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Wed, Nov

Water is life. In the Southwest, it’s always been somewhat of a contentious issue over who has the rights to it.Wes Jacobsen and Nicole Woodruff of Flagstaff spend the day along the Verde River with their kids, Haylie, Indiana and Savannah, on Saturday, Jan. 18. The Verde River Basin Partnership recently hosted an event on water laws in Arizona. This is important for the Verde Valley, as the Verde River flows through much of it, including Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Clarkdale.

Mayors in the Verde Valley are joining with other mayors and politicians around Arizona in an effort to restore funding that was intended to help cities and towns care for the maintenance of their streets and roads.Camp Verde Mayor Charlie German has joined in a plea for the state to restore road and highway funding. Camp Verde has lost some funding, and as a result, road repairs have gone to the wayside. This intersection at Fifth Street and Hollamon is one that would potentially be repaired with the funds.

Economic activity was up in Cottonwood last month compared with November 2012, while activity in other communities overall remained largely static for the month.Owner Gloria Brooks, left, and Karla Sterrett work in a Cottonwood hair salon. Services they provide such as cutting, coloring, and styling hair are not taxable. However, any products they sell, like shampoo, conditioner, hairspray and gel are taxable, because they are a physical product.

Transaction taxes are revenues collected by the state generated across a wide range of economic sectors, ranging from real estate deals and utilities, to retails sales and restaurant receipts.

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 email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest after releasing new information regarding the double homicide near Sedona.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office released photographs of rifles that could have been used in the double homicide near Sedona. These are not, however, the only rifles that use .223 caliber casings, which were found at the crime scene

James Johnson, 63, from Jaffrey, N.H., and Carol Raynsford, 63, from Nelson, N.H., were found shot to death in a late-model red Subaru wagon around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 6, at the scenic overlook at mile post 364 between Forest Road 89B and Page Springs Road southeast of State Route 89A between Cottonwood and
Sedona.

YCSO determined the rounds fired to be .223 caliber and received reports of a grey or white pickup truck seen in the area prior to the homicides being reported.

YCSO is on the lookout for a 1998 to 2002 white Dodge of Chevy 1/2-ton pickup truck with an older white camper shell and faded white paint. The vehicle has red ribbons hanging from the rearview mirror. Use all caution if the truck is located. The suspect or suspects are considered armed and dangerous. This does not preclude other vehicles that may be associated with the homicides, according to YCSO Public Information Officer Dwight D'Evelyn.

YCSO would also like to locate people associated with two other vehicles seen parked in proximatey to the Subaru during the evening Thursday, Jan. 5.

YCSO found shell casings and other evidence indicating one or more suspects fired from outside the car striking both victims. A motive has not yet been developed, according to D'Evelyn.

The bodies were removed from the location Friday night and taken to the medical examiner to be identified.

Officers drew their weapons and headed into the forest surrounding the area after the victims were found around 11:30 a.m., according to Sedona Red Rock News reporters on scene. Passengers, who may have found and reported the bodies, from three Jeeps parked at the location were interviewed.

YCSO detectives are requesting contact from anyone who was in this area recently to immediately call YCSO at (928) 771-3260. Even if you think the information may not be significant, YCSO encourages you to call and share what you know to help determine a timeline of events leading up to the murders. You can also report information anonymously to Yavapai Silent Witness at 1 (800) 932-3232.

Statewide media swarmed the homicide scene Friday, Jan. 6, just south of Sedona while forensics crews attempted to salvage evidence in what the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office declared a double homicide.

YCSO deputies and the Arizona Department of Public Safety officers worked into the night Friday, Jan. 6, at the scenic overlook at mile post 364 between Forest Road 89B and Page Springs Road southeast of State Route 89A between Cottonwood and Sedona.

A red Subaru with New Hampshire license plates was found at the site and contained two dead bodies, an adult man and woman, according to Dwight D'Evelyn, public information officer for YCSO.

YCSO found shell casings and other evidence indicating one or more suspects fired from outside the car striking both victims. A motive has not yet been developed, according to D'Evelyn.

The bodies were removed from the location Friday night and taken to the medical examiner to be identified. YCSO will then attempt to locate the victims' families.

Officers drew their weapons and headed into the forest surrounding the area after the victims were found around 11:30 a.m., according to Sedona Red Rock News reporters on scene. Passengers, who may have found and reported the bodies, from three Jeeps parked at the location were interviewed.

