First of a two-day series
In the wake of a double homicide in Williams that left Michael Dimuria, 67, and Nora Dimuria, 64, allegedly shot and killed by Derrick Barnett, 29, contrasting pictures have emerged of the victims and the accused.
Neighbors of the Dimurias described them as kind-hearted people always willing to help a stranger.
Barnett’s former girlfriend of 12 years and mother of his three children described him as an emotionally unstable substance abuser with a violent streak.
Bad things, good people
Neighbors, friends and coworkers of Mike and Nora describe their murder as the worst thing to happen to the best people.
Lt. Darrell Hixson of the Williams Police Department and one of Mike’s best friends described the mood of the police station, where Mike worked for four years as a part-time dispatcher, when word of Mike and Nora’s death spread.
“We were shocked and saddened because of the circumstances,” Hixson said. “You often hear about tragedies in big cities and they always seem to happen to good people. Now it has hit home here. They were good people and whatever they could do to help you they did.”
The Dimurias’ helpful nature was well-known around Williams. Residents described Nora as a committed nurse at the North Country Healthcare Clinic and Mike as a father figure, willing to go above and beyond whatever his job entailed.
Hixson said that during Mike’s time as a dispatcher he also wrote grant applications for the police department
His grant writing was the reason Williams Police received an ATV and new radio equipment for dispatch.
“Mike was a great person with a real business mind,” Hixson said. “His work procuring grant money for us is still seen today.”
Rich Beecroft, a friend of Mike and Nora for 15 years, described Nora as a woman “who carried her love and desire for people outwardly,” and a person who, after working 12-hour days at the clinic, would “make you relax.”
Jessica Stephenson, a spokeswoman for North Country Healthcare, said in a written statement:
“Nora was a beloved, long-term employee of North Country HealthCare in Williams. She served the community for over 16 years as a registered nurse, and will be deeply missed.”
Friends described Mike and Nora’s love of taking the four-wheeler out to the woods whenever they wanted.
“They loved country living and the solitude,” Beecroft said. “It was an escape from life’s fast-paced rigmarole”
Bill Baptist, a friend and contractor for Mike and Nora, said he was heartbroken and shocked by the news of their death and recalls helping them build their guest home, a quaint little house located at the front of their compound, dubbed “Cielo Rancho.”
“The last time we talked they were just getting their guest home ready for rental,” Baptist said. “It is terrible what happened.”
Beecroft said the house was built for “friends and family who wanted to get away from life’s struggles.”
Donna Harwood, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Baptist's truck, said that Mike and Nora were people “who always made you feel like you had value.”
Beecroft still vividly recalls the moment he read about Mike and Nora’s death in the newspaper, a moment he said was surreal and devastating.
“I saw their names in the paper early in the morning and I just began to cry,” Beecroft said. “I didn’t understand it. How could a double homicide involve the most loving people I have ever met?”
The Dimurias’ family could not be reached for comment. Funeral services were held last Saturday in Phoenix.
Lock the door
Neighbors of the Dimurias have been on edge since the incident.
Mike and Nora’s killings have shown that the open space and solitude of the Red Lakes area can make it difficult for neighbors and law enforcement to know of incoming or imminent danger.
“Ever since the incident you pay a little bit more attention when your dog starts howling,” neighbor Jack Adams said.
Baptist said he has considered moving since the double homicide and a recent string of burglaries has hit the Red Lakes area.
Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll said the double homicide and burglaries are unrelated.