Robinson also says he does not know why Weaver and Schilling were not notified prior to Brown's release. He is sure, however, that the oversight wasn't the police department's fault: Such notification is the responsibility of the agency that's holding the prisoner, in this case the sheriff's department, he says.
At the sheriff's department, spokesman Duane Brady says it -would have been the sheriff's department's job to notify Weaver and Schilling, if Brown had been released on bond. Since he was released instead as a result of the county attorney's decision not to press charges, prosecutor Michael Breeze should have done the calling, Brady says.
Brady then volunteers that the whole system of victim notification has been greatly improved in '92, as though it's a believable thing to say. "We have really streamlined that whole procedure, so that it makes it easier for the victim," he says. "We would be happy to show it to you if you want to do a bigger article on it."
And another thing: Brady says that, despite the fact that it wasn't even his department's job to notify the victims this time, notification was mailed to Schilling and Weaver on the day of Brown's release.
Well, something was mailed. Schilling and Weaver confirm that they received some form letters from the sheriff's department on January 8, after Brown had already returned and attacked Weaver. The letters they produce do not mention anything about release, however. These letters say that Brown was being held without bond.
IT IS POSSIBLE, of course, that Weaver and Schilling did intend to defraud their insurance company. Many people have defrauded their insurance companies before, for less reason than the mounting expenses that accompany a fatal illness. The original police reports pointedly note that, upon the return of their property following the first robbery, they told police they wanted to file for new items. (Weaver and Schilling say that they never intended to apply for the replacement of undamaged property, such as their stereo equipment, but that they did mention to police the possible replacement of things damaged or dirtied beyond repair, such as their clothing and some pieces of jewelry.)
It is possible that the whole thing was a scam, but it's not terribly likely. Brown had told Detective Parks that Weaver and Schilling needed money to defray the cost of AIDS, but by all accounts there is no appearance of pressing need in their lives.
After a $25 monthly deductible, Weaver's healthcare costs are paid in full by Samaritan Health Services. Although the couple has lost Weaver's income over the past 18 months, Schilling is still employed, and they say they have adjusted to new financial realities by starting up a small business dealing antiques and by keeping their personal overhead low. (They say that both their cars are paid for and that even their $544 house payment is subsidized to the tune of $265 by the rent they collect from a tenant who lives over the garage.)
Perhaps even more significant, numerous friends, neighbors and family members all say that they have been willing and able to help out when the need arises, but that it primarily hasn't.
"My family has a little money. I have never needed or wanted for anything, and I know that I never will," says Weaver. "I don't need to break the law to pay my bills."
His mother, Jean, remembers pitching in $1,000 for home repairs and another $1,000 toward expenses during the lag time that it took Weaver to qualify for social security after he became ill, but she says that money hasn't even been a topic of discussion over the past year. "Whenever they need money, they can always call on us, but Chris has wanted to do it himself," she says. "We have not given them much at all."
Schilling points out that, even if the question of financial need is put entirely aside, the sort of burglary performed by Anthony Brown is not the one he would have orchestrated, if it had come to that. 'With my DOC connections, I could have hired someone who really knows the insurance business," he says. "We would have gone on vacation, and we would not have stolen stereo equipment. There are items of greater value in our home." He points out a Baccarat crystal vase he estimates is worth $800, and an art object of $1,000 value. "If I was going to do an insurance fraud, why would I hire a scumbag drug addict?"
Perhaps it was these compelling arguments that also convinced the accusers. Something did. Spokesman Kevin Robinson says that Schilling and Weaver are no longer suspected of insurance fraud by the police department, and the same conclusion has been reached by the couple's insurance company, American Family, which delayed payment on the burglary claim at first when the suspicion of insurance fraud surfaced in police reports. Rob Morris, the district property claims manager at American Family, says his company's investigation, launched as a result of the suspicions contained in the police report, did not turn up the irregularities typical of insurance frauds. The claim has now been paid in full.
Which sounds like the end of the story, but isn't.
ANTHONY BROWN returned to rob Schilling and Weaver a third time, and this time he seemed intent on personal harm.
The day after the second burglary, on January 9, early in the morning after the Cadillac had been stolen and they had been interrogated by Detective Parks, Weaver and Schilling saw that someone had gained access to the backyard by pulling down the fence. Weaver looked in the garage and saw that the lawn mower, a large compressor and a variety of tools were missing. These things would later be recovered from the home of Brown's "fence" on 11th Avenue.
