Believe it or not, back in the day (three decades or so ago), the big news at the U.S.-Mexico border down in Cochise County wasn't illegal immigration -- it was a religious cult led by a charismatic woman preacher named Frances Thomas.
moved her flock to a place called Miracle Valley, a few miles north of the border, where her onetime mentor, holy-roller scammer A.A. Allen first had set up shop in the 1950s and made (and lost) millions of dollars convincing gullible folks that he had a direct beeline to the Big Guy.
Anyway, the whole thing got crazy, culminating in the infamous October 1982 clash in which Cochise County sheriff's deputies (including the agency's current sheriff, Larry Dever) and cult members engaged in a shootout during which Thomas' son, William Jr., and another man were killed.
We were working down there at the Sierra Vista daily at the time and reported extensively on this story -- one of Arizona's biggest that year.
Writer William R. Daniel wrote a book about the shootout a few years ago, and he's just now coming out with another one -- Miracle Valley: The Search for Justice --in which he describes its aftermath in and out of the courts.
We recall going toe-to-toe with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who flew in from Chicago to rage against the deputies whom had "murdered" the members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church.
Let's leave it at Jackson was not well-acquainted with the facts.
Daniel is set to appear at the wonderful Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon at 3 p.m. to discuss his new book.
Scheduled to join him in a panel discussion are several retired sheriff's deputies who were present during that October day, including Ray Thatcher, who shot Thomas Jr. and later was pilloried in the national media.
We remember Thatcher fondly -- spent time out on the border with him riding horses for a story on him: He always has been a decent guy who was just doing his job that terrible day.
If you're in the Changing Hands neighborhood tomorrow afternoon (6428 S, McClintock), stop on by. Could be interesting.
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