A DEATH IN THE DESERT

BILL GRAVELL DIED OF TWO GUNSHOT WOUNDS TO THE CHEST. HIS FELLOW COPS SAY IT WAS SUICIDE, BUT HIS WIDOW--AND THE GOVERNMENT--DISAGREE.

However, the wounds caused by this sad affair still fester in her and in many at the Oro Valley Police Department. "I don't know if it was suicide or murder," says one officer. "We'll never know, will we? It's time to move on."

Kathy Gravell understands that sentiment. But she adds, "I have to do what I have to do." That means she'll be front and center next Tuesday when the Arizona Memorial Board considers what in the world to do with the strange case of Bill Gravell.

Moments before he died, Gravell radioed in for emergency assistance from a secluded parking lot near a trailhead in the Coronado National Forest.

Pima County sheriff's investigators had bungled the Gravell case badly enough to cloud many crucial details, probably forever. "I knew Bill for a long, long time, and my whole basis from the start was that he couldn't do it, he couldn't kill himself."

His hair fell out and he became a ghostly figure. The couple spoke of renewing their marriage vows in a ceremony a few weeks down the road. To Chief Wolff, Bill Gravell's death wasn't an unsolved mystery. It was suicide.

He requested backup in a disturbed, clearly frightened tone of voice. "Assist officer, assist officer. I need help!"

Minutes after Gravell's body was taken away, a group of tourists from a nearby resort hotel trampled through the crime scene on horseback.

"She said, `He just shot and killed a cop. Whatever you do, don't talk to anybody and don't tell anybody.'

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