By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Eagar detective Brissinger was also troubled by Dale Crosby. In the early 1980s, Brissinger had been the chief investigator for the Flagstaff Police Department in a horrendous rape case. It involved a local boy named Ricky Bible. Prison authorities released Bible on early parole less than a decade after his conviction. He returned to Flagstaff, raped and killed a nine-year-old girl, and is now on Death Row.
The detective saw distinct similarities between Ricky Bible and Dale Crosby: "Both were young men with alcohol and drug problems whose crimes had progressed from burglaries and such to the point that they had both been charged with aggravated assault and attempt to commit murder. And both come from good Mormon families."
LISA WEYRAUCH HAD been Apache County's sex-crimes prosecutor for little more than a year when the Crosby case came along. She had earned a reputation for being tough on defendants, but not unreasonably so. But interviews with the victims and analysis of police reports persuaded her to go for Crosby's jugular.
"I thought the guy was going to get thirty years," Weyrauch says. "I considered him an extremely dangerous person, and thought everybody except possibly his lawyer and family would agree after they heard the facts."
Those facts seemed to favor those who wanted to lock Crosby up for a long, long time: He was a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal history behind him, including numerous attacks on women. He had attacked Rex Ann Bills in her home while awaiting trial on a sexual abuse charge. He had confided in a pal Lolo Hernandez that he'd planned to rape and murder Bills because she was going to testify against him as a prosecution witness.
The Rex Ann Bills case was solid enough to stand on its own. But before the end of the year, yet another of Crosby's victims came forward.
LaNita Koontz told detectives that Crosby had crawled into bed with her one night in June 1989 as her husband slept on a couch in another room. The mother of four says that she had decided to keep mum because she feared Dale Crosby, but subsequent events had convinced her to speak up.
"The more cases against him the better, I thought," Koontz says.
Lisa Weyrauch added Koontz's case to the two others pending against Crosby.
In February of this year, prosecutor Weyrauch struck what looked like a tough-enough plea bargain with Crosby. The deal called for a minimum prison sentence of ten years and a maximum of thirty. A key component of the bargain, Weyrauch says, was to be a presentencing hearing at which Judge Michael Nelson would hear testimony from several of Crosby's Round Valley victims.
"I was sure that would clinch the thirty years," Weyrauch says. "The guarantee of that hearing was the only reason I even agreed to the possibility of ten years."
But things didn't work out the way Weyrauch planned. Dale Crosby got a much better deal than anyone expected.
Weyrauch resigned in early April to return to private practice. Crosby's defense attorney Tim Hall approached her with a request a few days before she left. "He asked me to stipulate to a ten-year sentence for his guy," Weyrauch recalls. She refused. "I told him that I'd be glad to stipulate to thirty years. To me, that was the correct sentence, the just sentence."
Soon after Weyrauch left, County Attorney Udall and Donna Grimsley--Weyrauch's replacement as sex-crimes prosecutor--gave Hall the deal Weyrauch wouldn't. The prosecutors now stipulated to a ten-year plea bargain, which worked out to eight years and a few months in real time.
Donna Grimsley justifies the agreement. "My boss determined that ten years was appropriate," she says. "I didn't feel uncomfortable with that."
The prosecutors insist they softened the deal with the blessings of Crosby's victims. "The victims had no objection with what we had in mind," Udall says. "The cases weren't the best in the world, and we had to do the best for everyone concerned. The victims agreed with us."
Either the prosecutors or the victims are woefully mistaken. Two victims--Rex Ann Bills and LaNita Koontz--who say they've never spoken to each other--told New Times in separate interviews that they actively opposed the new ten-year deal. A handwritten note in the Crosby case file from Judge Nelson's secretary to the judge confirms this.
"LaNita Koontz, victim, called to voice her objection to a plea agreement for Crosby," the secretary's note says in part. "She feels that they should have an opportunity to testify in court . . . . Rex Ann Bills, victim, objects to plea agreement."
"I think it is quite obvious that Dale's behavior has become increasingly worse," Bills wrote in a letter to the county attorney's office that apparently got there after Crosby's sentencing. She had moved to the state of Washington by this time, but was intensely interested in the case's outcome.
"He came to my house not just to scare me, but to end my life. I do not know what stopped him from doing just that. I feel that it is only right that he be sentenced to thirty or more years in a state prison."