By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
It was February 2, 2008, and the sun had barely set on the usually quiet streets that snake up Camelback Mountain. The bump of rapper Ludacris' music was in the air, and a line of short-skirted, high-heeled girls clomped off a tour bus — barely avoiding another bus as it coasted past.
The girls and their guys — most wearing designer jeans and starched shirts — swarmed through the pristine neighborhood as if it were Old Town Scottsdale on New Year's Eve.
The houses in the southern foothills of Camelback tend to be of the low-slung ranch-style variety, old-money affairs with no need to show off. In the most recetnt economic boom, though, the nouveau riche began tearing them down to the studs, replacing them with monuments to their wealth.
No one symbolized this better than Scott Coles, the flamboyant 48-year-old millionaire and president of Mortgages Ltd., the self-proclaimed oldest and largest private lender in Arizona.
Even before this year, Coles had a reputation for throwing crazy Super Bowl parties at his 20,000-square-foot compound on Rockridge Road, a gargantuan spread that covers about six lots and sticks out among both the old and new money on the side of the mountain.
Coles' Rockridge Estates features an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse, two pools, rivers and waterfalls, and manicured flowers.
His 2008 "Best Damn Super Bowl Party" blew his previous parties away. Tickets for the multiple-day affair cost between $300 and $5,000, and the merrymaking included Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy, Ludacris, and comedian Chris Rock, as well as a swimsuit/lingerie fashion show, open bar and "over-the-top opulence," according to its organizers, a private party coordinator called The Opium Group.
The party was so loud and drew so many revelers that, by the third night, about 50 of Coles' neighbors demanded to meet with him about the ruckus.
When his neighbors confronted him, Coles warned that his Rockridge property would fall apart if he weren't around to pay the landscaping crew, according to a neighbor who asked not to be named. It seemed like a bizarre comment at the time, given Cole's supposed status at the top of the multimillion-dollar lending industry.
"[Scott] came to the meeting very subdued and said it wouldn't happen again," the neighbor recalls. "At the meeting, he said, 'I don't understand why you all aren't pleased to have such a beautiful property. If anything happened to me, you would see how difficult it is to maintain.'"
Just four months later, those neighbors understood what Coles was hinting at.
Around 8 a.m. on June 2, Scott Coles' housekeeper, Laura Young, pulled past the custom gates at the edge of Rockridge Estates. She used her employee code to enter Coles' nine-car garage and west wing.
Coles was known for his early-morning workouts and healthful breakfast shakes, so Young thought it odd when she peaked into the massive master bedroom and saw him still lying in bed. She figured he was sleeping.
Young told the other full-time housekeeper to work quietly. Soon Zach Coles, 15, arrived home from his cousins' home, where he'd spent the night. Zach, the second of Coles' three children, walked into the master bedroom to find his dad lying with the white comforter pulled up to his neck, dead — a shrine to his second wife, Ashley Coles, 26, surrounding him.
Zach shouted, "Dad, Dad!" Then, according to the police report, he ran out to the playroom and dialed 911.
At the foot of Coles' king-size bed, a framed print read, "Ashley, will you marry me?" Two wedding-photo albums sat nearby, and "on the table at the foot of the bed was a silver-colored tray with a jar-type candle which was burning. Fresh cut roses were in vases on the tray," according to police descriptions of the scene.
Coles' body, dressed in his black tuxedo, complete with cream shirt, vest, and cufflinks, was cold when officers arrived. Next to Coles were a brown teddy bear and a life-size cardboard cutout of Ashley.
Just outside the French doors that lead to Scott Coles' master bedroom suite, a small staircase winds up to his second-floor office. There, officers found his last will and testament, dated June 1, 2008, witnessed by Zach Coles.
He left everything to his three kids and first wife, according to the police report, along with a document indicating that Ashley had told Scott she no longer wanted to be married to him.
It's pretty obvious that Coles killed himself with an overdose. On July 21, the autopsy report confirmed the details: oxycodone, Ambien, and alcohol. (Phoenix Police say they have declared the death a suicide and concluded their investigation.)
But despite his somewhat public profile — businessman, philanthropist, longtime Phoenician — very few people know who Scott Coles actually was. New Times reviewed hundreds of public records and interviewed more than two dozen family members, friends, and employees of Coles for this story (including the first in-depth interviews with Scott's sister Julie, as well as a friend of Ashley's who described Scott's courting the 22-year-old, whom he met in Las Vegas and married in 2006).
The portrait that emerges is one of a troubled but driven boy, whose charm, intelligence, and work ethic made him one of the Valley's most mysterious tycoons. The interviews also revealed that Coles grew more troubled and detached — from both his family and co-workers — during the final years of his life.