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(FLORENCE, AZ) - A standing-room-only crowd gathered to celebrate the winners of the annual Anti-Drug Poster Contest.
The awards ceremony for the 32nd Annual Anti-Drug Poster Contest, put on by the Pinal County Attorney's Office, took place Thursday night at Florence High School.
"This is really an opportunity to celebrate," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer.
Families and friends gathered to support the students who made it to the Top-40. Nearly 800 sixth-grade students from across Pinal County submitted entries this year. Those were then whittled down to the Top-10, with three Pinal County Superior Court Judges picking the posters with the best message, best artwork, and the best overall.
The annual Anti-Drug Poster Contest is dedicated to the memory of Judge Robert Bean.
"What he realized is that sixth graders, as they transition into middle school, start getting exposed to things, they start having to make difficult decisions," Volkmer said. "He wanted to create an opportunity for sixth graders to reflect on choices they were going to make."
Volkmer told the crowd about 50% of all felony prosecutions include drug possession, drug sale, and drug transportation.
"About 85% of our crime can be tied specifically to substance use," Volkmer said.
Volkmer expressed hope that the families and students in attendance will use the lessons learned throughout the poster contest and will avoid drug use, while also encouraging others to do the same.
"My hope is that...we can address this," Volkmer said.
One of the speakers also included Misty Terrigino, whose daughter, 17-year-old Kaylie Tallant, died in April of last year after unknowingly ingesting a pill containing fentanyl.
"Kaylie was fearless, she was adventurous, she was my best friend," Terrigino said.
Terrigino said since the incident she learned her daughter had obtained what she thought was a Percocet via a social media app. She found her daughter unconscious inside her bedroom.
"I opened the door, along with her brother, and my daughter was sleeping, forever sleeping in her bed, laying on her bed, her laptop open," Terrigino said.
Terrigino later discovered the pill contained fentanyl. She hopes her daughter's death sparks important conversations among other families about the prevalence of fentanyl and how easy it is to obtain.
"Parents I need you to listen," Terrigino said. "The drug landscape has changed...social media has allowed direct access to our children."
Terrigino encouraged parents to not make the mistake of thinking this won't ever happen to their kids.
"If you would have told me 18 months ago that I would be standing in front of you ..telling you that I lost my only daughter, I would never have believed you," she said.
Volkmer echoed the sentiment and encouraged families to have multiple, repeated short conversations with their kids about drugs to ensure the message sticks.
Volkmer praised the students in attendance for their participation in the poster contest and for helping raise awareness about drugs.
"You have the opportunity to save peoples' lives," Volkmer said. "You have the opportunity to make our community a better place."
BEST OVERALL - Raya Lau / Eduprize
BEST MESSAGE - Jessie Trent / ALA Anthem
BEST ARTWORK - Teagan Parry / Eduprize
(SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ) - The Pinal County Attorney's Office is looking for middle school boys interested in participating in an exciting event where they will learn how to overcome obstacles and the importance of positive relationships.
The 'Life Champion!' event is geared for 6th-8th grade boys and will take place on Saturday, November 19th, 2022 at Copper Basin K-8 in San Tan Valley. Those who attend can bring a male role model with them to the event.
The 'Life Champion!' event includes several speakers, who will touch on topics including leadership, overcoming obstacles and the importance of positive relationships. Speakers include County Attorney Kent Volkmer, Sheriff Mark Lamb and PCAO Investigator Eli Pile.
The event will also feature activities such as rocket making, career exploration with Rural Metro Fire and games with participating law enforcement officials, among others.
What: Life Champion! event for 6th-8th grade boys
When: Saturday, November 19th from 8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Where: Copper Basin K-8 28682 N. Main Street, San Tan Valley, AZ
To register, email Community Liaison Matthew Hirsh at Mathew.Hirsh@Pinal.Gov or contact him at 520-866-6573.
(FLORENCE, AZ) - The top 3 winners have been announced for the 'Paint Pinal Purple' contest put on by the Pinal County Attorney's Office.
We had 12 impressive entries for the 'Paint Pinal Purple' contest throughout October to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We appreciate everyone who took part and helped raise awareness.
(FLORENCE, AZ) - A San Tan Valley man has been sentenced to more than 40 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for offenses including sexual conduct with a minor.
On August 25, 2022, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Jason Holmberg sentenced Michael Erickson, 43, to 41 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Erickson previously pled guilty to Sexual Conduct with a Minor Under the Age of Fifteen, a class 3 felony; and two counts of Molestation, a class 2 felony.
