5 suspects formally charged in Arizona murder case

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2012 5:39 PM
5 suspects formally charged in Arizona murder case

Authorities have formally charged five suspects in the killing of a couple in the wealthy Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley.

Maricopa County prosecutors said Thursday that Michael Lee Crane, 31, of Mesa, is charged in a direct complaint with two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and arson, and one count of burglary in last month's deaths of Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro.

Also arrested in the case were Kelly Steward, 29, of Glendale; Shawn Nicloy, 29, of Phoenix; Brittnay Beinhauer, 27, of Tempe; and Danielle Rossman, 26, of Phoenix.

Prosecutors said Steward faces one charge each of theft and trafficking in stolen property; Nicloy faces one count each of trafficking in stolen property and hindering prosecution; Beinhauer faces two counts of theft; and Rossman faces one count each of possession of stolen property, trafficking in stolen property, and hindering prosecution.

It was unclear Thursday whether any of the five suspects have lawyers available to comment.

The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Crane had been jailed in December on suspicion of illegally possessing weapons but was released days later because prosecutors needed more time to develop their case.

However, no charges were filed, according to records from the Maricopa County sheriff's office. The case was returned to Phoenix investigators to get more information to assist in the prosecution, and Crane was freed pending that additional investigative legwork, said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County attorney's office.

"We face a necessarily high burden as the state to prove charges beyond a reasonable doubt, and sometimes that means to request an additional investigation to ensure that we have the necessary evidence to support a charge," Cobb said. "We're willing to defend our decision."

Paradise Valley police said the Shapiros _ well-to-do philanthropists in their 70s _ were found tied up and burned beyond recognition in their stylish stucco home.

Their deaths were the first homicides in nearly eight years in Paradise Valley, which is set among picture-perfect mountains popular with hikers and is home to some of the area's nicest resorts and lushest golf courses.

Officers went to the couple's sprawling home the morning of Jan. 30 after Phoenix police found the Shapiros' car on fire behind a strip mall about 20 miles away.

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 Shapiros' bodies were discovered. The couple had to be positively identified using dental records.

Police Chief John Bennett said detectives didn't have reason to believe that the Shapiros were specifically targeted. Also, police think that all the major suspects now are in custody.