Sunday, November 24, 2013

AZMEX SPECIAL 24-11-13 b


Note: Following story not unusual on the border. The version of the killer being executed for causing problems seems the most likely. As the area was saturated with law enforcement for quite a while afterwards. A smuggling route important and effective enough to bring el chapo's father-in-law here to personally supervise shipments. Common border thief, a lot of that goes on along this area of the border, drug mule, scout, smuggler, or IA? Don't yet know. Very many, when caught, successfully game the system, by rolling over on each other or someone else. Been working very well so far. Go to link for the photos. BTW, bullet recovered appears to be FMJ.

Slaying of Arizona rancher is still a mystery

Impact on Arizona
Robert Krentz' murder roiled Arizona politics and inflamed the U.S. immigration debate. Here's a look back at key developments.
Murder fuels a firestorm
Slain Arizona rancher mourned
Rancher likely killed by drug cartel
Tough immigration bill OK'd by House
Brewer: Signing immigration law never a question

More immigration
Complete coverage here
Have a question or comment? E-mail the reporter here.

By Dennis Wagner
The Republic | azcentral
Sun Nov 24, 2013 8:11 AM

On a breezy spring morning, a red ATV rolled across southeastern Arizona's border badlands beneath the mystical Chiricahua Mountains.

A gray-haired rancher in classic cowboy attire — jeans, boots, denim vest and shirt — was at the wheel accompanied by his dog, Blue.

Robert Krentz, 58, was checking stock ponds and waterlines on the 35,000-acre spread not far from where Apache leader Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. cavalry. The Krentz clan began raising cattle there more than a century ago, shortly before Mexican Revolution leader Pancho Villa prowled nearby.

In modern times, the sparsely populated San Bernardino Valley bordering New Mexico and Sonora became a magnet for bird-watchers and a haven for smugglers.

Krentz pulled to a stop as he noticed a man apparently injured. The rancher made a garbled radio call to his brother, Phil — something about an illegal alien ... hurt ... call Border Patrol.

It was about 10:30 a.m., March 27, 2010. What happened that morning, as shots echoed across the grassy range, would roil Arizona politics and fuel the U.S. immigration debate for years to come.

One day earlier, Phil had put Border Patrol agents onto a group of suspected drug runners on the family's land, resulting in eight arrests and the seizure of 200 pounds of marijuana.

After Krentz's broken radio transmission, family members almost immediately launched a search, and enlisted help within hours.

Rob was found just before midnight, his body lying on the ground with his feet still inside the all-terrain vehicle. Two 9 mm slugs had fatally penetrated his lungs. Another bullet wounded his dog, which had to be euthanized.

Krentz carried a rifle and pistol in his Polaris Ranger, but apparently never got a chance to use them. After being shot, he managed to drive about 1,000 feet before collapsing.

The only immediate sign of an assailant was a set of footprints. Trackers followed them nearly 20 miles south to Mexico, where the trail vanished.

Krentz's death immediately galvanized a national furor over border security. Radio talk-show hosts and Republican politicians blamed the Obama administration and lax federal enforcement.

Photo by Cochise County Sheriff's Office Krentz was found just before midnight, his body lying on the ground with his feet still inside the ATV.
His widow, Susan Krentz, became an important voice in the movement, declaring via a family statement that Rob "was murdered in cold blood by a suspected illegal alien," and holding U.S. leaders accountable for "negligence in credibly securing our Borderlands."

The late Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever was among those who blamed the federal government. He testified before a Senate committee that he believed the killer was "a scout for a drug-smuggling organization." In a chorus of cable-news appearances, others echoed that suspicion and demanded a border clamp-down.

Former state Sen. Russell Pearce, author of what at the time was America's most stringent anti-illegal immigration statute, declared, "The murder of Robert Krentz ... by illegal alien drug dealers was the final straw."

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Jan Brewer signed his bill, SB 1070, into law. President Barack Obama followed up, sending National Guard soldiers to the Mexican line and beefing up the Border Patrol.

Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies and federal agents swarmed the border zone seeking the killer, witnesses and evidence.

Yet, after almost four years of investigation, Cochise County sheriff's homicide report No. 10-05099 fails to identify a perpetrator, let alone establish motive or nationality of the killer.

Newly released documents offer multiple theories, identify possible suspects and expose allegations of a sordid smuggling culture along America's border with Mexico. But they fail to answer the anguishing question from family, friends and the nation: Who killed Rob Krentz?

Instead, pages are swollen with hypotheses and hearsay. Deputies, Border Patrol agents and other investigators took photographs, made footprint molds, grabbed DNA samples and obtained cellphone records.

They also interrogated scores of sources and possible suspects. Some of those who were questioned provided stunning narratives.