According to court documents, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded to a San Tan Valley home in February 2022 regarding a reported sex offense. The victim disclosed and alleged Erickson had inappropriate sexual contact with her years prior. During the course of the investigation, Erickson admitted to some of the illicit behavior and the investigation revealed that he had molested three different victims.
(FLORENCE, AZ) - A Casa Grande man has been sentenced to 20 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
On August 22, 2022, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Steven Fuller sentenced Leonard Skinner, 61, to 20 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Skinner previously pled guilty to two (2) counts of Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer, a class 2 dangerous felony.
According to court documents, in October 2020, Casa Grande police officers and Pinal County sheriff’s deputies responded to a home for a family disturbance, and during the response, Skinner used a firearm and fired multiple rounds toward the responding officers.
(APACHE JUNCTION, AZ) - The Pinal County Attorney's Office will host another 'Coffee with Kent' event in Apache Junction next week.
'Coffee with Kent and the Chief' is set to take place in Apache Junction on Thursday, October 27th. Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer will be joined by Apache Junction Police Chief Michael Pooley. The two will take questions from residents and address any concerns they have about their community.
When: Thursday, October 27, 2022
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 10:30a.m.
Where: Central Arizona College - Multi Purpose Room (805 S. Idaho Road, Apache Junction)
The Pinal County Attorney's Office has hosted numerous 'Coffee with Kent' events across Pinal County throughout the year. The goal is to build community engagement and allow residents an opportunity to ask questions, learn what is happening in their neighborhoods and address any concerns they might have. Or, they can come just to meet their local officials and enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee.
FLORENCE, AZ - Businesses and organizations are encouraged to help 'Paint Pinal Purple' during the month of October.
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Pinal County Attorney's Office launched an initiative called 'Paint Pinal Purple' in support of domestic violence victims. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
As part of the initiative, businesses and organizations are encouraged to light up their facility or office in purple throughout the month of October. The Top-10 winners will receive recognition on social media and the Top-3 will receive recognition from the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and County Attorney Kent Volkmer.
For those who participate, email the name of your business/organization, as well as a picture, to Community Liaison Latisha Joseph at Latisha.Joseph@Pinal.Gov.
(FLORENCE, AZ) - The Pinal County Attorney's Office hosted a kickoff event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Monday, which included a brave survivor of domestic violence detailing her story.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which aims to acknowledge survivors and be a voice for victims.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer joined Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in providing remarks about the month and the issue. In 2020, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division provided services to 2,265 victims of domestic violence. In 2019, there were 96 domestic violence-related deaths in Arizona, according to the numbers available from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
"This is our opportunity to stand up and say enough is enough," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. "That together we're going to come together. Together we're going to work. Together we're going to leverage what we have to do better, because the status quo is simply unacceptable."
The featured speaker was Sara Pitcher, who bravely described her toxic marriage that started with emotional abuse and escalated to physical abuse.
Pitcher said her ex-husband left her legally blind in her right eye after a violent attack in 2018. You can watch her full story below, which she tells with the goal of providing hope to those currently experiencing domestic violence.
The Pinal County Attorney's Office is incredibly proud of what she's overcome and extends a special thank you to her for sharing her story and for her work in advocating for victims of domestic violence.
(QUEEN CREEK, AZ) - Nearly 200 people attended a community screening of the independent film 'Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic,' which details the rising threat to our kids and the numerous ways predators target their victims.
The Pinal County Attorney's Office partnered with the Queen Creek Police Department to organize the event, which took place on Saturday, September 17th at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. Filmmaker Stephen Peek from Auroris Media also attended the event and took part in the panel discussion afterwards. The panel included filmmaker Stephen Peek, County Attorney Kent Volkmer, Queen Creek Police Chief Randy Brice, one of QCPD's detectives and a representative from Homeland Security.
'Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic' details the rising instances of 'Sextortion,' where predators use fake profiles to lure unsuspecting kids into online conversations and coerce them to send explicit photos of themselves. Once that is done, the predator demands more explicit content and/or money and threatens to release the photos publicly if the victim does not comply. The documentary features a real case where the suspect turned out to be a pilot in the Navy.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the number of reports involving sextortion more than doubled between 2019 and 2021.
A special thank you to the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center which hosted the event. PCAO hopes the families who attended learned more about 'sextortion' and how kids and teens are targeted by predators. Prevention - which includes regular conversations with friends and family - is the best way to prevent youth from becoming a victim.