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Arizona will seek death penalty on Shawna Forde

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By Scott North, Herald Writer
  • Shawna Forde

    Shawna Forde

ARIVACA, Ariz. — An Everett woman may pay with her life for her alleged role in a double-murder plot allegedly linked to her obsession with drug trafficking on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Shawna Forde should face the death penalty if convicted of a May 30 home-invasion robbery in Arizona that left a young girl and her father dead, Arizona officials have decided.
Deputy Pima County attorney Kellie Johnson said Thursday that her office filed a notice Monday that prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against Forde, Jason Eugene Bush and Albert Robert Gaxiola.
All three have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges.
“I don’t have any reaction other than the fact that they deserve everything they get,” said Forde’s half-brother, Merrill Metzger of Redding, Calif. “That’s all I can say. I believe you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”
The death penalty is an appropriate punishment for somebody found guilty of deliberate murder, even when it is family, Metzger said.
Forde’s mother, Rena Caudle, also of Redding, said she wasn’t surprised by the prosecutors’ decision, but felt numb.
Nobody in her family condones what Forde stands accused of doing, and they all are having a difficult time making sense of the motivation, she said. Police reports released so far would indicate that the robbers left empty handed and killed to make sure they left no witnesses.
“She got nothing out of that. It was all just wasted. Wasted effort. Wasted life,” Caudle said.
Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, were killed when camouflage-wearing intruders took over their home while posing as law enforcement officers and then suddenly opened fire. The girl’s mother also was shot, but managed to grab a handgun and drive the attackers away after a gun battle.
Forde, 41, was leader of the border-watch group Minutemen American Defense. The one-time candidate for the Everett City Council is accused of orchestrating the raid in hopes of finding cash and drugs in Flores’ home.
Arizona officials allege that Forde planned on using the robbery to raise money for her group, which she said was formed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking from Mexico.
Forde was a suspect within hours of the killings after tipsters led investigators to Gaxiola’s Arivaca home, where she had been staying, according to police reports.
Flores’ wife had described her attackers, including a woman who matched Forde’s description, and a tall, hulking man with his face painted black. Bush stands 6 feet, 5 inches. A resident of Meadview, Ariz., he was arrested near Kingman, Ariz., and required treatment for a bullet wound police say he received during the May 30 gun battle.
Forde and Gaxiola were arrested the next day.
Each is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, armed robbery and aggravated robbery.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Arizona uses lethal injection to execute people sentenced to death; the gas chamber was an option until the early 1990s. There are 124 inmates on death row in Arizona; two of them are women.
Bush also is charged in Eastern Washington with the 1997 killings of two young men near Wenatchee: one a Hispanic man who was beaten and stabbed; the other a teenager who reportedly was his friend. Bush spent part of his childhood in north Idaho, and prosecutors say that at the time of Wenatchee-area killings, the FBI documented Bush’s involvement with the Aryan Nations white supremacist group.
Forde, who lived most of her life in Everett and even ran for City Council, has a long history of trouble, including felony convictions starting when she was 11, prosecutions for teenage prostitution and theft.
Before her arrest in the Arizona killings, she attracted attention for her connection to a rash of violence in Everett.
Her ex-husband was nearly killed Dec. 22 when an intruder repeatedly shot him in an ambush attack in his Everett home.
A week later Forde reported that she’d been beaten and raped by strangers at the same house. Then on Jan. 15 Forde reported being shot in the arm while she was walking in a north Everett alley.
Forde attracted national attention by publicly suggesting the violence was linked to her personal crusade against Mexican drug cartels. Privately, she told police that the attacks may have been the work of local street thugs who had been friends of her convict son.
Detectives quietly closed the rape investigation within weeks, citing lack of evidence. Police reports also make clear that they were deeply suspicious of Forde’s behavior.
She left Everett for Arizona knowing that detectives wanted to question her closely about the attack on her ex-husband.
Police reactivated their investigation into the alleyway shooting after new witnesses came forward. The witnesses told The Herald they received separate phone calls — at different times — in which Forde claimed she was being hunted by whoever shot her.
No one has been arrested in the shooting of Forde’s ex-husband. Everett police continue to investigate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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