PHOENIX (AP) — A man suspected of killing his ex-wife in Phoenix while their two young children were present was embroiled in an acrimonious divorce in which he was accused of domestic violence and voiced concerns that she would flee to Mexico with their children.
Josiah English III, 40, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death Tuesday morning of 35-year-old Blanca Gutierrez-Calzoncit. His bond was set at $1 million.
Authorities say English shot Gutierrez-Calzoncit as she was putting the children in her car while in a parking lot outside an apartment. The children were unharmed but a bullet struck a car door close to where the youngest child was buckled in.
Prosecutor Robert Beardsley said English was embroiled in a custody dispute with his ex-wife and appeared angry at a court hearing Monday during which a judge was asked whether Gutierrez-Calzoncit could travel to Mexico with her children.
The shooting also occurred on the same day that the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled against English in his appeal of his divorce case against Gutierrez-Calzoncit. The court sent an email to English informing him of the decision, but he didn't receive the notice until Wednesday.
Lindsay Abramson, an attorney representing English, said she wasn't going to comment on the allegations at the first court appearance in his criminal case. "We are not here for a trial," Abramson said.
A witness reported seeing a Ford Expedition leaving the shooting scene. Beardsley said English had rented a Ford Expedition on Monday and returned it four hours after the shooting.
The appeals court upheld rulings that gave Gutierrez-Calzoncit sole legal decision-making power for the children and granted parenting time to English.
The Court of Appeals also backed up a ruling that required English, who isn't a lawyer but represented himself in the divorce case, to pay $22,000 in attorney fees for making court filings that were superficially plausible but actually wrong.
The lower court had found that English had verbally abused and struck Gutierrez-Calzoncit in the nose. English said the domestic violence claims were fabricated by Gutierrez-Calzoncit and accused her of denying him access to his children.
Earlier in his divorce case, English alleged that Gutierrez-Calzoncit was at risk of fleeing the United States because she was Mexican citizen and had visited the Mexican embassy.
He also had unsuccessfully sought an order to forbid Gutierrez-Calzoncit from taking the children to Mexico. Earlier in the divorce case, Gutierrez-Calzoncit had denied she wanted to leave the country with her children.
The trial judge concluded that English and Gutierrez-Calzoncit needed mental health counseling and parenting classes.
The appeals court said Gutierrez-Calzoncit attended group therapy and parenting classes at a domestic violence shelter. English contended that there was no evidence that he needed counseling.
A police narrative of the allegations against English was sealed by Superior Court Judge Samuel Myers at the request of prosecutors.
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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