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Megan Mcferson, #17, spikes the ball right into the Seton Catholic defense Thursday night.


Crime-and-courts
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Collin Tarr sentenced 15 years for Kachina Village murder
  • Updated

More than three years after 53-year-old Timothy Larson was found beaten in the middle of a Kachina Village street, his neighbor Collin Tarr, 31, will spend a total of 15 years in prison for his death, a judge ruled Friday.

Tarr was found bloodied and intoxicated when authorities arrived at the scene of the death in February 2018. After a lengthy trial in the Coconino Superior Court last month, Tarr was convicted by a jury on felony charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Coconino Superior Court Judge Ted Reed sentenced Tarr to 15 years for second-degree murder and five years for aggravated assault, allowing the sentences to be served concurrently.

The length of Tarr's time behind bars is mitigated further by 1,016 days for time already served while awaiting trial.

Reed said he cannot speak to the “horror of the tragedy” any better than the statements already presented by both sides during the sentencing hearing.

Tarr addressed the court for the first time since the incident at Friday's hearing to offer his condolences to Larson’s family. He maintained that he has no recollection of his actions on the day of the murder, and that he regrets his decision to drink.

“Tim [Larson] was my friend with whom I came to care for very deeply,” Tarr said. “I wish I could go back in time to that day. I would not have chosen to start drinking .. I really feel that if I had been sober, none of this would have happened.”

Tarr’s attorney, Kara Sagi, said her client has been “absolutely haunted for the last three and a half years by what happened.” And though the defense argued Tarr’s innocence throughout the trial, Sagi said it does not mean Tarr is unable recognize the fault in his behavior.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Eric Ruchensky told the judge “there was no reason why [Larson] should have suffered the way he did.”

“It’s fair to say this is one of the most brutal assaults many of us will ever see in our lifetime,” Ruchensky said. “The evidence in this case is consistent with a brutal beating of a defenseless adult.”

Before Ruchensky presented his argument, Timothy Larson’s brother, Charles Larson, approached the podium to ask the judge to impose a maximum sentence, citing the emotional trauma it had caused him.

“Tim’s death was very hard on me. It was horrible and I felt empty inside,” Larson said. “The way my brother died was despicable.”

Sagi asked the judge for a lesser 10-year sentence for the charge of second-degree murder, and a concurrent sentence of five years for the aggravated assault charge. 

The aggravated assault charge stems from an altercation Tarr had with his cousin after police say he committed the murder. The cousin gave a statement to the judge Friday expressing that they did not wish Tarr to serve additional time for the aggravated assault.

The argument for a lighter sentence was accompanied by statements from more than a dozen of Tarr’s family members and friends who were in attendance. His immediate family addressed the judge first, asking the judge to “show mercy.”

Family to fight for son’s innocence

After the sentencing, Tarr’s parents maintained their son’s innocence as they pointed to evidence of a vehicular strike as the cause of Larson’s death.

Following the incident in 2018, a report from the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Larson sustained multiple skull fractures and more than a dozen broken ribs, ultimately ruling the manner of death as a homicide.

The defense, however, argued during the trial that the injuries were more consistent with being struck by a vehicle due to an alleged high degree of force that would have been necessary to cause the suborbital fracture to Larson’s skull.

During the trial, the defense called on expert testimony from forensic biomechanics expert Dr. Patrick Hannon, who testified that Larson’s injuries cannot be attributed to fist-to-fist combat alone.

But evidence collected by the Coconino County Attorney’s Office poked holes in the defense’s theory, such as testimony from a witness who claims to have seen Larson's head slammed against the ground by another man.

Tarr’s parents released a statement to the Arizona Daily Sun expressing that they were dedicated to seeing their son's innocence proven “at any cost.” The statement said the family was surprised at how short the jury deliberation was.

“We will explore every possible opportunity throughout the justice system,  starting with the appeals process,” the statement said.


Mark Miracle with The Sonoran Dogs sings Friday afternoon during the Pickin' in the Pines bluegrass music festival at the Pepsi Amphitheater. For more photos, see Page A6 or a gallery at azdailysun.com. The festival continues through Sunday; for more information, visit https://pickininthepines.org.


National
AP
Fires burn into sequoia groves
  • Updated

THREE RIVERS, Calif. — California wildfires burned into at least four groves of gigantic ancient sequoias in national parks and forests, though cooler weather on Friday helped crews trying to keep the flames away from a famous cluster containing the world's largest tree.

The fires lapped into the groves with trees that can be up to 200 feet tall and 2,000 years old, including Oriole Lake Grove in Sequoia National Park and Peyrone North and South groves in the neighboring Sequoia National Forest.

