The SWAT teams in this case performed just like they did in Colombine Colorado, they sat outside like cowards afraid to enter the building. A good reason to demand that all SWAT teams be disbanded!

5 victims in Mesa home were murdered

Jim Walsh and Senta Scarborough The Arizona Republic Feb. 24, 2006 12:00 AM

Five people found inside a bloody east Mesa house early Tuesday were shot to death by somebody they knew who vanished within minutes, police said.

On Thursday night, police announced the autopsies and physical evidence indicated the deaths were murders, not a murder-suicide as suspected by some, before an antsy crowd of more than 250 residents who packed a small church near the normally quiet Barrington Estates subdivison.

While police repeatedly told residents that the murders were anything but random in an effort to reassure them, it was clear from the numerous pointed questions that neighbors wanted more answers than they received about an investigation described by officers as "intricate and delicate," with detectives removing chunks from walls to recover all possible evidence.

A police spokesman refused to answer, for instance, when he was asked how detectives know that the slaying spree was a hit.

"The Mesa Police Department is dedicated to uncovering the truth in this incident, and we're working very hard to do that at this time," Commander Ron Kirby said. "Your neighborhood is very safe. This was not a random act. There is not someone on the loose who is a major threat to your community."

Police would not reveal the focus of their investigation.

Court records show that victim Steven Terrence Duffy II was charged with arson, accused of working with his boss in a damage-restoration company to torch his boss' Scottsdale home.

Residents applauded when Sgt. Chuck Trapani, the police spokesman, said the first officer arrived at the scene near Baseline Road and Loop 202 within one minute, but Trapani also was questioned by Kyle Harmon and other residents about why it took the SWAT team three hours to enter the two-story house.

"I just feel like some people felt it took way too long,"' Harmon said. He and his wife, Tanya, live across the street from where the murders occurred.

Trapani acknowledged it's possible that the lives of one or more victims could have been potentially saved if officers entered the house sooner, but he also said it's possible that a gunman inside might have opened fire and killed SWAT team members.

It was unknown to SWAT members that the gunman was long gone, apparently fleeing within minutes before officers arrived, Trapani said.

"I was frustrated as an outsider, watching the whole thing go down" Harmon said, conceding police had valid concerns about officer safety. "I still have an uneasy feeling that it took so long to get in."

The exchange occurred at a community meeting sponsored by police at Light in the Desert Church, where concerned neighbors mixed with a horde of reporters.

Residents stressed that they still consider their neighborhood, with 244 homes, a safe place to live and have no plans to move or change the way they live. Police recorded 136 calls to the neighborhood last year, which they called a very low number. Residents complained to police about a woman who was selling alarm systems in the area right after the slayings.

A female source not identified in court records but possibly Duffy's girlfriend, Tammy Lovell, contacted police Nov. 30 and told them Duffy played a role in a Nov. 25 arson with his boss, William Craig Miller.

Miller's attorney, Phil Noland, said Thursday his client isn't talking to police about the murders. Miller faces several charges in connection with the arson case.

The court records said Miller, 28, was armed when he was arrested Dec. 1 and that Duffy and his girlfriend "fear for their safety."

Manuel Toruga, 33, a spokesman for the victims' families, said in a statement that they had no comment and wanted privacy as they "are trying to cope with the loss of their five loved ones."

"The Duffy and Lovell families would like to express our deepest appreciation for all your thoughts and prayers at their time of need," Toruga said.

Steven Duffy and his brother Shane Donovan Duffy, 18, as well as Tammy Lovell, 32, and her children, Jacob Lovell, 10, and Cassandra Lovell, 15, died of gunshot wounds.

Accounts for the families have been established at Desert Schools Credit Union under the Duffy Memorial Fund or the Lovell Memorial Fund.

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