Daniel Renteria, the father accused of killing two men after one allegedly molested his 3-year-old son, is getting his day in court.
Again and again.
For the second time in a row, Renteria’s trial ended in a mistrial, thanks to a hung jury.
A date for the third trial, if there is to be one, is scheduled to be set Nov. 8, KGUN-9 reports.
Unless a few mistakes are corrected and some changes made, a third trial seems likely to follow along the same lines.
Hung jury. Mistrial.
When can we just let the guy go already?
Renteria faces two counts of manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Richard Rue Jr., 40, and James “Red” Marschinke, 49, who were shot and killed March 1 while sitting in a front yard in the 5300 block of East 25th Street, Tucson police said.
Renteria initially fled the scene and burned his car, but then turned himself into police the following day.
Mistake number one – confession. Unless you have a lawyer present, which was not made clear in this case, blurting out your guts to authorities is never a good idea.
The first trial, in August, ended with 11 to 1 for conviction. The second trial, which puttered to a close Oct. 15, snapped shut with the jury deadlocked.
The defense argues Renteria shot the men in self-defense, especially since Rue threatened to kill Renteria and his son if he ran to police to report Marschinke’s alleged molestation, the Arizona Daily Star said. The prosecution counters Renteria shot unarmed men and the killings were not justified.
Evidently arguments are not strong – or convincing – enough, although the grand jury was convinced enough to lessen Renteria’s first-degree murder charges to manslaughter.
But it still indicted him for manslaughter.
Although a new jury is introduced with every new trial, all other variables are staying the same.
The most recent trial, which kicked off Oct. 6, did so with “the same judge, the same lawyers, the same witnesses, the same game plan and the same animosity,” ADS reported.
So why expect different results? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is one of the definitions of our friend insanity.
The animosity noted is not necessarily between the families of the victims and the accused – but between the defense attorney and the judge.
The Star story says the judge was not quick to offer explanations when the defense attorney asked for them. And at one point when the judge got up to leave, the defense pressed him to “make a record” for future reference if the case is ever reviewed. The judge told her to sit down and asked if he needed to call for additional security. The Star then quoted him telling her, “If you insist on this, there will be consequences to you personally.”
Mistake number two – a judge who seems to hate your lawyer.
Trials are supposed to be about bringing out the truth, but they are often more about putting on a show. The best showman, or woman, often gets the win. It has to be tough putting on a good show if the “emcee” doesn’t seem to like you.
Since no one is winning this show, perhaps it’s time for new showmen. Or a new judge. Or a new line of thinking – just scrap the thing altogether.
Of course, we cannot accurately say how we would truly decide unless we were actually on the jury ourselves, but 12 of us may get that chance if Renteria gets yet another day in court.
What do you think?
Should a third trial be set or should Renteria be let go?
The Grand Canyon is a place of majesty, magnitude – and death.
Two recently hit in less than a week. One of them, a man who tumbled over the edge Oct. 1, gave rise to a number of rumors that attempted to explain his fall.
The National Park Service’s official news release said a witness told park personnel the man had been jumping from one rock outcropping to another.
No way is that true, said some, while others started spinning unverifiable yarns nearly immediately. One claimed he was not only jumping but wearing flip flops while doing it. Another said he had been getting his photo taken by his girlfriend and she watched him fall.
While these rumors may sound ridiculous – and be wholly untrue in this particular case – chances are someone did, in fact, die from similar circumstances in the Grand Canyon’s deadly history.
“How many people die here each year?” is a question constantly asked by Canyon visitors, says the book “Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon” – not an inquiry easily answered.
Authors Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers, who pored over decades of records, news stories, anecdotes and often conflicting accounts, offer no pat answer.
Hundreds of deaths overall is the best response they could give, noting some deaths go unreported and some bodies not found for years – or ever.
The Grand Canyon shows no mercy – and often offers no second chances.
Deaths included in news releases this year alone include one jump ruled a suicide, three falls and two unexplained young hiker deaths. In addition to fatalities tied to the Canyon itself, one man was killed when his truck smashed into a tree at Grand Canyon National Park.
Suicides, mishaps, carelessness, freak accidents, venomous critters, murders – death in the Canyon comes in many forms.
A mother of five was found dead after being stabbed 42 times with an ice pick, beaten with a wrench, shot several times and dragged to the edge of a cliff and thrown over, landing 50 feet below.
Heart attacks, dehydration, flash floods, lightning strikes and Colorado River drownings also take their fair share of victims, as do stunts meant to be funny or daring that end up being fatal.