In high-profile criminal probes, statements to police demand skepticism.

Jailhouse snitches, paid informers, undocumented immigrants and criminal defendants often fabricate information, hoping to negotiate reduced sentences or collect rewards. Smuggling cartels, eager to deflect blame for crimes, launch disinformation campaigns.

The Krentz case, steeped in politics and emotion, became a stew of rumor and speculation.

A prevailing view among investigators holds that the rancher was killed by a big-footed man who one night earlier broke into a pair of pickup trucks outside a hunting cabin near the village of Portal.

Photo by Cochise County Sheriff's Office Investigators examined footprints at a watering hole near where rancher Robert Krentz was killed.

Cellphones and a Glock pistol — suspected as the murder weapon — were taken from the cabin. The thief also ransacked a shed at another property, stealing Jimmy Dean Hot Sausages, Nestlé Morsels and other items from a freezer. Some of the food packages later were found near the homicide scene.

The sheriff's report notes: "It was strongly believed (that) the person who committed this burglary was also the same person who committed the vehicle burglary in (redacted) and killed Robert Krentz. The shoe print pattern and size was of the (same) characteristics at all three locations."

Detectives believe the murderer wears a size 11 or 12 shoe, stands over 6 feet, and possibly was hampered by a foot or leg injury.

Records indicate Blue may have tried to protect his master: DNA testing was done on the dog's mouth, and deputies asked sources whether suspects had recently suffered canine bites.

The evidence led Cochise County authorities to circulate a flier on Alejandro Chavez-Vasquez, described as a "person of interest and possible suspect" in the burglaries.

Chavez-Vasquez, sometimes known as Alejandro Chacon-Chavez, stands 6-foot-1. According to federal court records, he was convicted of illegally entering the United States in 2004, when he identified himself as a Mexican citizen. An Arizona Daily Star report said he had a prior arrest in Nevada, where he provided a Social Security number that indicated legal residency.

The sheriff's report contains no indication that Chavez-Vasquez was located or interviewed. It is unclear whether he is still a person of interest, and he could not be reached for comment on this story. Sheriff's officials will not comment on whether he remains a person of interest.

Detectives also focused on Manuel Corona, named in the homicide report as a possible associate of Chavez-Vasquez.

Late last month, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels told radio station KJZZ that Corona is a "person of interest" in the homicide.

Dannels subsequently issued a news release saying the Krentz case has 30 to 50 persons of interest, defined as "anyone who may have information regarding subjects involved in an incident in any capacity."

Sheriff's records concerning Corona, 31, are heavily redacted.

According to those pages, Corona was interviewed two years ago in Cochise County Jail, where he was being held on unrelated charges. (He had been arrested in a narcotics case, which led to a guilty plea last year for money laundering and a sentence of probation, according to Maricopa County Superior Court records.)

During his interview with homicide detectives, according to sheriff's records, Corona claimed Krentz was gunned down by a "sicario," or assassin, who was subsequently murdered by cartel bosses because the rancher's death had caused so much trouble.

Photo by Cochise County Sheriff's Office A bullet found at the scene the night Robert Krentz was killed was killed.
The assassin purportedly was bound, gagged with tape and suffocated. Records show Corona told lawmen the corpse was left as a message at a residence in Barrio Muerto, a neighborhood across the border from Douglas in Agua Prieta, Sonora.

In a telephone interview with The Republic, Corona said he has been hounded and squeezed by sheriff's investigators for two years. He said the revelation he provided about the assassin was common knowledge along the border, especially on the Mexican side. "If the sheriffs were doing their job, that's information anybody knows," he added.

Corona said accusations against him in the sheriff's report are untrue and he had no part in the Krentz homicide. "It's preposterous. They know I had nothing to do with this," he added. "I swear to God, I'll do a lie-detector test."

Days after Corona was identified by Dannels as a person of interest, the family residence in Douglas was the target of a drug raid.

Corona said he has a medical-marijuana card and is a licensed grower, yet he was arrested and charged with eight drug counts, including conspiracy. Corona said his children were home, but deputies came in with guns drawn and used flash-bang grenades.

Corona said he is a U.S. citizen with a wife and four children, and makes his living selling automobiles. "I'm just a regular person trying to get by," he said, "and they're really, really coming at me sideways."

A week after Corona's initial interview two years ago, detectives met with a smuggling defendant who claimed to be employed by a drug-trafficking organization. According to sheriff's records, questioning took place during a so-called "free talk," which allows suspects to speak without fear that statements will be used against them.

The smuggler, now serving prison time, told investigators that a Cochise County man and his son led a syndicate. Days after Krentz died, the source told investigators, the two bosses got into a heated argument.

