CARLE HODGE'S NEEDLESS DEATH

"It was Carle who took me to restaurants and taught me how to use a fork and spoon to roll spaghetti."
Merems remembers a telling detail about Hodge's early career:
"Carle had a daily ritual. He never stopped working to improve his writing. Each morning, Carle would take every story on the front page of the New York Times and rewrite the lead paragraphs, trying to improve them. To me, it was a revelation. It was like watching Vladimir Horowitz practicing the piano."
Virginia Fraps Hodge refers to herself as "Carle's favorite ex-wife." She speaks of him with affection.

Now a librarian at the Copper Queen Library in Bisbee, she recalls finding slips of paper and envelopes among his papers containing lists of words and phrases for use in future writings.

"The trouble was," she says, "that the lists were often on the backs of envelopes that still contained unpaid bills or on the opposite sides of grocery lists that were never taken to the store."
Bob Albano, now city editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican, holds Hodge in high esteem. Albano was one of Hodge's editors during his years at the Arizona Republic.

Albano says:
"Carl developed a certain reverence for whatever topic he was writing about. He had a knack of putting a science story into language that people enjoyed reading. He was a first-rate science writer."
Maggie Hodge, Carle Hodge's 26-year-old daughter, works for a Tucson radio station. They had grown increasingly closer in recent years.

Maggie recalls a visit with Carle about a week before his death.
"Papa and I had grown very close," she says. "He came down to Tucson because he was working on a story about the Biosphere, and we had lunch together at the Tohono Chul tearoom, with its fabulous garden setting.

"We walked around the grounds together. Papa became fascinated by some rabbits that he saw eating chunks of adobe. He wanted to find out why they liked it. He was always planning his next writing project . . . ever seeking for expanded knowledge."
Maggie recalls attending a science convention with her father.
"The language was so technical that I understood almost nothing of what went on. Later, I sat down with Papa and he explained it all to me in layman's language. Suddenly, it all became clear to me. He was really a great teacher."
Marilyn Taylor, a writer, worked with Hodge at the Republic. "I was just getting started," she says, "and he was incredibly supportive. He kept encouraging me to develop my own style."

Early holds annual meetings for his Arizona Highways writers. At the most recent meeting, Hodge told Early about the longevity of his relatives, indicating that Carle expected to live a long life, too.

@rule:
@body:Police theorize that Hodge was in his apartment in the 2100 block of West Missouri when he saw someone tampering with his car in the parking lot.

He ran out into the street barefoot to chase him away.
Witnesses recall seeing a man about 5 feet 8 inches tall, dressed in black, beating and kicking Carle into submission.

They recall hearing Carle say, "Please don't hit me."
The man then dragged Carle's body into the street. He jumped into his own car, which contained either one or two other passengers. He spun the car around and then deliberately drove over Carle's body.

For several days, the police investigation was stymied. Then, after the Republic offered a $5,000 reward, the police announced the arrest of Efren Medina of 5730 West Indian School.

It has been theorized that Medina was turned in for the reward by one of the two people who were with him in the car.

Medina is a member of the Hollywood Gang, which, along with another group calling itself Wetback Power, terrorizes people in the Maryvale area.

Medina already has a lengthy criminal record. He is a chief suspect in the February 5 killing of a cocaine dealer named Thomas Scroggins, 30.

Scroggins bled to death after suffering wounds to his legs caused by both a .22-caliber weapon and a 12-gauge shotgun. Shells from these weapons were recovered from Medina's home. Two witnesses told police they were with Medina until moments before the kidnaping of Scroggins. But County Attorney Rick Romley refused to take the case. He said he needed more evidence.

While Romley and his cowardly prosecutors waited for evidence, Carle Hodge was beaten to death.

The reason for not going to trial was typical of Romley's constant political posturing. His spineless prosecutors do not go to trial unless they have a sure shot at victory and a chance to be interviewed on television.

Romley and his prosecutors always exercise inordinate care in these kinds of cases. Despite their protestations, they worry more about their won-lost records than safety in the streets.

Medina has also been charged with shooting a man named Dennis Smith, 35, in 1991. He shot Smith nine times with a pistol and left him permanently disabled, police report.

For this crime, Medina was sent to the Adobe Mountain School, but was released a month before the Scroggins killing.

I tried to make an appointment to visit Medina in the county jail, where he is now being held.

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