Longform

Die Hard

Celia "CeCe" Margaret Doane is best known for her 1971 Miss Arizona title and the Rolls-Royce she drives around Paradise Valley, but the town's police also know her for her frequent calls -- sometimes to 911, often to Police Chief John Wintersteen on his cell phone or at home.

When a housekeeper for Celia Doane called Wintersteen last September and told him Doane had tried to hire her to kill James Doane, Celia's husband, Wintersteen took note.

"Knowing what I do about the Doan's [sic] marital situation, I immediately recognized that Mrs. Doan had a motive," Wintersteen wrote in a November 10 dispatch included in the latest Paradise Valley police report on the Doanes. A stack of several reports dating back to the early '90s details domestic squabbles at the Doanes' residence. It's noted often in the reports that Celia apparently had been drinking. There are allegations in the reports of violent behavior on the part of both Celia and James.

This latest, lengthy report details Celia Doane's alleged plot and her supposed murder weapon of choice: Viagra.

If the report is accurate, Celia Doane spent days planning how to overdose her husband -- who has a bad heart -- with a drug she knew could kill him.

And now one of Celia's ex-husbands has told police she tried to have him murdered, too.

James Doane refused to comment on the Viagra case, or any other aspect of the couple's relationship or pending legal issues.



"It would probably be better if I didn't [speak] at this time. That's an ongoing police investigation," James told New Times last week. ". . . If you've had access to the public records, then you've really got the story. I don't think that there's anything more that I can add."

Celia Doane is out of town seeking "therapy," according to her mother, Lillian Sklan. "My God, that's ridiculous," she says when asked about the Viagra case.

Celia's attorney, Larry Debus, calls the Paradise Valley police investigation "incomplete," adding, "We're conducting our own investigation."

Paradise Valley police provided New Times with a copy of the report, but refused to comment further and would not offer access to transcripts of phone calls and other conversations taped by police and witnesses in which Doane allegedly admits to the plot. The tapes are mentioned in the report; Paradise Valley police Lieutenant Ron Warner -- who serves as the department's spokesman and also took part in the Doane investigation -- says he was not allowed to give New Times transcripts. The police department also blacked out some names, including the name of its key witness, who has agreed to testify in court if necessary, according to the report. For the purposes of this story, we'll call her Mary. The following is based on Mary's account to police.



On September 19, Celia Doane had lunch with Mary at Houston's restaurant in Scottsdale. Doane told Mary she was looking for some Viagra.

From the police report: "Celia related that her husband Jim has a prostrate [sic] problem and would like to try the Viagra to see if they would help.

"Celia was insistent on getting the Viagra as soon as possible because they were going to Sedona for the weekend to try and save their marriage and Celia wanted to have the Viagra to use for the weekend. [Mary] told Celia that she could get a prescription from her [Doane's] doctor and order the Viagra over the Internet."

Doane persisted, until Mary agreed to try to get some Viagra from her own husband's supply.

The next morning, Mary came to Doane's home and gave her eight Viagra pills wrapped in tissue. Doane put them in her purse, then asked Mary about the dosage. She was told James should take one at a time and no more than two within a four-hour period.

And Mary had a warning for Doane: Don't give the Viagra to James if he has a heart condition, she told her. It could kill him. Doane assured Mary that James had no such troubles.

A day later, the report continues, Doane told Mary she wanted to use the Viagra to kill James. She asked how many it would take to kill him. She asked Mary to come to the Doanes' Sedona home and put the Viagra in James' coffee -- two pills in each cup he drank. Doane offered Mary a house in Scottsdale in exchange.

Mary tried to talk Doane out of it, and looked for the Viagra she had given Celia -- unsuccessfully. In the following days, Mary told police, Doane continued to speak of killing James and also of planting cocaine in a vehicle often driven by a business associate of James', and of having the associate killed.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.