The smuggler told investigators Robert Krentz had a financial agreement to allow drugs to pass freely through his property. "After the rancher, Rob Krentz, turned over one of (their) loads, an order ... was put out for Rob's execution," sheriff's records report the smuggler as saying.

"Apparently, (the father) was angry with (the son) because (the son) had ordered the hit ... (the son) ordered (redacted) to kill Rob Krentz after Rob had gone back on their agreement ..."

Sheriff's investigators expressed skepticism and questioned the smuggler's account.

An attorney who represented the smuggler told The Republic that detectives were "dismissive, almost demeaning" during the free talk. "They treated it as a fabricated tale," he added. "I was convinced of (the client's) honesty, and thought the cops' attitude was to discredit and divert attention from that area of interest."

Dannels refuses to be interviewed about those passages or other aspects of the case. Nothing in the records released by the Sheriff's Office indicates whether investigators confirmed or refuted the smuggler's information.

In a written statement, he said: "It is imperative that we all understand the dynamics of an active and ongoing criminal investigation ... We will not waiver in our dedication to provide the utmost professional and competent investigations to all victims in cases we are responsible for, and the Krentz case has been and will remain at the forefront of our efforts."

Susan Krentz also declined comment.

However, in a recent court application filed against Cochise County to block further release of public records, an attorney for Susan Krentz stated that family and friends continue to suffer.

"The emotional pain of Rob's murder is still fresh, even more than three and a half years later," the application states.

The application is pending.

Patrick Bray, executive director of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, said he has never heard of ranchers cooperating with smugglers for pay, and knows of no instance where one was charged or prosecuted.

Bray, who knew Krentz, said allegations made by jail inmates may not be credible. "Absolutely not," he said emphatically when asked if he believed Krentz would have cooperated with smugglers. "Rob was kind of a pillar of the community."

Bill McDonald, owner of Sycamore Ranch, which neighbors the Krentz property, said he heard rumors about a rancher other than Rob Krentz collaborating with cartels, but they were never verified.

As for assertions in the sheriff's report about Rob Krentz, McDonald was adamant: "It absolutely isn't true."

Theories that Krentz was killed for breaching a compact with narco traffickers seemingly conflict with the premise that a wandering thief committed the crime.

Regardless, the "hit-man" scenario was recited by a number of subjects during interrogations.

A federal inmate in Tucson, for example, claimed the Krentz killing involved a U.S. citizen working for cartels. "The American's job is to make contact with the ranchers and make sure the ranchers let the drug loads through," he told detectives. "Apparently, when a drug load did not make it through the Krentz ranch, the hit was ordered. (Source) said the American notified the hit man of Krentz's location, and the hit man went and killed Krentz."

Informant tales sometimes conflicted with physical evidence. They also involved suspects known only by colorful Spanish nicknames such as El Raton (The Rat), Cachibombo (nonsensical name of a Mexican pop song) and El Monchis (apparently a reference to "the munchies" appetite induced by marijuana use).

A Douglas jail inmate reported, for instance, that Krentz was shot by a drug runner named Diablo while an accomplice known as El Patron held the rancher from behind. Nothing in the sheriff's report appears to support that scenario.

Still, the dizzying array of tips and muddled evidence reflects challenges faced by detectives who have been forced to rely on authorities in Sonora for critical interviews and information.

Photo by Associated Press Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz is shown in this 2008 photo.

At one point, a deputy met with an unidentified source — apparently a Mexican official — at the Douglas port of entry. He was handed a sealed envelope and told it contained information on Krentz's suspected slayer, who had been murdered and buried in Agua Prieta days earlier.

That account jibes with information from other sources who said Krentz was slain by a rogue smuggler, without permission from "bosses." They said syndicate leaders, infuriated by law enforcement along the border, rounded up suspects for interrogation and punishment.

Such claims appear to be more than fantasy: Months after the homicide, Border Patrol agents captured a tall pot smuggler who said cartel henchmen had abducted him because they believed he killed Krentz. The subject, who denied any role in the murder, said he was interrogated for days before his release, and others verified the story.

Another source said drug bosses became so concerned with the crackdown after Krentz's death that they tried to reduce the "heat" by killing an innocent border crosser, referred to as a "walker." After the corpse was dumped in Arizona, she added, word was circulated that the victim had been Krentz's killer.

"Apparently, this did not work because the body of the 'walker' was never found," says the sheriff's report.

The Krentz case is still active. In recent weeks, deputies have sought new lab samples, obtained phone records of possible suspects and collected trash for DNA evidence. They even got Mexican authorities in Agua Prieta to search a home, then transport its occupants across the border for questioning.

But no suspect has been arrested. It is unclear whether the killer will ever be brought to justice, or remain a phantom of the borderland.

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