Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Widow Of Murdered Rancher Rob Krentz Blocks Access To Case File

Susan Krentz, the widow of Arizona border rancher Rob Krentz, filed a request with a Superior Court judge to prohibit Cochise County officials from releasing any information about her husband's death.

The request for injunction was filed Monday, after the Fronteras Desk revealed that a U.S. resident is a person of interest in the murder. The Fronteras Desk identified the person of interest, Manuel Corona, after filing a public records request for the investigative file. More than 400 photos and 300 pages were released on September 30. Some of the photos are autopsy and crime scene photos which the Fronteras Desk has chosen not to publish due to their graphic nature. 

In 2010, the popular and well-respected rancher was found shot to death on his property. According to the law enforcement report from that day, Krentz was last heard from at 10 a.m. on March 27. He had radioed his brother and told him that he'd seen an undocumented immigrant nearby who seemed to be in need of help. Nearly 14 hours later, an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter found his body. Footprints at the scene were tracked down to the Mexican border.

One man that sheriff's investigators focused on was Alejandro Chavez Vasquez, a suspect in a series of burglaries in the nearby town of Portal. He was identified as a person of interest in the Krentz killing but was never seen again by U.S. law enforcement.

However, in a recent interview with the Fronteras Desk, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels revealed that Manuel Corona, a resident of Cochise County in the U.S. whose citizenship status is unknown, is also a person of interest in the murder. Corona's son was arrested in August after the driver of the car he was in rammed a Sierra Vista police officer's vehicle. He was arrested again with a second man in September on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault after allegedly shooting three people in Elfrida, Ariz. Sheriff Dannels has not said why the father is a person of interest in the murder.

After the story was published, the Cochise County Sheriff's Department released a statement:
As the result of multiple Arizona Public Records requests, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has released copies of the Krentz homicide report. The initial report and multiple supplementary documents were previously released between the time of the incident in 2010 and now, with information concerning anywhere between 30 to 50 persons of interest. For the Sheriff’s Office investigative purposes, "persons of interest" are defined as anyone who may have information regarding subjects involved in an incident in any capacity, to include suspects and/or anyone who can relay any insight with regards to each particular case.  As the investigation is continuing to evolve with a variety of informational sources contributing to the forward movement, many of the people mentioned in these reports have been interviewed and any information gathered as a result has been supplemented to the case.
The statement does not say whether Corona was among those already interviewed.

The day after Susan Krentz filed the injunction request, the Cochise County Attorney's Office sent a letter to the Fronteras Desk and other news media in Arizona. It says, "The Cochise County Sheriff's Office will not be joining in the Plaintiff's application. The Sheriff's Office will be filing a Motion requesting the court designate it as a neutral Custodian of Records."

Susan Krentz's injunction request is similar to one made by some of the widows and family members of the Yarnell Hill fire last July where 19 firefighters died. The Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV filed suit, requesting documents of the investigation but not photos of the victims' remains or personal effects. 

Mrs. Krentz is represented by Arizona Voice for Crime Victims. The request said, "The emotional pain of Rob's murder is still fresh, even more than three and a half years later." 

It also said, "The publication of crime scene or autopsy photos of Rob would have an adverse emotional impact on the Krentz family. Additionally, the investigative materials likely contain private and confidential information about the victims."

While a supporter of freedom of the press as a vehicle to keep a check on government agencies, it's clear this suit is appropriate to protect the family's right to privacy. 


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