The day before, Weaver and Schilling had asked the police to place a special watch on the house because of their increasing fear of Brown. If a special watch took place at all, however, it wasn't an airtight one. Apparently Brown was able to transport all his stolen merchandise down the alley and across the freeway bridge on foot without being apprehended.
On his way back into the house from the garage, Weaver was waylaid. Brown, lying on his belly beneath Schilling's car, suddenly lunged at the sick man and grabbed him by the ankles. He began chasing Weaver around in the yard, a knife in one hand and a screwdriver in the other.
"He had taken everything from us, and yet that lunatic was still in the garage," says Weaver. "I think he wanted to kill us or terrorize us." The police would later discover that Brown had also cut the telephone lines, and he would tell them he'd done so because Schilling attended his bond hearing and testified against him.
Weaver panicked and ran from the yard, while Schilling rushed out of the house. Now he was dodging out of the path of Brown's knife. He says Brown was shouting, "I want some money, faggots!"
"I deal with these people all the time, I know what happens when they are on drugs," says Schilling. "He said that if I came any closer he'd kill me. I was trying to talk to him. I said, `Why are you doing this to us?' And he said, `Because you're rich and queer.'"
When Brown bolted, Schilling took out after him. "I wasn't going to let him out of my sight again," he says. He chased Brown down the alley and up the ramp leading to the freeway bridge. By this time, the police had been alerted by neighbors whom Weaver had roused, and they careened onto the scene. Brown was arrested and later charged with eight offenses, among them armed robbery, aggravated assault and kidnaping.
"I was standing out in front of the house, crying and hysterical, when the police arrived," says Weaver. "I didn't know if Chris was lying dead in the backyard. ... The stress we have experienced in the last few weeks is like the trauma we went through one-and-a-half years ago when I was on a respirator and we were wondering if I was going to make it."
One reason the stress continues is that Weaver and Schilling still don't feel entirely safe. Brown is still being held without bond, pending his pre-trial hearing in March. But his suspected accomplice, Whaylen Hendrix, is out on bond.
Shortly after Hendrix's release, Weaver recognized him standing out in front of the house, staring in the front windows. The police told Weaver, and spokesman Robinson confirms, that since Hendrix wasn't breaking any laws, nothing could be done if he wanted to observe Weaver and Schilling at close range.
This is surprising, since the conditions of Hendrix's release specified he could not return to the scene of the crime.
Robinson also says that it isn't surprising if Brown had slipped beyond the reach of a "special watch" on the morning of his final arrest, since there is nothing hard and fast about the procedure. "Given the opportunity, officers will just do a drive-by and try to be a visible factor, time being an immediate factor," is the way Robinson describes the department's "special watch" policy. "I can understand these people's frustrations, I truly can, and I would love to have an officer go by every half-hour or hour, but we can't. We are trying to do more with less money. If we could get 150 new officers, we would be as happy as hell."
He also says an investigation is under way to determine whether Officer Parks' actions in this case were prompted in any way by homophobia. "We are not going to tolerate any bigoted feelings on anybody's part," he says.
Schilling and Weaver and their neighbors, however, don't think they need an investigation to know that bias had a bearing. "They were taking the word of criminals over that of our neighbors!" says Hunnicutt.
Another neighbor, Marilyn Mills, says she was put off by the attitude of Detective Parks when she met her during one of the police officer's visits to the Weaver-Schilling house. "She made some reference to their being gay; the implication was definitely there," Mills says. "The police don't take these gay guys seriously like they do me. I'm an old lady with a cane, and when they come out here, they treat me like a princess."
Taken alone, the official statements of the law enforcement agencies of Maricopa County that failed Weaver and Schilling suggest that they mean to treat everyone like royalty, and nearly always do. Once in a while, a slip of the lip occurs, however.
Over at prosecutor Michael Breeze's office, the secretary who answers the telephone carefully takes down the information that a reporter is calling. She writes down the reporter's telephone number without comment. It isn't until she hears that the reporter is calling Breeze in reference to Anthony Brown that she says the first word that can be construed as acknowledgment of a screw-up.
When she hears Brown's name, she says, "Yikes."
Part 2 of 2
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