earlier interview. Police confirmed Sinkevitch had ample time to drive to Agerter's house, commit the murder, and return to work. Police arrested Sinkevitch in Avondale, Arizona on December 21, 2016, after receiving a tip. Witnesses told police Sinkevitch owned a handgun, but a gun was never located.
“We agree with defense counsel's assessment that the defendant received a fair trial. As reflected by the fact that they deliberated over 2 days before returning a verdict, it is clear that the jurors took their responsibilities very seriously. However, we disagree that any legal errors were committed during the trial that are likely to result in the defendant's conviction being overturned on appeal,” Jensvold said.
Sinkevitch will be sentenced on June 6, 2019, at Pinal County Superior Courthouse. At that time, she will receive a natural life sentence.
Statement from the Agerter Family:
“On behalf of Mike's friends and family, we would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to everyone involved in achieving this verdict. From the first officer on site that continuously talked to Mike even though it was clear he was gone, through the ranks to Detective Dennison, Deputy County Attorneys David Ahl and Shawn Jensvold, we thank you. The behind the scenes effort, work and support given by Paralegal Christine Forbes and Victim Advocate Sonia Campos were incredibly invaluable to our family throughout this two-year ordeal. The team spent countless hours away from their families so ours would finally attain peace. Also, to the jurors who were tasked with making the painful decision of enacting justice for Mike. He took every legal precaution to protect himself and was trying to do the same for his child. Domestic violence knows no boundaries. Mike's attempt to protect the child he never met escalated her aggression towards him, ultimately leading to his death.”
Pinal County Attorney’s Office Indicts Woman Accused of Child Abuse
UPDATE 2: FLORENCE, Ariz. (April 8, 2019) – A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Ryan and Logan Hackney on April 8, 2019. At this time, Pinal County Attorney’s Office has chosen not to charge Ryan or Logan Hackney. However, the investigation into Ryan and Logan Hackney’s role in the case, if any, is on-going.
UPDATE: FLORENCE, Ariz. (March 25, 2019) – City of Maricopa resident, Machelle Hobson (47), was indicted by a grand jury on Monday, March 25, 2019. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office has charged Hobson with 30 counts for her alleged actions involving five juveniles in the case.
“After a full and fair evaluation of all known facts and all known evidence, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office is confident these charges reflect the criminal actions perpetrated by Ms. Hobson. This office is committed to fairly and impartially administering justice for all those involved,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.
One count Kidnapping, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children; two counts of Child Abuse, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children, and two counts of Child Abuse, a class 4 felony;
One count Kidnapping, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; three counts Child Abuse, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; three counts Child Abuse, a class 4 felony;
One count Aggravated Assault, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; one count Kidnapping, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; one count Child Abuse, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; three counts Child Abuse, a class 4 felony; one count Child Abuse, a class 6 felony;
One count Kidnapping, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; one count Child Abuse, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; four counts Child Abuse, a class 4 felony;
One count Child Abuse, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; one count Kidnapping, a class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children felony; three counts Child Abuse, a class 4 felony;
Hobson’s arraignment is set to take place at the Pinal County Superior Courthouse on Friday, March 29th at 8:30 a.m.
Original Press Release
FLORENCE, Ariz. (March 18, 2019) – Pinal County Attorney’s Office is evaluating the child abuse allegations against City of Maricopa resident Machelle Hobson, 47. We were first alerted to the police investigation and underlying allegations by City of Maricopa Police Department. On March 15, 2019, Hackney, and her two biological children 27-year-old Logan and 25-year-old Ryan Hackney, were taken into custody by local law enforcement.
Pinal County Attorney’s Office takes child abuse allegations very seriously. We are conducting a comprehensive review of the investigation to determine the most appropriate way to proceed forward with formal charges. While the allegations are highly disturbing and alarming, all three defendants are innocent until proven guilty.
“Children are our community’s most precious resource, and this office is committed to holding those individuals who choose to harm them fully accountable for their actions,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.
January 17, 2019
FLORENCE, Ariz. – A jury found 40-year-old Michael Huntoon guilty of ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and dangerous crimes against children.
At sentencing on January 9th, the court imposed a presumptive sentence of 28 years for each of the ten counts against him. In total, Huntoon was sentenced to 280-years in prison.
“This office is committed to putting predators behind bars and keeping our communities safe. Sentences like these ensure that Mr. Huntoon and those like him will never perpetrate another crime on another child,” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.
In 2015, Phoenix and Chandler Police Departments uncovered Huntoon’s actions while they were proactively investigating on a peer-to-peer file sharing network known for the distribution of child pornography. On the file-sharing network, they discovered downloadable images and videos exploiting children. After close examination, detectives discovered the source of the information came from Huntoon’s computer.
The Phoenix Police Department, with the assistance of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, searched Huntoon’s Apache Junction residence. During the search, law enforcement seized a laptop, cell phone, and tablet belonging to Huntoon. Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department forensically analyzed those devices which resulted in the discovery of thousands of images of minors, as young as five-years-old. Law enforcement officers arrested Huntoon on October 28, 2015.
“Cases like these are built by the seamless collaboration of multiple jurisdictions and police agencies. By these agencies working together, men like Mr. Huntoon are systematically identified, prosecuted, and held accountable for their crimes against our most vulnerable,” Volkmer said.
Report child exploitation to the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at 623-466-1835. Additionally, you can file a report online on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Cybertipline or call your local police agency.
FLORENCE, Ariz. (November 19, 2018) – A Pinal County Superior Court jury returned a verdict against a man charged with murdering another man outside the City of Maricopa on November 7, 2016.
A jury convicted Arthur Magana of first-degree felony murder and armed robbery.
