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Two murdered at scenic overlook
Written by {ga=staff-reporter}   
Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00

YCSO & MCSO confirm ballistics tests match gun to murder of a deputy in Anthem and the death of suspect

Authorities have confirmed a link between a deputy shooting in Maricopa County and another near Sedona that left two New Hampshire residents dead.

A Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputy searches the hillside Friday, Jan. 6, shortly after two people were discovered murdered at a scenic overlook off of State Route 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona. Authorities are investigating a link to a shooting of a police officer in Maricopa County by a suspect who was shot and killed by police.Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio confirmed Tuesday, Jan. 10, that ballistics tests link the two shootings.

The shootings “were likely committed by the same man using the same weapon,” Arpaio stated in a press release.

James Johnson, 63, from Jaffrey, N.H., and Carol Raynsford, 63, from Nelson, N.H., were found shot to death in an idling late-model red Subaru wagon around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 6.

Their bodies were discovered at the scenic overlook at Milepost 364 between Forest Road 89B and Page Springs Road just off State Route 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona. Investigators speculated the bodies could have been there since the evening hours of Thursday, Jan. 5.

Arizona Department of Public Safety and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers search the surrounding hillside Friday,  Jan. 6, next to a scenic overlook on State Route 89A near Sedona’s Wastewater Reclamation Plant. Two people were discovered murdered in an idling vehicle in the parking area of the overlook around  11:30 a.m., Friday. Sedona Fire District personnel responded first  to the scene where they determined the occupants of the vehicle were deceased. On Sunday, Jan. 8, a separate shooting occurred at a strip mall in Anthem that took the life of 20-year veteran MCSO Deputy William Coleman, who answered a 4 a.m. burglary call with his partner.

Deputies engaged a suspect in a minivan at the scene. That suspect exited his vehicle firing a weapon, according to authorities. The gunman was also shot and killed in the Anthem attack.

Drew Ryan Maras, 30, fired 29 rounds at police, two of which killed Coleman. Deputies fired 41 rounds, killing Maras, according to MCSO.

Coleman, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, is survived by a wife and two young children.

“The weapon recovered in Maricopa can fire .223 rounds,” said YCSO Public Information Officer Dwight D’Evelyn. “Apparently there was enough to warrant a conversation between our detectives and theirs.”

Numerous news outlets in the New Hampshire area reported the double homicide. Raynsford and Johnson, thought to have been dating, were believed to be on their way to Sedona on a spiritual retreat.

Maras was named the suspect in the Anthem shooting. Maras, a former Marine and conspiracy theorist, self-published a book on the Mayan 2012 prophecies in 2010. He’s believed to be a frequent visitor to the Sedona area. Maras’ Facebook page, as of Monday, Jan. 2, showed over 4,000 friends, with some from the Sedona area.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office FORENSIC TEAMS investigate the crime scene late Friday, Jan. 6, after two people were discovered earlier that day shot to death at a scenic overlook off of State Route 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona. Members of a Jeep tour group discovered the bodies of a New Hampshire couple around 11:30 a.m. Friday.In Maricopa County, Maras is reported to have exited a minivan, while detectives in Yavapai County sought a white pickup truck with a camper shell on the back, D’Evelyn said.

“They do not match up. The vehicle information came from numerous phone calls indicating that a white or gray pickup truck was parked where the Subaru was parked in that little turnout on 89A. There were concerns from people driving by that they thought that vehicle might be connected to the homicides,” D’Eveyln said.

The investigation into the Sedona murders is ongoing, he added, despite the ballistics connection to the Anthem shooting.

“We still want phone calls and we’re working leads that have come in throughout the weekend,” D’Evelyn said.

Investigators began looking into a link between the two incidents due to the high-powered .223 caliber rifle believed to be used in both cases.

The scenic overlook near Sedona remained closed Sunday, Jan. 8, as investigators remained on the crime scene. The bodies were removed from the location Friday night and taken to the medical examiner for identification. Numerous shell casings were collected at the scene.

The overlook opened again Monday, Jan. 9.

D’Evelyn said a ballistics expert reviewed evidence submitted from both shootings to determine a connection.

YCSO found shell casings and other evidence indicating one or more suspects fired from outside the car striking both victims. A motive has not been determined, D’Evelyn said.

Officers drew their weapons and headed into the forest surrounding the area after the victims were found. Individuals in three Jeeps at the scene, who are thought to have discovered the bodies, were questioned at the scene Jan. 6.

“Department of Public Safety was initially on scene. They initially believed there may have been an armed suspect, or suspects, in the area.

“We just didn’t know whether someone might be hiding behind a tree or an obstacle watching what we were doing.

“You never know. Beyond that, we were looking for tracks and other evidence,” D’Evelyn said.

The last murder in Sedona occurred Feb. 18, 2004, with the death of Larry and Ruth Birkner. Timothy Lee Alcorn was convicted in the murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

YCSO  detectives are asking Verde Valley residents if they have any information regarding Maras or his 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan, color similar to champagne, with Illinois license plates, which may have been in the Sedona area Jan. 5 or 6. YCSO is trying to track the whereabouts Maras. This information may help YCSO establish a timeline for the suspect’s activity in the area and contacts, if any, he might have had.

Investigators located the white truck originally broadcast as a possible suspect vehicle. The vehicle owner had been present in the area but was cleared of any involvement.

Patrick Whitehurst can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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