By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
An investigation ensued, and Sanders eventually went to prison for two years for retaliating against a witness in the investigation.
When Sanders got out of prison, he headed for Phoenix and decided to be an informant himself. He got involved with some thugs who plotted a contract killing, stole, sold drugs. When it looked as if the cops were wising up, Sanders ratted out his pals to Phoenix police.
When he wasn't a snitch, Sanders was a welder.
And when he wasn't welding, he was bounty hunting.
Not always successfully. In 1994, he was sentenced to three years' probation for shooting somebody during a Tucson bounty hunt. During probation, he wasn't supposed to carry a gun.
But Sanders loved guns. For fun, he shot in competitions and visited gun shops and gunsmiths.
He shared his passion for guns with two boneheaded Arizona Department of Corrections prison guards--Tim Ring and James Greenham (a man so ugly his friends called him "Yoda," after the Star Wars creature)--and with a Federal Bureau of Prisons investigator named David Brackney.
In 1992, Ring and Sanders occasionally stalked fugitives with a former Border Patrol agent named James Gonzales.
But Gonzales became disturbed when, during a bounty hunt, Ring whacked the back of a man's head with his rifle butt for no apparent reason.
He was even more disturbed when Sanders and Ring began talking about plans to rip off a Wells Fargo armored car. They asked Gonzales to join in. He refused. The trio broke up.
Sanders and Ring made pals out of other goons--Yoda, Sanders' brother-in-law Brian Robbins and a retired Phoenix police officer named Bill "Fergie" Ferguson, who during his years as a cop had gotten in trouble for using police computers to get the skinny on rock stars, models and newscasters. When asked to explain, Fergie said he was a "psycho."
On November 28, 1994, the crime of the century hit Glendale. A Wells Fargo armored car had stopped behind Dillard's at a west-side mall to make a delivery. Three men shot the driver and sped off to a church parking lot in Sun City. Nearly $1 million was missing.
Early on, law enforcement authorities had identified Ring and Yoda as suspects, but the third crook remained a mystery. As early as January 3, 1995, Glendale cops were tipped by the FBI that the third man might have been Sanders. The same day, Glendale Police Detective Tom Clayton looked up Sanders' rap sheet in the police computer.
Sanders went to the police himself in early January. First he told police he had nothing to do with the robbery. Then he said he wanted immunity. Then he said he and another suspect had planned the Wells Fargo heist "early on." Then he said he'd testify at the trial.
Sanders never got the immunity he was seeking.
He wouldn't need it.
In early January, Gonzales called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, his ex-bounty-hunting clients, and informed ATF that he'd heard Sanders and Ring plotting the crime many times. ATF told Glendale police that a reliable source knew about the robbery. Gonzales then telephoned Glendale cops, implicated Sanders as the mastermind of the heist, then noted that Sanders seemed to be living better since the robbery. He volunteered to assist in the investigation and to testify.
But Glendale police chose to work with Sanders instead of investigate him.
With Sanders' permission, police tapped his phone and recorded Ring, Yoda and Fergie talking to Sanders about the heist.
Glendale detectives apparently didn't ask themselves why Ring, Yoda and Fergie trusted Sanders enough to speak freely about the crime if Sanders hadn't been involved.
They didn't think to bug Sanders' phone without his knowledge, to see if he'd implicate himself.
They didn't search Sanders' house even though they searched the homes of Ring, Yoda and Fergie.
The cops insist even today that they had absolutely no reason to suspect Sanders.
On February 18, 1995, Ring, Yoda and Fergie were arrested for the Wells Fargo murder-robbery, largely because of the wiretaps, and because the cops had searched the homes of the suspects and found money in bags and notes about the heist.
The day after the arrest of Ring, Yoda and Fergie, Sanders paid Gonzales a terrifying visit. Sanders had called ahead, which gave Gonzales time to wear a wire and tape their conversation.
The two took a walk. Sanders informed Gonzales that he knew Gonzales had snitched to Glendale.
"Umm, like I said, Glendale guys said you came forward," Sanders said. "All right, I'll take that with a grain of salt. Umm, but just watch your back, that's all. All right, 'cause like I said, nobody else needs to come up dead. . . . Besides, if you come up dead, it complicates my life because they're gonna come and talk to me again and I don't fuckin' need the headache. All right, that's all.
"You got to be careful. Okay? About what you say to them," Sanders warned.
Then Sanders said: "For 250 bucks, I can get you killed, okay?"
Gonzales took the conversation as a threat. He turned over the tape to Glendale police, who apparently didn't think the tape was significant.