One dad playing a practical joke on his daughter pretended to fall backwards off the rim onto a hidden ledge below, “Over the Edge,” reports. The only problem was he missed the hidden ledge when momentum instead pulled him down into the Canyon’s deadly depths.
At least two men were killed while “hamming it up” for tourist cameras while jumping between rock ledges, one of whom had been recently rescued for the same stunt.
A daredevil diver never surfaced alive after swan-diving 196-feet into 12-feet of water at the bottom of Mooney Falls in Havasu Canyon. A doctor examining the body reported possible drug use.
Another death came about when a man decided to eat blossoms of the scared Datura he found along one of the trails and perished from toxicity.
The point of mentioning these deaths, and one of the goals of “Over the Edge,” is to remind people that the wilderness is, well, wild.
Many modern folks have largely become large, out of shape and, as “Over the Edge” says, wholly domesticated – not prime candidates for strenuous hiking or rafting in the Canyon. Even those in the best of shape can fall victim to Mother Nature.
People also need to keep in mind that help may take some time to arrive in and around a massive, treacherous gorge.
Although some may cry for the park service to install guardrails, pavement, ramps, flashing neon signs and other safety devices in each and every Canyon nook and cranny, such defacing of a national park is actually against the law. “The 1916 National Park Organic Act dictates that the National Park Service must leave national parks in their natural state.”
It’s up to visitors to know, and respect, their own limits, especially when pitted against the unrelenting rock face of nature.
Although the Grand Canyon is a destination of many a family vacation – it certainly is no Disneyland.
Note: Condolences to family and friends of all those who died in the Grand Canyon. This piece is not meant to be hurtful to survivors, but rather helpful to others by reminding them of dangers.
Grand Canyon deaths Jan. 1 through Oct. 1, 2010*
Andrew Stires, 42, fell to his death Oct. 1 in an area just off the rim trail on the South Rim.
Gavin C. Smith, 30, was found dead Sept. 29 after he told his hiking friends to go ahead down the trail, he’ll wait at the halfway point for them to get him when they hike their way out.
Randy Nelson, 22, was killed and two other men injured Aug. 23 when their truck smashed into a tree on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.
Karthryn Roth, 22, was found dead July 8 just below the North Rim of the Grand Canyon after not returning as expected. Park rangers found her hiking partner rafting solo down the river in the late morning of July 8. He said he last saw Roth July 6.
Kirby Porter, 50, was found dead July 12 about 250 feet below the rim at Grand Canyon’s Moran Point. A call the previous night reported a man getting out of his car, climbing over the Moran Point retaining wall and then lying down on the edge of the canyon rim.
Michael McMahon, 64, plummeted to his death on May 21, after reportedly running up to – and over – the rim. His death was ruled a suicide.
The body of a man, whose identity was not immediately disclosed, was found about 30 feet below the south rim of the Grand Canyon on Jan. 6.
*These are only deaths reported in news releases from National Park Service, more have likely occurred.
“Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon,” originally published in 2001 and updated to include deaths from as late as 2008, offers “Gripping accounts of all known fatal mishaps in the most famous of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders.” Authors Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers both worked in and have been intimately acquainted with the Grand Canyon for years.
The large rock found near Thomas Tucker’s pummeled skull could have been the murder weapon. Or it could have been the sledgehammer deputies noted on the porch.
In either case, Tom Tucker, 58, was found badly beaten Aug. 24, police records say, his body dragged from the base of a porch wheelchair ramp and left facedown in the dirt beneath a large mesquite tree in the trailer’s driveway.
A pair of sunglasses and baseball cap lay along the drag mark pathway.
His face was so severely mangled that a friend on the scene in the 6700 block of West Dogtown Road asked a deputy for a mouth breather to perform CPR.
Although Tom was breathing, barely, when paramedics arrived, he was pronounced dead soon after.
Tom’s son Brandon Tucker, days shy of his 25th birthday the night of the crime, is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with his father’s death.
“He was shaking his arms up in the air triumphantly and his arms were covered in blood,” police records quote one family member describing Brandon after Tom was beaten, “shouting that he killed his old man.”
Brandon refused a request for an interview.
“My opinion Brandon was coming off drugs, or on them, got mad at something Tom said,” said Brandon’s cousin, who wished to be known only as James. “Add 20 years of hatred – and you have a murder.”
The son: Brandon Tucker
“He was a chill person when sober,” James said of his cousin. “Always mad about something though. I was never around him when he did drugs, but I heard he was just crazy.” He named Brandon’s drug of choice as methamphetamine.
Brandon grew up in Apache Junction with two younger brothers, one younger sister – but largely without a father. Tom left his four kids behind with their mother when Brandon was about 6 or 7.
