Longform

Blood on their hands

Page 4 of 8

Anita's infant son was sleeping, so she asked her husband Charlie to drive over to West Tierra Buena. He got there shortly before Mauricia's other daughter, Carmen Tallebas, also showed up.

A one-time Arizona Department of Public Safety officer who now owns a concrete-cutting business, Charlie Watson assessed the situation.

Rodney was in his room with his music blaring, and wouldn't leave. Charlie tried to wait him out, and returned to his own nearby home for awhile. When he returned, Rodney had locked himself in a bathroom.

Charlie hollered in that he needed to speak with him, but Rodney was unresponsive.

"Rodney just wasn't making any sense at all," Carmen Tallebas recalls. "When he came out of his room, he had a very, very angry look in his face. He was going toward the kitchen, and I said, `Mini, we need to talk to you.' [Rodney responded,]`I don't need to talk to anything,' this and that . . .He didn't care."

Rodney made a break for the front door, flashing a knife at Charlie to keep him at bay.

"I can basically remember what happened," Charlie said later. "When somebody pulls a knife on you, you remember. So I'm following him, and he turns around and pulls a knife out of the hat, and he keeps going for the door, and I keep following him, but he keeps turning around with the knife."

Rodney darted across the big yard as his mother dialed 911. Charlie jumped into his truck and drove toward Rodney, pleading with him to put the knife down. Instead, Rodney jumped a fence into an alley.



"I figured the police would shoot him if he's got a knife in his hand," Charlie said, "because he didn't seem too afraid that day."

Back at the house, Charlie sifted through Rodney's belongings for illegal drugs, but found none. But he did see an old rifle beneath Rodney's bed that wasn't supposed to be there.

The rifle, an AR-15 once owned by Rodney's grandfather, was unloaded. But Mauricia said she'd heard a clicking noise coming from Rodney's room all night, and now she knew what it was.

Rodney remained incommunicado for two days.



Then, on June 15, Tempe police received a 911 call from a disturbed man who said he needed help.

"The walls were talking back . . .I'm going crazy," the caller told a dispatcher.

It was Rodney Aviles.

He also called his mother's house that day, but made little sense during a short conversation with his brother-in-law, Frank Tallebas, except to say he was in Tempe.

Anita Watson drove over to Mill Avenue and searched in vain for her brother until nightfall. (The family later found receipts from a Tempe motel in Rodney's pocket.)

Another day passed.

On June 17, someone from an attorney's office near I-17 and Dunlap Avenue phoned Mauricia Aviles. Rodney had walked in unannounced and said he wanted to sue family members for injuring him physically and by reading his mind.

Anita Watson already had called mental-health authorities to see if they'd admit him for treatment when he turned up. To commit Rodney wouldn't be easy for a close-knit Latino family that prided itself on handling its own problems. But by now, the Aviles' were thoroughly convinced that he posed an immediate danger to himself and those around him.

Mauricia and Anita drove to the lawyer's office, and took Rodney to an urgent care center in northwest Phoenix.

Rodney at first apparently thought his family was going to pay to fix his "broken" leg and "tattooed" penis. He became unglued when he learned they wanted to lock him up for mental-health treatment.

After a long wait, Rodney grudgingly spoke with nurse-practitioner Katherine Pool. Her report said Rodney was pacing, anxious, illogical, delusional and paranoid, and she quoted him as saying, "I melt in heat. Can't see dogs because of heat."

Noted Pool, "Family does not feel safe with him...Family thinks [Rodney] is using drugs, but [has] never seen [him] using any . . .Paranoid regarding family trying to confuse him or attack him."

Dr. Balwinder Pawar, a psychiatrist, also interviewed Rodney that day. His job was to determine if Rodney needed to be sent to the county hospital for more intensive evaluation.

"He was not agitated, he was not a management problem, he was not threatening or doing anything," Pawar said later. "But he was angry inside . . .I felt he was psychotic and probably could get some help and some more evaluation, and need[ed] to be observed."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin