Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Bordertown Drug-Murder Mystery

Arizona borderlands ranchers and their families, mostly dressed in cowboy hats, long-sleeved shirts, Wrangler jeans, and boots, poured into the Douglas High School gym Saturday to attend a memorial Mass honoring rancher Robert Krentz, who was shot on his ranch by an unknown assailant on March 27. The mysterious Krentz killing, widely blamed on a faceless drug trafficker, has become a highly politicized rallying cry for border-militarization advocates, and has become central to a nasty Republican Senate primary battle between former Congressman J.D. Hayworth and Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008. Still, the town and the ranching community itself was unsettled and tense, with new questions swirling around the Krentz death each day. Increasingly cynical ranchers and residents in both Douglas and its Mexican neighbor, Agua Prieta, wonder if the senseless murder means Mexico’s inchoate narco-violence, which has killed more than 19,000 people since 2006, has spilled into their borderlands ranches. The 1,000 or so people who attended the Krentz funeral sat in red folding chairs and in bleachers, listening to country music, Catholic liturgy, and heartfelt eulogies depicting Krentz as a man of kindness, honor, and courage. Although the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department has refused to comment on the murder weapon or details about the crime scene, theories are swirling around who killed Krentz. Ed Ashurst, 58, has for 13 years managed a ranch that borders the Krentz ranch. Ashurst said he was one of the people who had searched for Krentz on the day he disappeared and had assisted trackers who followed footsteps from the murder scene to the border. He believes the unknown Krentz killer was the same person who had earlier burglarized a different rancher’s home and stolen a 9mm gun, and then had stolen food from another ranch. The food wrappings from the stolen food were found at the murder scene, he said, and Krentz was killed by a 9mm weapon...more

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