“He didn’t completely abandon them,” James said, “but would come around every few months and later on, every few years.”
Brandon’s first brush with the law was around age 12, James said, and he was “in and out” of juvenile detention facilities ever since. By the time he hit his late teens, Brandon graduated to crimes like fighting and bicycle and car thefts, James said, possibly the only graduating Brandon ever did.
“He was kicked out of high school, I believe,” James notes. “I don’t believe he ever held a regular job. He did mechanic work. He told me he would rebuild people’s engines in his garage back when he was renting a house with friends. He loved working on cars and dirt bikes.”
In addition to 12 traffic violations, Brandon’s court records on the Arizona Judicial Branch website include a small handful of criminal charges, from disorderly conduct to carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, most of which were dismissed.
They also include an order of protection filed against him in 2004 and an ongoing custody battle over one of his children with the child’s mother.
He applied for, and was granted, a marriage license to another woman in 2007, the same year he pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge of assault, reckless endangerment and intent to injure. Although still in his 20s, James said Brandon already has three kids, each with a different woman.
A February 2008 drug charge for possession or use of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia landed him a 1-year sentence in Arizona state prison.
The last time James saw his cousin Brandon was earlier this year when Brandon came to Phoenix to help James’ mother move to Denver.
“He just talked about weird things,” James said, “made strange comments. His brothers said he would act real crazy and thought everyone was against him.”
Despite Brandon’s reported rants, he did smile at a few of James’ jokes and offer him some hope.
“He said he wanted to do good and stay out of prison and had to grow up,” James said. “He talked about changing his life around.”
Several months later, Thomas Tucker laid facedown in the driveway, suffering from internal bleeding and fractures, with a rock beside his skull.
“Guess that wasn’t the case.”
The dad: Thomas Tucker
“Tom hasn’t been the best uncle or human being in the world,” James noted, “but in the last couple years I believe he was changing his life around.”
A lifelong construction manager and supervisor, Tom was up for retirement after a 30-year career. His career included more than just construction-related endeavors.
Like his son, Tom had his own substantial rap sheet, including an order of protection filed against him in 1997 as well as some prison time.
Tom’s 5-month sentence in Arizona state prison was for a December 2009 aggravated DUI. Records say he was released in May.
Other entries at the Arizona Judicial Branch website include aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a couple of instances of disorderly conduct, reckless burning, issuing a bad check, arson and criminal damage to property.
A dangerous drug charge for possession of equipment to manufacture is also included, as is a 2002 order to attend a parent education class. James said Tom had four children with Brandon’s mother and another son with a different woman.
Unlike his son’s records, most of Tom’s criminal charges were not dismissed.
Despite his criminal record and leaving his family behind nearly 20 years ago, James said Tom was trying to make up for past wrongs.
“He was finally being more of a father to his own children,” James said, even inviting Brandon to come stay with him at the Dogtown Road residence where he was renting a room from a friend.
“He used and manipulated a lot of his family,” James said of his uncle, “but he’d still be willing to help you build your house, or fix anything you needed.”
Tom was outgoing, and especially enjoyed keeping busy – as well as his alcohol, James said.
The last time James recalls Brandon and Tom together was about a decade ago, when James and Brandon were 15 years old.
“They would bicker,” James recalled. “Tom took Brandon’s truck and left us stranded in Springville and Brandon was pissed.”
He didn’t know if the two ever managed to get along since that incident, nor did he know how Tom felt about Brandon.
“I just know he was trying to help him in the end.”
The reunion, the murder
Once Brandon was released from prison, James said he drifted aimlessly around Apache Junction, where Brandon’s mom still lives, staying with friends and lacking any direction.
Dad Tom invited Brandon to come stay with him in Sahuarita, maybe even help him get a job. Brandon arrived at his dad’s house the day prior to the murder.
Tom was renting a room from a family friend who lived on one of three 5-acre parcels at the end of a 3-mile dirt road, James noted. Tom’s sister and her husband lived on another parcel while Tom’s niece and her husband lived on the third.
The owner of Tom’s rental room was not too keen on Brandon staying at his place – police records say he knew Brandon was trouble – so Brandon was supposed to stay with Tom’s sister, his aunt, instead.
One family member noted in police records Brandon was a “self-proclaimed white supremacist,” complete with shaved head and tattoos. It was no secret he was fresh out of prison.
Tom and Brandon had been drinking beer that evening in front of Tom’s sister’s home, police reports say, when Brandon started getting belligerent. He began insulting family members and friends who were also there.
