Detectives quickly zeroed in on Shawna Forde in killings

  • Wed Jun 24th, 2009 10:21pm
  • News

By Scott North and Jackson Holtz, Herald Writers

Border-watch activist Shawna Forde of Everett surfaced as a potential suspect in an Arizona double-murder investigation within hours of the killings after a co-defendant told detectives she’d been staying at his home nearby, according to police reports.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday released roughly 200 pages of case reports to The Green Valley News and Sun newspaper in southern Arizona. The records focus primarily on the investigation in the hours immediately after the May 30 killings.

News apparently was swirling through the small town of Arivaca, Ariz., about the home-invasion robbery that took the lives of Raul Flores, 29, his daughter, Brisenia, 9, and left the girl’s mother with gunshot wounds.

Talk in town quickly brought detectives to the home of Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, who was said to have had bad blood with Flores, in part because of alleged drug trafficking.

Gaxiola told investigators he didn’t know anything about the shootings and had been in Tucson, the police reports said.

“Upon being questioned about other individuals that were present at his house, he stated that a group of people whom he identified as ‘Minute men’ had been staying there,” the report said. “He stated that he had a relationship with the leader whom he identified as Shawna Forde.”

Gaxiola reportedly told detectives that the military-style clothing and gear in his house, plus a blood-stained van that was at his home all were associated with Forde, 41.

Detectives took items from Gaxiola’s home under a search warrant, including an improvised grenade and numerous firearms, including a shotgun found in a hidden compartment, documents show. They also seized Gaxiola’s cell phone.

“I opened the cell phone and questioned him about contacts whom he had listed in the phone; one of which was identified as ‘White,’ ” one officer wrote. Gaxiola “stated that White was the nickname of Shawna Forde. I then asked him why that was her nickname. He stated that she hates all ethnicity with the exception of Caucasians.”

The phone appeared to contain numerous text messages between Forde and Gaxiola during the night of the fatal robbery, the police reports said.

The documents released on Wednesday say little about what happened with the investigation between June 1 and June 12, when Forde and Gaxiola were arrested. There also is no mention of Jason Eugene Bush, 34, who also is charged in the case.

The records contain a summary of the interview detectives did with Flores’ wife after she reached the hospital.

She said Raul Flores had told her that law officers were at the door, demanding entry to search for fugitives.

She said that two people entered the home, both wearing camouflage clothing. One was a large man; the other a short, “heavyset or chubby” woman, both white, the documents said.

The shooting victim “stated that the female appeared to be giving orders to the male and was talking on a walkie-talkie or similar device to other individuals,” perhaps outside the home.

The tall man shot her husband, shot her, and shot their daughter, she told police.

The woman said she heard more people come into the home, perhaps speaking Spanish. They left, and the woman managed to get her husband’s pistol in the kitchen and call 911.

The large man returned to the house and a gun battle erupted. The woman said a Hispanic man stuck his head in the door at one point and hollered something.

The woman told police that she thought the Hispanic intruder could be Gaxiola, although she wasn’t certain. She also described a teal-colored minivan, similar to the one found at Gaxiola’s home, the reports said. The woman said she remembered it because it had cruised through her neighborhood days before. The man and woman inside the van waved at her, reports said.

The intruders left behind a sawed-off shotgun in the house. A trail of blood led to a handgun that was found outside.

The robbers apparently left without finding the $4,000 cash hidden in the house.

Pima County officials have alleged the purpose of the robbery was to get money and drugs to fund Forde’s group.

Forde was arrested in Sierra Vista, Ariz., nearly two weeks after the shootings. Investigators believe she and Bush went to northern California, where they are suspected in a home-invasion robbery and burglary.

One of the documents talks about Forde’s demeanor while being fingerprinted after her arrest. She reportedly refused to sign the fingerprint card.

When she was searched, a white piece of paper was found in one of her pants pockets. It appeared to contain GPS coordinates, the documents said.

Forde reportedly said that the paper contained information about a drug cartel in Mexico.

A Pima County grand jury returned indictments late Monday against Forde, Bush and Gaxiola.

Pima County Deputy Attorney Rick Unklesbay said Tuesday each defendant 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 are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431;