The fire also reached the forest's Long Meadow Grove, where then-President Bill Clinton signed a proclamation two decades ago establishing a national monument. Fire officials haven't yet been able to determine how much damage was done to the groves, which are in remote, hard-to-reach areas.

"These groves are just as impressive and just as ecologically important to the forest. They just aren't as well-known," Tim Borden, sequoia restoration and stewardship manager for the Save the Redwoods League, told the Bay Area News Group. "My heart sinks when I think about it."

Flames were still about a mile from the famed Giant Forest, where some 2,000 massive sequoias grow on a plateau high in the mountains of the national park.

Firefighters have placed special aluminum wrapping around the base of the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest by volume at 52,508 cubic feet, as well as some other sequoias and buildings.

The material can withstand intense heat for short periods and has been used in national parks and forests for several years throughout the West to protect sensitive structures from flames.

Lower temperatures and a layer of smoke blanketing the area have been a benefit by helping suppress the flames. "It's been slow growth," fire information officer Katy Hooper said.

A major element of the groves' defense is decades of prescribed burns — fires intentionally set to clear the forest floor of vegetation that could feed bigger blazes — and thinning projects to remove small trees that could become ladders carrying fire up to the crowns of the giants.

The tactic was no match for a fire in the region last year that killed thousands of sequoias, which grow as tall as high-rises at certain elevations on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

A historic drought tied to climate change is making wildfires harder to fight. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

Lightning ignited two fires in the park on Sept. 9, officials said. The Colony Fire, closest to the Giant Forest, has grown to just under 5 square miles. The Paradise Fire has scorched nearly 13 square miles.

More than 400 firefighters were assigned to the blazes, which are being collectively managed as the KNP Complex. More resources have been requested, Hooper said.


Northern Arizona senior Ryann Davis (6) celebrates with teammates in the Lumberjacks' match against New Mexico on Thursday in Flagstaff.


Education
Flagstaff Unified School District approves HVAC update
  • Updated

In a meeting earlier this week, FUSD approved a proposal for an update to HVAC systems in four district schools. This is funded as part of the district’s ESSER III allocation of pandemic relief funds.

The proposal is to update the HVAC systems and install air conditioning in Knoles, DeMiguel and Cromer Elementaries as well as at Mount Elden Middle School by the start of the 2022/23 school year.

"Essentially our proposal is to...provide air conditioning in those areas of the campus that don't have that," said Chuck Hink of Pueblo Mechanical and Controls, who presented the proposal. "There are areas of the campuses that have it, but the vast majority of the classroom spaces...do not have any upgraded systems since the time that the building was essentially built. These proposals will go through and upgrade the facilities with air conditioning as well as all of the required indoor air qualities that are being pressed upon us today during this pandemic."

These four schools were prioritized based on an analysis of all district buildings, with the plan being to create a longer-term plan to update the rest at a later point.

Hink said the primary criteria used in selecting which of these buildings would be first is the age of the facility and of the equipment currently in use, as well as how each campus is currently being used and planned for. He said Summit High School, Sinagua Middle School and Sechrist Elementary were the most likely candidates for the next stage.

“Every school needs a little TLC,” he said, “but to go about it in an organized fashion, [the above schools] would be the next set of schools we'd be looking at for an upgrade." 

He said this would depend on the district's prioritization and that he had presented a potential ten-year plan to Penca. 

The school recently submitted its plans for the 13.7 million dollar ESSER III allocation it received as part of the American Rescue Plan passed in March 2021. The version presented to the board on Aug. 24 put a little less than 70% ($9,250,000) of the funding toward facility improvements and equipment.

“We're not sure at this point how long COVID will be with us or what we’ll be dealing with in the future so it seems like a prudent use of ESSER funds," said board member Carol Haden. She concluded by recommending the board find a way to continue the longer-term project. 

As of the Sept. 14 meeting, the proposal had not yet been approved by the state, though FUSD superintendent Michael Penca said he expected approval would not be a problem.

The proposal Hink presented to the board lists the projected total cost as $8,619,053.98 and suggests a $500,000 contingency. In response to a question from the board, Hink said they estimated the operating costs for the district going forward would increase around 20% a year as a result.

Pueblo has worked with the district on a number of projects since 2001, including installation of ionizers in response to COVID-19.

The hope is to eventually expand the project to include all schools in the district.

"As we have renovated or built new schools, we have to continue with every opportunity we have to include air conditioning in our facilities," Penca said. "...This isn't just 'well, we got that one time money and these four schools just won the lottery and everybody else left out.' It's part of our strategic plan, we need to continue to discuss on how we continue to move the needle and bring these systems up to standard in all of our schools."

FUSD’s board unanimously approved the proposal and are waiting for approval of their ESSER application.


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