Brandon was told he had to leave for being disrespectful, so he took off towards the family friend’s house, a short jaunt away.
The family friend told Tom he was concerned about Brandon going to his house with no one else there, so Tom went after him.
After about 15 minutes, Brandon returned. Tom did not.
While one person heard heard Brandon yelling while Tom was talking calmly, and another heard dogs going crazy barking, neither witnessed the beating. No one did.
Tom’s landlord’s girlfriend returned from getting dinner groceries to find “a tall guy with a shaved head” kicking something in her boyfriend’s driveway.
She thought he might be kicking her boyfriend’s dogs. It was instead Tom’s crumpled body.
She backed away. “When the male subject saw her, he approached her with his hand outstretched, covered in blood, and he made a statement something to the effect of, ‘Ha ha! I killed him and he’ll never beat another woman again,’” police records say.
He tried to introduce himself as his father, Tom Tucker, but Tom was the woman’s friend, as well as her boyfriend’s tenant, and she knew the man in front of her was not Tom.
She refused to shake the guy’s bloody hand.
Others were soon on the scene, including the home’s owner with a shotgun telling Brandon to get off his property.
Brandon walked off into the desert, calling Tom a “dirty bastard” and screaming, “That’s for all the times you beat my mama when I was a kid. You won’t beat her no more.”
Deputies found Brandon about a mile away on another man’s property, high atop a 10-foot scissor lift that the man happened to have in his yard.
He did not come quietly, at least not initially, and instead screamed curses and took off his tank top to throw at one of the deputies.
Brandon was especially loud about the police dog on the scene, hollering how he did not want to be tasered or attacked by the dog.
“The suspect began to yell at the top of his lungs at me,” the deputy with K-9 said in the report. “He yelled almost every imaginable obscenity and told me that he was going to rip my dog’s head off. He stated that he was a Marine and that his hands were registered weapons.”
Deputies finally calmed him down enough so he climbed down from the lift, laid on the ground, and acquiesced to the handcuffs.
He spent the ride in the back of the deputy’s car asking for water and admonishing the deputy.
“He made comments about how my rifle, helmet and night vision on my seat were illegal,” the deputy wrote in the report. “He said those should only be in the possession of a trained helicopter pilot and helicopter personnel who were trained in flight and large artillery.”
During the ride to the station, and in subsequent interviews, Brandon denied killing his father. At some points, he even denied knowing anybody at the scene and said his father was not even around.
When a deputy pointed out the altercation was between him and someone who claims to be his father, the police report says Brandon responded with “Yeah, someone does think he’s my father,” and then said the man was, instead, a “punk a- s n- – – -r.”
The report notes, “He went on to say his real father was the sheriff of Pinal County and Maricopa County and to have him come down here and tell him he is causing trouble.”
James says deep resentment – and drugs – seems more likely to be cause for killing rather than the subject of the argument that directly preceded the homicide.
“I heard it was just an argument about cars,” James said. “Whose car was faster, between Brandon’s and another uncle’s. So all told Tom (that) Brandon has to leave because he’s being disrespectful.
“So Tom went after Brandon to talk to him and that’s when Brandon was waiting for him, ready to kill him.”
Nine years is a long time, but still not long enough to forget how I felt that morning on Brooklyn’s 69th Street Pier while I watched the first of the Twin Towers burn.
Incredulous sums it up.
Disgusted, enraged, horrified and heartsick would not come until later. Not until my mind finally let me believe it really happened.
Out there on the pier, on my usual bike ride to work at my usual stop with its unobstructed view of the World Trade Center, nothing so atrocious could be going down right across the water.
It was sunny. It was Tuesday. It was right before work. Bad things don’t happy on a sunny Tuesday right before work.
The smoke – thick white piles of smoke billowing from the side of the tower – must be pollution. Or clouds. Or a very strange trick of the autumn morning sunlight reflecting off the bay.
It was not until I got to the office and everyone was screaming and running in zigzags did I find out what all that smoke was about. A plane crashed. A tower burned.
Still later and we heard it crashed on purpose.
Then we heard more news and read more updates and saw follow-ups, investigative reports, victim profiles, tribute announcements, scale illustrations complete with points of impact, a bar graph counting the dead, scores of stories and more stories and photos and more photos and that godawful image of the towers collapsing that stayed prominently displayed on front pages for months.
I stopped reading the papers.
The city stank of death for weeks. Debris washed up on the Coney Island shore.
My parents, as New York City tourists, wanted to see Ground Zero when it was finally open to the public. We walked on covered planks they called walkways, jutting over the barren ground that once steadied the towers then cradled the wreckage.
