The year in crime in brought no closure to Flagstaff’s most high-profile shooting as a jury could not reach a verdict in the murder trial of NAU shooter Steven Jones.
Coconino County Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton declared a mistrial after the jury could not come to a unanimous decision after five days of deliberation.
The hung jury kept an ending to the most high profile incident of 2015 in limbo.
Jones is charged with first-degree murder and multiple counts of aggravated assault after killing Colin Brough and injuring Nick Prato, Nick Piring and Kyle Zientek with a handgun during a fight in the Mountain View Hall dormitory parking lot in September 2015.
Coconino County Deputy Attorney Ammon Barker attempted to portray Jones as an “assassin in the night,” while Jones’ defense attorney Joshua Davidson described his client as an “innocent bystander” protecting himself from attackers.
“The defendant’s pride was hurt in the early morning hours of October 9 because he was punched one time in the face, and instead of walking away or punching back he went to his car to get his fully loaded handgun and walked 90 feet to shoot four college students, killing Colin Brough,” Barker said to the jury during opening statements.
“Mr. Barker tells a good story but this is not a case of an assassin who murdered in the dark,” countered Davidson. “This is about Mr. Jones, who a couple of weeks into his college career found himself surrounded, threatened and attacked. Jones did what he had to do to protect himself and he only had seconds to make that decision,” Davidson said in rebuttal of the prosecution.
The new year could bring about a conclusion to this shooting, as a retrial is scheduled for March 27.
A number of murders were also recorded in 2017, with none capturing the public’s eye more than the killing of Glendale kindergarten teacher Cathryn Gorospe.
Her body was found in October in Mayer, a small town midway between Dewey and Cordes Junction on state Highway 69.
The teacher was last seen alive on Oct. 6 bailing out her friend and primary suspect in her murder, Charlie Malzahn, out of jail.
Malzahn was arrested by Phoenix Police three days later while driving Gorospe’s blood-stained Toyota Rav4.
Malzahn has not been charged with her murder but was the one who led police to the teacher’s body, according to the Flagstaff Police Department.
The discovery of her body ended a nearly two-week search that spanned the woods of Coconino County to the high-desert of Yavapai County.
“All you can do is look and hope we find her,” Cathryn’s sister-in-law Freya Gorospe said one day before the teacher’s body was found. “We keep looking because we want to bring her home.”
This year also saw a high number homicides in Flagstaff, according to the Flagstaff Police Department, creating a sharp contrast from 2016, when no murders were recorded.
Flagstaff Police investigated four homicides this year, two of them involving juveniles
The year’s first murder occurred in March when Fernando Enriquez, 15, shot and killed Jacob M. Allen, 20, in the bathroom of the Hal Jensen Recreation Center in Sunnyside. The shooting occurred after Enriquez attempted to rob Allen and his friend Nicholas Tyler Woods, 19, during a drug deal for marijuana.
Enriquez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and one count of armed robbery in November and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The year’s second homicide brought another self-defense claim after James Womble, 21, stabbed his landlord Peter Gillespie, 63, multiple times with a pair of scissors in Southside in July.
Womble said that Gillespie became violent with him over unpaid rent and threw him to the ground, dislocating Womble’s shoulder.
“Get away from me. I am going to stab you,” Womble said he yelled moments before stabbing his landlord. “I have a bad shoulder and I can’t do anything else but stab, so please get away from me.”
Rick Morris, who has been friends with Gillespie for 43 years, said that he did not believe Womble’s defense.
“I can’t see him going after this kid on a level he is talking about,” Morris said. “I could see him being vocal about the situation but not hurting someone.”
Womble was charged with second-degree murder in October and is awaiting a trial date under the supervision of pretrial services.
The year’s third homicide is the second involving juveniles.
Flagstaff residents Lawrence Sampson-Kahn, 18, Kayson Russell, 19, Mirelle Gorman, 16, and Jadya Fortune, 17, were charged with second-degree murder on Sept. 7 after allegedly beating Jaron James, 23, to death in room 119 at the L Motel on South Milton Road.
The teens allegedly beat an intoxicated James after he repeatedly touched the two underage girls inappropriately.
James was too drunk to defend himself and could only “block his face lazily,” according to the police report.
Gorman told Flagstaff Police detectives in an interview that they only attacked James because he touched them.
“He touched me, he touched me, but it doesn’t matter that he touched me,” Gorman cried, after she learned James was dead.
The teens are currently awaiting trial out of custody under the supervision of pretrial services.
Flagstaff’s final murder is still awaiting a murder charge.
Ethan Watson, 25, was stabbed to death in his car at the Killip Elementary School parking lot on Nov. 2.
The primary suspect in that case is currently in custody for an outstanding warrant but has not been charged with murder.