TOWN WITHOUT PITY

AFTER EIGHT WOMEN WERE ATTACKED IN THEIR HOMES, THEY FOUND THEMSELVES SHUNNED BY THEIR NEIGHBORS AND IGNORED BY THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Perhaps most of all, the victims are still stunned and hurt by a petition circulated through Round Valley. Signed by 131 of their neighbors before Crosby's May 16 sentencing, the petition pleaded for leniency. Those who signed it included the chairman of the Apache County Board of Supervisors, the county's top administrator and the manager of one of the area's largest employers.

Most of the signers are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as are the Crosbys. Most of Dale Crosby's victims are non-Mormon. One cannot overestimate that simple fact. The relationships among Round Valley's founding Mormon families go back to the late nineteenth century, when three brothers with the surname of Eagar donated land for a town to be named after them.

Birthright looms especially large in an area where the line between church and state often is blurred: Many prominent Mormons double as the area's political leaders, including County Attorney Udall. To some longtime Round Valley residents--and not just non-Mormons--it seems obvious that it's who you are, not what you've done, that matters most in Apache County's justice system.

"If my name were Crosby or Udall or another big name up here and I had been the victim, I know this would have ended up way different," says Eagar native LaNita Koontz, one of Crosby's victims and a non-Mormon. "I know I wouldn't have been treated like dirt."

DALE CROSBY'S PARENTS adopted him from a young Yuma woman on the day he was born. He later told a probation officer he hadn't learned of his adoption until a high school counselor told him. This tardy revelation, Crosby speculated in a rare moment of self-reflection, was at the root of his troubles. Crosby tried out a Bad Seed theory on the probation officer: He said he'd inherited his drinking problems from his real mother.

Crosby's adoption could have been the break of a lifetime. His new dad was a fairly successful real-estate broker, and his mom was well-liked in the community. Both parents were active Mormons, and Crosby participated in church activities until he drifted away as a teenager.

Though he was a poor student, Crosby excelled in athletics: In the early 1980s, the rock-solid 180-pounder lettered in football at Round Valley High School, then a powerhouse.

But Crosby had already started on the trail that culminated in his knife attack on Rex Ann Bills. He admitted to Phoenix clinical social worker Robert Emerick during an August 1989 interview that he'd been a peeping Tom since he was about twelve. Few Round Valley residents in those days locked their doors, and Crosby soon started letting himself into homes.

Police detained Crosby for the first time in 1978, for "malicious mischief." A juvenile court judge sentenced the fourteen-year-old to three years' probation. Eagar police in June 1980 accused Crosby of trespassing and prowling after he sneaked into a girl's house and watched her undress. Probation. Police caught him in a similar situation in February 1981. Probation.

Violations in April 1981 and March 1982 led juvenile authorities to deem Crosby as an "incorrigible." Nine days after getting that designation, he got busted for reckless driving. Probation.

In May 1982, he led Eagar police on a nine-mile, 95-mph chase that ended in near-tragedy. He ran an Eagar cop into a ditch, and the cop narrowly escaped serious injury. Prosecutors treated Crosby as an adult and charged him with stealing a rifle, felony fleeing and burglary. The Crosbys hired local attorney Tim Hall, a good friend of County Attorney Steve Udall, to defend their boy.

Hall convinced the prosecutor to allow Crosby to plea-bargain to a reduced charge of resisting arrest, a felony that was redesignated as a less-serious misdemeanor after Crosby completed probation. Records indicate he served one day in jail.

"We were outraged, but what could we do?" says a Round Valley lawman who requested anonymity. "We knew he was skating because of who he was, or who his family was, and the fact that they are active in the Church. That's the way it works up here."

Late in 1982, Crosby married his high school sweetheart Sheila. (The couple have a daughter and are still legally married. Sheila Crosby did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.) A local electrical firm hired him, and he went a few years without getting caught breaking the law. But he later confided to social worker Emerick that he had continued peeping into houses after his marriage. And one night in March 1985, Crosby may have gotten away with a crime that may have surpassed any he had committed until then.

For Fran Stover, the memory of that March evening remains vivid. She tells New Times that her husband Doug had just returned to Springerville after a few months out of town. Shortly after the couple fell asleep, something woke Fran. In a daze, she assumed it was her sixteen-month-old daughter, asleep in a baby bed in the same room.

She soon realized, however, that a man in a black ski mask was standing beside her bed. Stover silently nudged her sleeping husband. Doug Stover awoke in a flash, jumped up and punched the masked man in the face.

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