YCSO detectives are requesting contact from anyone who was in this area recently to immediately call YCSO at (928) 771-3260. Even if you think the information may not be significant, YCSO encourages you to call and share what you know to help determine a timeline of events leading up to the murders. You can also report information anonymously to Yavapai Silent Witness at 1 (800) 932-3232.

A rescue operation on Castle Rock for a stranded hiker turned into a recovery Dec. 28, after search crews located the body of a stranded Brooklyn, N.Y., man.

A number of agencies searched for the stranded hiker, Mahdi Harrizi, 21, beginning Dec. 27, after family members reported him lost in an area near the Village of Oak Creek. The family was vacationing at a local resort and were in contact with the stranded hiker via cell phone.

Rescue workers in helicopters from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, right, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety search Wednesday, Dec. 28, for a Brooklyn, N.Y., man who went missing Tuesday, Dec. 27, while hiking near Castle Rock south of Sedona. Numerous agencies searched for the 21-year-old man, Mahdi Harrizi, who was found dead Wednesday after apparently falling off a cliff.Authorities believe Harrizi later attempted to climb down himself and fell to his death from a cliff face. The body was recovered Dec. 28, according to Dwight D’Evelyn, spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

“[Crews] found that he had fallen off a ledge. That was the issue, apparently, was that he was stuck and didn’t know which way to go. It appears, after he made it known he was stranded, he tried to get down off the mountain and fell, possibly 150 feet,” D’Evelyn said.

Crews searched for Harrizi throughout the night Dec. 27.

“We got a call [Dec, 27] at 3:40 p.m.,” D’Evelyn said. “Initial reports said the 21-year-old male had been hiking and apparently became stranded on a ledge and contacted his mom via cell phone. That generated a call to us.

“We came out, formed up and have basically been trying to locate him ever since. There’s quite a bit of family with him, including his mother.”

During the evening hours, search crews reported a number of possible sightings that did not result in Harrizi's rescue, D’Evelyn said. Authorities were also unable to track his location via his cell phone.

“The method we use to GPS it doesn’t work too well,” he said, adding Harrizi’s cell carrier gets little reception in the area.

Search crews also used infrared equipment, but were still unable to locate Harrizi. A ground search, D’Evelyn said, can be very difficult in rocky terrain.

Although it has not been determined when Harrizi fell, the lack of any contact with him in the early stages of the search may indicate he attempted to move and fell shortly after the phone conversation with his mother, D’Evelyn said. Final determination on cause and time of death will be determined by the Yavapai County Medical Examiner.

A number of agencies filled a parking lot near the search area Dec. 28. Personnel from YCSO Response Team, a Yavapai County Jeep team, Coconino County Search and Rescue, Guardian Air, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Guidance Helicopters responded to the initial search and rescue effort.

“This tragic incident is a reminder that the beauty of rugged mountains in this area can deceive persons to access places where it may be difficult to safely escape if stranded,” D’Evelyn said. “Another hiker died earlier this year from a fall in the nearby Sedona wilderness. YCSO search experts recommend that if you become stranded on a ledge, do not move, maintain communication if possible, and let rescue personnel come to you as they are best equipped to provide your safe return.”

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

Campfire and smoking restrictions will be lifted on the Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott and Apache-Sitgreaves national forests beginning Friday at 8 a.m.

Recent rains along with higher humidity and increased fuel moistures have lowered fire danger on the forest, thus decreasing the risk of major wildfires.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to practice fire safety and prevent human-caused fires,” Coconino Fire Staff Officer Russ Copp stated in a press release. "Although campfires and smoking will be allowed throughout the forest, people should never leave a campfire unattended. Campers should make sure they pack a shovel and about five to six gallons of water to extinguish their campfire completely before leaving."

“Lifting the restrictions does not mean people can be careless with fire," Kaibab Fire Staff Officer Doug Ottosen stated. "Although campfires and smoking will be allowed throughout the forest, people should ensure that they properly extinguish their campfires, never leave a campfire unattended and use ashtrays to dispose of their cigarettes.”


Forest visitors are also reminded that campfire restrictions may vary on different national forests. Please call the nearest land management office or (877) 864-6985 for current information or visit the Public Lands website to stay informed.

For additional information about Coconino National Forest, visit the website or call (928) 527-3600.

Call Kaibab Fire Information Officer Punky Moore at (928) 635-5653.

Call the Prescott National Forest at (928) 777-5799.

For additional information about the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, visit the website or call (928) 333-6280.

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Cottonwood United States Partly Cloudy (day), 64 °F
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