"Self-Defense" Shooter Arrested for Murder After Changing Story

A man who fatally shot a tenant on his father's property in Mesa this weekend was arrested Wednesday after recanting his story about shooting the man in self-defense.

According to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, 39-year-old Scott Stradling initially told deputies that he had tased and shot Bill Harrison, who'd been living in a motor home in the backyard of the property where Stradling and his father both live.

Court documents obtained by New Times indicate that Stradling changed his story this weekend in an interview with detectives.

Deputies responded to the call at the home near the Mesa-Apache Junction border just before noon on Saturday, where they found Stradling with blood on his clothes, hands, and face. Harrison was lying face-up in the trailer in the backyard, and although CPR was performed, Harrison was eventually pronounced dead at the home.

Stradling told deputies that a dispute between the two centered over Stradling not wanting Harrison on the property while Stradling's kids were visiting, though court documents don't describe why.

Stradling said he was trying to get Harrison to leave the property in advance of a visit by Stradling's children, but said Harrison came out of the motor-home and started throwing things at him. Stradling told deputies he followed Harrison back into the trailer, where Harrison "began attacking him," court documents state.

Stradling used a stun-gun on Harrison first, but said it had no effect on him. Stradling said he then warned Harrison he would shoot him, and claimed that Harrison responded, "I'd rather be dead than homeless."

Stradling told investigators he feared Harrison would steal the motor-home, and also claimed that Harrison threatened to kill his kids.

Investigators didn't arrest Stradling at that time, but ended up hearing from two different people, neither of whom actually saw the shooting.

However, one overheard the confrontation -- saying that Stradling sounded like the aggressor in the situation -- and another who wasn't around, but called investigators to say she didn't think the shooting was in self-defense, adding that Stradling often mentioned that "somebody" needed to kill Harrison. The witness who overheard the confrontation said Stradling had assaulted Harrison in the past.

Stradling's father made it clear to detectives that Harrison was allowed on the property.

According to court documents, Stradling met with detectives yesterday and admitted that Harrison hadn't attacked him.

Stradling said he got angry when Harrison didn't leave the property, and hit him in the head when he felt he wasn't moving fast enough. Stradling said that Harrison actually locked himself inside the motor-home, and Stradling admitted he had to force entry to confront Harrison, where Stradling ultimately shot him.

"[Stradling] reiterated that he lost control because he wanted Bill off of the property," says a statement from the arresting deputy. "[Stradling] advised that upon unlawfully entering Bill's trailer a fight ensued and he shot bill. [Stradling] advised, while crying, he was wrong for what happened and stated that he wished he could have done it all over again and just called the police."

Stradling was arrested last night on charges of first-degree murder and criminal trespassing. His bond was set at $500,000.

UPDATE April 17: Jonni McGonigal, a family friend of Stradling's, tells New Times she disputes the witness' characterization of the fights between Stradling and Harrison. McGonigal says Stradling actually had a restraining order against Harrison after attacking Stradling. She also reiterated what Stradling has claimed, that he believed Harrison was attempting to steal the motor-home.

According to McGonigal, Stradling's kids actually had already arrived at the house by the time the confrontation took place.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley