| Crime |

Teacher in Middle of Violent Love Triangle; Cops Looking Into Relationship With Students

A 48-year-old former teacher at Tempe's Marcos de Niza high school is at the center of an apparent love triangle with two young students that ended in murder.

Accounts from court records state that Sixto Balbuena, 20, arrived unexpectedly at the home of his "girlfriend," teacher Tamara Hofmann last Friday. After he let himself in, he saw the naked Hofmann with 18-year-old Samuel Valdivia, who was in his boxer shorts.

The younger man was a student of Hofman's at El Dorado, an alternative high school in Chandler. Balbuena, a sailor who lives in El Centro, was a former student of Hofmann's when she taught at Marcos.

Balbuena didn't mean to stab Valdivia so hard, he later told police. He just wanted to teach his rival a lesson. But the knife slipped into Valdivia "like going into butter." He also admitted he attacked Hofmann, throwing her to the floor and demanding to know how long she'd been cheating on him.

Balbuena then felt pangs of remorse. He called 911 himself and -- while drenched in his victim's blood -- waited at the house for cops to pick him up.

Police want Balbuena, who's being held in jail on a $100,000 bond, charged with murder. But the whole incident begs the question: Did Hofmann have a relationship with either of these two kids before they turned 18?  

The question "definitely has not been overlooked" by detectives, says Sergeant Joe Favazzo of the Chandler police.

If evidence came up that a relationship with minors occurred, police could act on that, he says. But Favazzo added that such a thing might be tough to prove, at this late date.

"Unfortunately, one person is dead -- we can't interview that person," he says.

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