By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Bills' letter makes Steve Udall's explanation about the victims' having "no objections" ring hollow.
TIM HALL CONTINUED to scramble for his client as the time for Dale Crosby's sentencing neared. He urged Crosby's parents Wyatt and Glenna to gather signatures for a petition that called for leniency. The couple urged the rich and locally famous to sign along with just regular folks.
Apache County Board of Supervisors chairman Art Lee was among the 131 who signed the petition. The reasons Lee gives are similar to those of everyone contacted by New Times: He signed because the Crosbys asked him to.
The Crosbys were so thorough in their signature drive that Glenna Crosby even asked one of her son's victims to sign the petition. Needless to say, the victim declined.
Crosby's parents also worked hard on another front, convincing Eagar town attorney Ron Wiltbank to write a letter to Judge Nelson on their son's behalf.
A former Eagar grade school principal who practices law in Round Valley and Scottsdale, Wiltbank asked the judge to allow Crosby to "continue as a productive member of the community while serving a probation term."
"The Crosby parents told me their boy was going to have to do a lot of time in jail that he didn't need to do," Wiltbank tells New Times. "They said, `Please ask the judge to give him a break.' I never read any of the police reports and I didn't have any contact with any of the authorities. I didn't want to get involved in that. I hadn't known Dale to speak of since he was a little gap-toothed kid. This was tearing them up, so I wrote it to help."
The Crosbys turned over their petition days before his sentencing. "Dale is a hard worker and has many good personality traits," it said in part, "including the ability to get along with the people he meets . . . . Please consider our request that Dale be reunited with his family as soon as possible."
Crosby's victim LaNita Koontz was so disturbed by the petition she decided at the eleventh hour to fight fire with fire. First, she phoned the home of Apache County manager Clarence Bigelow, who had signed the petition: "I told his wife that me and many other people had been the victims of this guy, that he had come into my house with my kids there, and that he had been pawing at me in my own bed. She said, `I'll tell him you called.'"
Koontz and others then circulated their own counterpetition.
"Our petition said that Crosby ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," she says. "We got a few hundred people to sign it. Not everyone in Round Valley was for Dale, and that included some Mormons. I wanted to make sure the judge got our petition, but I couldn't get anyone to tell me how to go about it."
Judge Nelson says he never saw the Koontz counterpetition or Rex Ann Bills' letter. But he admits he took the Crosbys' petition into consideration when he decided to go along with Crosby's abbreviated ten-year plea.
The twisted case then took another strange turn when Judge Nelson suddenly canceled the hearing at which several victims had planned to speak their pieces against Crosby.
"The prosecutor and defense attorney came into my chambers and wired the stipulated plea," Nelson says. "I agreed that there was no real reason to have the hearing. When two attorneys you respect come to you with a deal, you have to assume that it's a fair one."
The cancellation of the hearing was particularly galling to the women who had their hearts set on testifying. "I was ready to go," says LaNita Koontz. "I started thinking this whole thing was a very bad dream."
Rex Ann Bills was just as irate.
"I was getting very upset," Bills says. "Donna Grimsley never told me the hearing was off. I call Donna and they tell me she's out of town and that some prosecutor is doing the sentencing right then. I used a few choice words, then I called the judge back. No one would give me any answers."
And so not one of Dale Crosby's victims was in the courtroom when Judge Nelson sentenced Crosby later that morning. But the judge recalls that "a whole bunch" of Crosby's family members and supporters were in attendance.
Deputy county attorney Michael Roca substituted that day for out-of-town Donna Grimsley. Roca told Judge Nelson--according to a court transcript--"Our office has agreed to recommend the stipulated minimum sentence in this matter."
Roca spoke only briefly of the victims. "Although their opinions vary from one to another individual," he said, "they appear as a group to be willing to concede to [our] recommendation."
When it was Nelson's turn, the judge listed only those factors that he said called for a lesser sentence: Crosby's work as a snitch in a pending jailhouse drug case, his having consulted a psychiatrist, his "appearance of remorse."
"Thank you, judge," Dale Crosby told Judge Nelson as detention officers led him back to his jail cell.