In 2016, 16-year-old Arthur Magana and 17-year-old passenger Gustavo Olivo met 20-year-old Wyatt Miller. Miller picked up the two juveniles in his truck and drove to a dirt road. Magana was riding in the back seat of Miller’s truck when he fired eleven shots from the back seat striking Miller in his head, back, and neck. Magana and Olivo, who took four ounces of marijuana, fled to a nearby house. Deputies tracked footprints that led from the truck to a house where they located the suspects. Detectives found marijuana, a gun, and bloody clothing at the scene. Arthur Magana and Olivo were both arrested by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
“Today, a jury of his peers held the defendant accountable for his vicious, execution-style murder of Wyatt Miller. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office along with the Pinal County Attorney’s Office worked collaboratively to bring justice for Mr. Miller and his family. It is my sincere hope that with this conviction Mr. Miller’s family receives some measure of closure and can begin the long healing process,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.
A sentencing date has yet to be determined, but December 17, 2018, is set for the next hearing date.
What should I do if I get a bad check?
If you or your business receives a bad check in exchange for goods or services, fill out a Crime Report (first time victims only), attach the bad check to a completed Witness Form (use a separate form for each bad check), and mail or deliver these materials to our office:
Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Bad Check Program, PO Box #887 Florence, AZ 85132.
If there is sufficient evidence to prove the ID of the check writers, we will take action — including criminal prosecution — to collect the funds you are owed from the bad check writer plus a $25 merchant fee at no cost to you.
What types of checks are NOT handled by the program?
We can only handle checks where the check writer’s identity can be proven. There are also other types of cases that are not handled by the Bad Check Program, such as:
• Stale Checks: Checks that are older than 180 days past the date issued are considered stale and usually are declined. It is preferable that all checks are submitted as promptly as possible.
• Postdated Checks: These types of checks are considered an extension of credit and are inappropriate for prosecution under Arizona law.
• Credit Card Accounts
• Traveler’s Checks
• Health Savings Accounts
• Checks issued, passed or accepted in another county or state.
• Any check for which partial payment has been accepted. Acceptance of a partial payment constitutes an extension of credit or a loan, resulting in a civil defense.
• Checks with illegible, forged, dual or stamped signatures
• Checks that involve civil disputes
What happens to the bad check writer?
Most “first time” bad check writers will be provided an opportunity to avoid prosecution by payment of full restitution and state-mandated fees. If the check writer does not make full restitution, and if sufficient evidence for criminal charges is available, criminal prosecution may be initiated. If the check writer is a repeat offender, or if evidence exists of intent to defraud from the beginning, the County Attorney will attempt to prosecute. Bad check writers face a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail for each bad check; $2,500 in fines, restitution up to twice the amount of the check; and state-mandated collection fees pursuant to A.R.S 13-1807 and 13-1810.
What else can I do to recover funds from a bad check?
We encourage the victims to contact the check writer to resolve the issue of non-payment. We have provided “Demand for Payment” guidelines and example letters you can mail to the check writer. This should be taken prior to contacting the Bad Check Program. For more in-depth information about the Bad Check Program - read our guidebook.
What if I receive payment after submitting a check to the program?
Once a check has been submitted to the Bad Check Program, do not accept payment for the check! Any money sent to you by the check writer should be immediately returned to the check writer or forwarded to the Bad Check Program with a note requesting the money be applied to your specific case.
I’m the check writer - how do I take care of this?
Writing a bad check may result in criminal charges filed, a summons to court, warrant for your arrest and having a permanent record of being a bad check writer. The Bad Check Program may offer you, the check writer, the opportunity to divert this matter from going to court. If eligible, the balance must be paid in full before criminal charges are filed, then this offense may not go on your permanent record. Payments can be mailed into the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, Bad Check Program, PO Box #887, Florence, AZ 85132 We only accept money orders or cashier’s checks. Include your Personal ID (PID) number on all forms of payment. A receipt will be given or mailed to you showing the payment was received and your account credited. Do not pay the merchant(s), or the person(s) to whom the check was originally written.
*NOTE: The Pinal County Attorney’s Office cannot provide legal advice to private individuals. You are encouraged to seek legal counsel of your choosing to resolve any questions or concerns you may have.
I cannot make the full payment at this time. Does your office offer payment options?
Yes. As long as our office has not filed a criminal case against you and this is your first bad check, we offer the option of Diversion. Contact our office to set up a time to come in and sign the Diversion paperwork. Signing the Diversion agreement will set you up on a 6-month payment plan until the amount owed is paid in full. A signed Diversion agreement is a document admitting to the crime but gives you the opportunity to resolve the matter without going to court, as long as payments are made monthly. If one payment is missed, your case will automatically be sent to court and criminal charges may be brought against you.
A case has been filed against me, how do I resolve this?
You have the following options:
• You can pay off the entire balance owed to the Bad Check Program. After the office receives payment in full, the Program will send a dismissal to the Justice Court your case is filed in. You should also contact the Justice Court, as the courts impose their own fines and fees per case.
• Enter into Diversion, pay restitution in full along with all fee’s within the 6-month time frame. Complete 20 hours of community service. The program will send a dismissal to the Justice Court your case is filed in. You should also contact the Justice Court, as the courts impose their own fines and fees per case.
I have received a letter from PCAO, but am a victim of identity theft. How do I resolve this with your office?
Contact our office to let us know you will be submitting the following paperwork verifying that you were the victim of identity theft: police report, notarized letter from your banking institution and any additional information you have received regarding your ID theft. All information must be submitted to our office in a timely manner. We will have a detective review the information for accuracy. You may be required to come into the office to sign an affidavit of forgery. Until you provide the information requested, via email, fax or mail and is verified we will still show this as an open case.