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MOOSE NO LONGER LOOSEYEAR-OLD EVIDENCE LEADS TO STIFFER CHARGE IN CASE OF SLAIN GOLD MINER

W.H. "Moose" Graham sat slack-jawed and panting in the defendant's box in a Pinal County courtroom in Florence last Friday morning, his big, gray head poking out of orange prison garb. He was waiting for Judge Robert Bean to formally charge him with first-degree murder in the 1992 shooting death of Fred Schraeder.

Schraeder, 59, and his wife, Elaine, lived in a trailer in the desert outside Apache Junction. They were gold-mining hobbyists and owned a mining-supply store in town, and the land where they parked their rig was a mining claim staked by a friend of theirs.

Moose Graham thought he was the rightful claimholder on that inauspicious patch, and on the morning of December 16, 1992, he showed up at the claim with three guns and a bulldozer, apparently to force the Schraeders off.

Fred Schraeder came out of the trailer in his bathrobe, his own gun in hand, and within minutes he lay dead in the desert with three bullets in his chest.

Graham swore he shot in self-defense, and when he came before the grand jury nine days later, it believed him. He was charged with negligent homicide and released on his own recognizance.

On January 6, 1993, a Pinal County constable named Howard "Bud" Holbrook went to the sheriff to tell of a conversation he'd had with Graham the day before the shooting. Graham had come to the courthouse looking for a judge who would validate his claim on the mine, and when he didn't find one, he spilled his rage out to Holbrook, whom he recognized because Holbrook had once served him a summons.

Holbrook told investigators that Graham said to him, "Well, if this judge can't do something for me, there's gonna be some shooting out there.'"

The police recorded Holbrook's remarks into the record. Last summer, New Times published them in a lengthy detail of the events leading to Fred Schraeder's death (A Fatal Case of Gold Lust," July 21, 1993). Elaine Schraeder asked every law enforcement and court official she met why that statement wouldn't be grounds for charges more serious than negligent homicide. No one paid any attention.

Elaine Schraeder attended every one of the court's monthly status conferences on the case. She usually brought lots of friends with her, always stood up and said her piece to the judge. Still, it seemed to her as if the case would never come to trial.

In November, the case was assigned to deputy Pinal County attorney Bradley Soos, who reviewed the police interviews and all other facts of the case. Holbrook's testimony jumped out at him.

"When I sat down and reviewed the transcript, I saw that evidence was there on tape," Soos says. "It's been out there. [But] it was additional evidence that we didn't have when we went to the first grand jury."
More than a year after Holbrook came forward with Graham's incriminating statement, Soos took the case back to the grand jury, which returned a new indictment for first-degree murder. Graham surrendered and was held on $100,000 bond.

"We're praying right now that they don't have any major bail reduction," Elaine Schraeder said after the arraignment. She had brought 67 friends and supporters with her. When Judge Bean asked her for comment after Graham's not-guilty plea was entered, she rose and said, "I would like to say how thankful I am it's come to this."
Then Graham's wife, Rae Ann, stood up to say her own piece of how her husband should be released on his own recognizance as he had been for the last year. The judge ordered her to sit down and when she protested as to her own rights, he informed her that she had no right to speak.

Graham then balked at having his picture taken by a New Times photographer. "They printed a bunch of lies about me," he shouted. The judge noted his protest and told the photographer that he could continue shooting pictures.

After the hearing, Elaine Schraeder looked spent and anxious over breakfast with friends at a nearby Mexican restaurant, her husband's favorite. "It's been a nightmare year," she said. "I feel good that we've gotten this far, but it's not over yet.

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Michael Kiefer