I did not bring my camera.
The immediate aftermath made New Yorkers lovey-dovey. People helped their neighbors, hugged strangers, carried packages for little old ladies, paid cab fare for little old men. Trees out front were wrapped with American flags, yellow ribbons.
Then the paranoia set in.
Sidewalks and streets were lined with police barricades, yellow tape.
Officers in full regalia – complete with automatic weapons – became fixtures on the subways.
Bomb scares were everywhere. Trains were rerouted, closed down. Blocks were evacuated. Abandoned backpacks were weapons.
The Empire State Building installed metal detectors. Every building installed metal detectors.
It took a couple of years before I could again ride my bike to the 69th Street Pier. I still walked the Brooklyn Bridge, but always brought ID as I figured it was next.
The city never recovered.
Something had shifted deep beneath the pavement, a rift that can never be healed. A hollow permanently blasted in the skyline, a hole permanently blasted in our hearts.
It would take four more years for me to finally leave the city – but more than a lifetime to forget how I felt that sunny Tuesday morning.
Tracy Province, one of two escaped murderers running rampant since July 30, was caught Aug. 9 after attending services in a small town Wyoming church, according to a report in the Arizona Republic.
Some may say it was an act of God he was nabbed after a visit to the Meeteetse, Wyo., house of worship. Others may say he’s simply an idiot for hanging out in a public place.
One church-goer recognized Province at the Sunday service and reported his whereabouts to authorities. They moved in on him the next day, but not before the church’s pastor hired him to mow the church lawn for $40 and a new jacket.
Province, 42, is one of the original trio who reportedly cut a hole through the fence at a privately operated Arizona State Prison in Kingman and took to life on the lam. We’re wondering how someone smuggled fence cutters inside a cake.
Escapee Daniel Renwick, 36, was caught in Colorado the next day.
Escapee John McCluskey, 45, remains on the loose with alleged accomplice Casslyn Welch, 44, who was initially described as his fiancée but is now being noted as his cousin. Perhaps she’s both.
As expected, the duo are already being dubbed “Bonnie and Clyde,” although we much preferred Bonnie portrayed by Faye Dunaway.
What we learn from escaped killers
The escape teaches us a lot. Like how Arizona needs some beefed up prison security. We also learn what escaped killers do during life on the lam.
They reportedly kill people. While no convictions or charges have yet gone down, McCluskey and pals are thought to be responsible for the murder of Gary and Linda Haas, both 61, an Oklahoma couple vacationing in New Mexico. Their charred remains were discovered in a singed camper in Santa Rosa. Their truck was discovered back in Albuquerque.
They hijack semis. McCluskey, Province and Welch first targeted a semi as their escape vehicle, which they hijacked outside of Kingman, forcing the driver to take them to Flagstaff. It was initially reported there were two truck drivers, but now only a single driver is being noted.
They take in the sights. In addition to the desert area surrounding the Kingman prison, the escapees took in the views around Yellowstone National Park, which covers parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho; various cities in New Mexico; and various states in between. Authorities put their life-on-the-lam tour at about six different states. No word on if they sent postcards.
They suck others into their web. In addition to fiancée-cousin Welch, two other women connected to McCluskey have worked up some charges for allegedly helping him. His mother Claudia Washburn, 68, who doubles as Welch’s aunt, is being charged with hindering prosecution and conspiracy to commit escape. His ex-wife, Diana Joy Glattfelder, faces the same charges.
They treat it all as fun and games. As noted, McCluskey and Welch are already being dubbed “Bonnie and Clyde,” officials say complete with the “Ain’t life grand” attitude.
“They’ve taken the persona that this is some type of a movie and this is some type of a joke they are living,” David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for Arizona, told the Republic. “No good is going to come out of this.”
With such a hot topic screaming through the headlines, some elected officials are equally hot to jump on the bandwagon.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has sent out several news releases on the issue, so many we’d think he was running for governor or something.
One of his most recent calls on Gov. Jan Brewer to implement a five-point plan.
Goddard’s “Five Immediate Steps to Increase Prison Security”:
(1) Order the immediate review of the location of and security risk posed by all violent prisoners in Arizona.
(2) Order the immediate re-assignment of violent prisoners currently housed in minimum and medium security prisons.
(3) Order an immediate security review of all private prisons in the state, including a reassessment of their security classification.
(4) Place a moratorium on the assignment of future violent prisoners to private prisons pending that review.
(5) Appoint a Blue-Ribbon Commission to investigate the circumstances at the facility where the escape occurred and fine the company commensurate with the severity of all security violations found.