Bodies found bound, burned in posh Arizona town

AP News
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Posted: Feb 01, 2012 5:01 PM
Bodies found bound, burned in posh Arizona town

Two people were tied up and killed, and their bodies burned beyond recognition in a posh Phoenix suburb, shaking residents who were being told to lock their doors and pay attention to their surroundings and a police department that last investigated a homicide in 2004.

Police in Paradise Valley, most known for its scenic mountain trails and upscale resorts, said Wednesday that investigators were not able to positively identify the bodies because they were so badly burned. An autopsy was under way Wednesday to determine the identities and whether the people were killed in the fire or by other means.

"This particular crime is a heinous crime and it can happen anywhere," said Police Chief John Bennett. "People in Paradise Valley hopefully understand it can happen even to them."

He said investigators had no suspects and had not determined a motive, including whether the stylish stucco home had been robbed.

"This has been a very trying two days for us," Bennett said a news conference. "This is going to be a prolonged, complex investigation that's going to take probably quite a lot of time."

Paradise Valley officers went to the home Monday morning after Phoenix police found a car on fire behind a strip mall about 20 miles away. The car was registered to the home's owners.

When an officer arrived at the house, she saw smoke coming from inside. Firefighters put out fires that had been set in two bedrooms, including the master bedroom, where the bodies were found.

The home is owned by Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro, a couple in their 70s that started their own charitable organization in 2010 and have actively supported many local civic organizations and charities.

Bennett said the Shapiros could be the victims but police needed the autopsy results to be sure.

The home showed almost no damage from the outside, but sooty footprints and broken glass were strewn about the porch Wednesday, and part of the original wood door was replaced with plywood.

The sprawling home sits in a neighborhood near some of the area's nicest resorts and lushest golf courses, and has stunning views of Phoenix's Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak _ areas that are popular among hikers, runners and mountain-bikers.

Neighbors declined to speak on the record about the killings, but they said it has shocked the community and has made them more fearful.

Bennett said detectives were investigating possible connections to other crimes in the Phoenix area, but he did not say there were any specific cases.

Although police weren't confirming the identities of the bodies, the Shapiros' grown children, who live in Salt Lake City but are in Arizona this week, set up a website saying that they are "shocked and saddened at the loss of our parents."

The family also posted photos of the couple at their recent 50th anniversary, their children's weddings, and dressed in their finest to attend fundraisers. A family friend confirmed the website's authenticity.

Lawrence Shapiro had a 45-year career as a gastroenterologist, and Glenna Shapiro was the former longtime executive director at the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona, according to the site. The Shapiros actively supported many civic organizations and charities, including the Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona Opera, the Phoenix Art Museum and the kidney foundation.

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP.