On December 16, the day he would be killed, Fred Schrader got up before dawn, made a pot of coffee, turned on the TV, and sat down to watch the morning news. His wife, Elaine, was still asleep when she first heard the creaking of the approaching bulldozer. In her dreams, she thought coyotes were scratching and whimpering outside their trailer home, an RV parked on a friend's mining claim in the desert, four miles north of Apache Junction and a half-mile off Route 88.

Fred looked out the window; it was cold enough outside that the glass was frosted. Elaine heard him say "Damn" under his breath, and she assumed he'd tripped over his old, cross-eyed Siamese cat. Then she felt his knee on the side of the bed and realized he was reaching across her to take his .22-caliber pistol off the bedside shelf. She forced herself awake with a jolt.

"What is it?" she asked.
"It's that damn fool Graham again, and he's got a bulldozer with him," he answered, according to Elaine's interviews with New Times and Pinal County sheriff's detectives.

As far as the Schraders were concerned, W.H. "Moose" Graham was a claim jumper. They'd run him off three years earlier when he came out to their trailer to announce that he owned the claim. Now he was back with a Caterpillar bulldozer that had a blade two-thirds as long as their entire rig and was big enough to push them into the nearby wash.

The trailer was shaking as the Cat rumbled within two feet of it. Elaine looked out the window. Graham had parked his faded, blue pickup truck in the bushes not 20 feet away; she looked directly into his steely eyes, then closed the blind with a shiver.

"Honey, come back," she shouted after her husband. "Wait for me." It was the last time she saw him alive. A moment later, she heard two shots, then a third, and she struggled to get a sweater over her head and run for the door.

She looked for Fred's bright red bathrobe and didn't see him. Graham was staring at her from the other side of his truck; his gaze puzzled her.

Elaine called for Fred, but he didn't answer.
"Where's Fred?" she yelled to Graham. He didn't respond, and she assumed he didn't know Fred's name. "Where's my husband?" she asked. He gestured toward the ground.

When she rounded the front of the truck, she saw Fred, and she knew immediately that he was dead. He was lying on his back, his head near the right front tire, the holster of his gun near his feet. His robe looked so perfectly arranged that it surprised her, and his hands were cupped on his chest. He'd had big, strong workman's hands in life, but now they looked helpless and tiny.

"Oh, honey, even your hands shrunk when they killed you," she said to him. Graham was watching coolly. "Why'd you kill my husband?" she asked, and Graham answered, "He had a gun."
She lost her temper. "I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch," she screamed and she raised her hands toward his neck. He backed off, frightened, and she caught herself.

She turned frantically to try to revive Fred with CPR, but he was dead. With just three bullets, he'd been shot through the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the liver, the spine. There was very little blood, so Elaine, who had worked in the medical profession, knew his heart had stopped for good. She gave up and went into the trailer to wait for the police.

Graham's wife, Rae Ann, who was in the truck, ran to call 911 as soon as the shots were fired. She went with a man named Gene Stowe, whom Graham had brought as a witness in case anything happened, and they called from the shop of Darrell Hand, the local prospector who was driving the Cat. A couple of recreational miners from Texas, Terry and Heidi Lee, who had parked their trailer up the road, came running to see what had happened.

As Heidi Lee recalls, "I was ranting and raving, trying to make some sense of it. I told [Graham] he had no right to be there. I asked why he did it."

All that Graham told her in response was, "This is my claim."
@rule: @body:Longer than there has been a town called Apache Junction, the area's main business has been gold mining, though there's been more money made promoting tourism and selling investment scams than selling actual gold. The Spanish explorer Coronado searched for the Seven Cities of Gold on Superstition Mountain, the silent palisade that towers more than 5,000 feet above town. In the 1840s, a Mexican aristocrat named Miguel de Peralta allegedly mined a rich mother lode and shipped the gold back to Mexico until the Apaches murdered him and all his men on a patch still referred to as the Massacre Ground, not two miles from where Fred Schrader died.

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Michael Kiefer