Longform

Family Secrets

Page 5 of 8

In August 2001, Phoenix police had arrested her for aggravated drunken driving on a license already suspended for an earlier DUI. The following February, a judge sentenced her to four months in prison, which she served entirely.

A few months after Sally's release in May 2002, Danny Carbajal and a female walked into a BankOne branch at 24th Street and Thomas Road.

They asked teller Marco Zazueta to notarize a quitclaim deed that gave ownership of Danny and Sally's home on East Coronado to Josephine Carbajal.

The Coronado home was the definition of marital community property, but here was Sally -- just out of the joint, no job, and with a broken marriage -- allegedly willing to sign it over in return for nothing.

By then, similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for about $90,000, according to the County Assessor's Office.

Later, Sally said she hadn't gone to the bank with Danny that day in August 2002, nor had she signed the quitclaim deed over to Josephine.

Marco Zazueta testified during his deposition last November that he couldn't identify Sally or Josephine Carbajal from photos shown to him. But he recalled that Danny Carbajal had presented a passport as identification, and the woman had shown him an Arizona driver's license.

Zazueta did jot down in his notary book the identification numbers of both quitclaim signers.

The woman's license number came back later to a Celia Carbajal, who was born on the same date in 1980 as Sally and Danny's youngest child.

Celia Carbajal also was Sally's real name, but she was born in 1954, not 1980.

It's uncertain if daughter Celia forged her mother's signature that day, or if Josephine used her sister's driver's license to slip one past the teller.

Danny and Sally's younger daughter could not be reached for comment.

Add this fact to the mix: The Phoenix police affidavit for a search warrant last April claims that, "in addition to obtaining a fraudulent driver's license under her mother's name of Celia Carbajal on October 3, 2003, Josephine Carbajal also obtained a fraudulent driver's license under her sister's name of Celia Carbajal on May 27, 2003."

But the latter happened months after the August 2002 quitclaim signing, and exactly what happened at BankOne that day remains uncertain.

What is certain, according to esteemed Phoenix forensic documents expert Bill Flynn, is that someone did forge Sally's August 2002 quitclaim signature, and also forged her quitclaim signatures in December 2002, signing over the six downtown Phoenix properties.

Shortly before Sally's murder, Flynn wrote to her divorce attorney that "it is highly probable that [Sally] Carbajal did not execute the questioned signature. . . . There are indications that the questioned signature represents efforts to simulate the genuine signature style of Ms. Carbajal."


In July 2003, Danny Carbajal filed for divorce from Sally in Maricopa County Superior Court. He didn't have an attorney, and filled out the self-help petition by hand.

Danny claimed his Merrill Lynch retirement account was worth about $100,000 -- an understatement of at least a quarter-million dollars -- and said Sally's separate pension was about $65,000. (In truth, her account at Merrill Lynch was empty by then.)

Danny checked "yes" on a line that read, "Each party WAIVES OR GIVES UP his/her interest in any and all retirement benefits, pension plans or other deferred compensation of the other party."

He listed two vehicles and a condo on East Osborn Road as all of the couple's community property, and said it would be going to him.

According to Danny's petition, Sally would get some bedroom and dining room furniture in the split.

That was it.

Danny didn't mention anything about the six downtown Phoenix properties that the Carbajals still owned together, nor did he bring up the two cash-value life-insurance policies worth an unspecified amount that he and Sally had owned for years.

Said attorney Ken Winsberg, "Even honest people, which Danny isn't, make the mistake of thinking that just because something is in one party's name, such as a Merrill Lynch account, that it isn't community property. In this instance, it obviously was, and she had a lot of money coming to her."

In his petition, Danny listed Sally's address as the Osborn condo, where he was living (and still resides). A few days later, he paid someone to serve the divorce paperwork to Sally at the condo, where she hadn't set foot in months.

Court records show that a "Jerry Hall" accepted the paperwork at the condo on the morning of July 8, 2003.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin