By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
So Cavalera hired a private investigator--retired Arizona Department of Public Safety narcotics agent and helicopter rescue pilot Jim "Mac" McMinn.
McMinn went house-to-house in the neighborhood near the accident, asking questions and leaving business cards.
The man who answered the door at one house was Donald Barcello, who pointed to the DPS retirement ring McMinn wore and asked if he was an ex-cop.
"There's not too many people who would recognize that ring," McMinn says.
Barcello did, because he wore one of his own.
"I didn't know Mr. Barcello, but he had over 25 years in DPS as well," McMinn says.
Barcello didn't have information on the accident, but promised to call if he heard anything.
Weeks passed. On October 27, Wells' friends put up 500 posters in north Phoenix. The posters showed a picture of Wells and stated, "$10,000 REWARD for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the parties involved in the death of Dana Wells, (1:45 a.m., 8/16) on 23rd and Cactus. You may remain anonymous."
The posters listed McMinn's name and phone number.
The day after they went up, McMinn spent all day on the phone. "Most of them were groupie calls from [Sepultura] fans, with more of the same rumors," he says. "One wasn't."
It was Donald Barcello. His son, John Barcello, then 16, was a junior at Shadow Mountain High School. John and his best friend, Mike Henry, had come home with one of the posters, and told Donald Barcello they knew who was driving the other car.
McMinn called the younger Barcello and Mike Henry. They told the same story, which was this: A kid named Mike Gibbons had told them on two recent occasions in the Shadow Mountain lunch room that he was the driver of the phantom car in the crash that killed Dana Wells.
Barcello and Henry said Gibbons, who is Hispanic, told them he and his cousin were in the parking lot of a liquor store near the intersection of 32nd Street and Cactus, and got into a confrontation with three older white guys with long hair who were "talking trash" to his cousin.
Barcello and Henry said Gibbons told them he acted like he was going to pull a gun. The white guys jumped back in their car, and took off down Cactus. Gibbons and his cousin gave chase. They were in the middle lane, the other car was next to the curb. Gibbons supposedly told them both cars accelerated to about 90 miles per hour. Gibbons said a passenger in the other car was about to throw a beer bottle at Gibbons' car--Gibbons was driving--so he swerved toward them. The other driver swerved to the right and rolled his car.
Barcello and Henry said Gibbons told them he and his cousin slowed down, saw the damage was severe, then took off. Barcello and Henry said Gibbons didn't seem to be bragging. He seemed scared. It was Barcello's impression that Gibbons was talking to him because he knew Barcello's dad used to be a cop, and Gibbons wanted to know what crimes he could be charged with.
If Gibbons--or any other driver--deliberately ran Wells' car off the road, gun or no gun, he could be charged with a number of crimes, from aggravated assault to second-degree murder. If Wells simply lost control while being chased, the charge could be lessened to reckless endangerment.
It's doubtful Thomas and Graci would be charged with any crime related to Wells' death.
After he interviewed Barcello and Henry, McMinn called Detective Ripley, who called Barcello and Henry, who told Ripley the same stories. On November 8--more than a week after he got the tips--Ripley went to Shadow Mountain High and asked to see Mike Gibbons.
"I first spoke to an assistant principal," Ripley wrote in a police report. "He stated he first had to call [Gibbons'] parents to get their permission. He contacted Marilyn Gibbons and explained to her that I wanted to speak to her son. I spoke with Marilyn and explained to her why I needed to speak with Mike. She stated I could; however, she wanted to be there during the interview. She also told me Mike is deaf and only reads lips. It was decided to conduct the interview at their residence the following Monday."
Ripley called Gibbons' house at 6:30 a.m. on Monday. "I contacted Mike's father, Oscar Gibbons. Mr. Gibbons stated he had spoken to an attorney over the weekend. His attorney instructed Oscar not to allow me to talk to his son at this time."
Oscar Gibbons told Ripley to call his attorney, Richard Trujillo, to schedule an interview. Ripley set it up for November 26. When Ripley arrived at Trujillo's law office, Mike Gibbons was there, in a separate room, along with his mother and a speech therapist.
"I related to Mr. Trujillo the circumstances involving this incident," Ripley wrote. "I advised him I wanted to talk to Mike about the story he was telling his friends. I related Mike was not a suspect at this time and I only wanted to find [out] if the story was true or not."