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TEENAGE WASTELANDDEATH AND BOREDOM IN THE WEST VALLEY

At trial, Balkan will likely argue that the statements of the Tucson suspects-none of which mention Doody or Garcia or seem to describe either of the boys-are legitimate confessions.

"And I think the sheriffs are going to say, `Yeah, yeah, you're right, [the Tucson suspects] did it,'" Balkan says. "I know there can be coerced confessions, I've seen them. But even as a defense attorney, the idea of getting four coerced confessions from four separate individuals somewhat boggles the mind. It goes against the percentages-some will and some won't [confess]. To go in there with four individuals and come out with four confessions, four statements, is stretching it a bit."
If Doody's statement is suppressed, the state's strongest evidence against Doody is the .22 rifle, a rifle owned by Rolando Caratachea. Caratachea says he loaned the weapon to Doody and Garcia, and that if his weapon was used in the killings, then "Johnathon and Alex did it." But Caratachea was also implicated in the crime by both Doody and Garcia. Though he has an alibi, it's based on the recollections of friends and family members, jotted down on four lined notebook pages in his father's handwriting.

The state also has various items recovered from pawnshops, bedroom closets and the suspects' friends-like cameras, compact-disc players and foreign currency. These items can be linked to Alex and Johnathon, and they match descriptions of some of the items believed missing from the temple, but there is no way to be certain they are the same. The monks led austere lives, their personal property was scant and, like most people, they did not record serial numbers or etch their names into property.

One of the items found in the Garcia home, in the bedroom Alex and Johnathon shared, was a Realistic Power Horn, a bullhorn that could play several preset tunes, five or seven notes. There was a power horn like that at the temple, and some templegoers remember Pairuch Kanthong, the abbot, had used the horn at temple functions, and that he was particularly fond of the USC fight song he could play on it.

That might seem a fairly esoteric item, but there are hundreds of power horns like that in the Valley. Nearly every Radio Shack store has one or two in stock.

Then the state has its witnesses, Valley kids who knew Doody, Garcia, Caratachea and maybe even Matthew Miller. Melanie Sprouse, Alex Garcia's 16-year-old girlfriend, a classmate of Miller's at Trevor Browne High School, remembers talking to Doody about Miller after the murders.

"He said that Matthew was a jerk, at least that's what his brother told him," Sprouse said. She also said that soon after the murders, Garcia took her to a jewelry store in Metrocenter and bought her a promise ring for $200. She said his wallet was bulging with bills.

Earlier that summer, she says Garcia had told her not to worry, that he was going to make sure she had a nice birthday, that he and Doody had a plan to get some money.

But Sprouse cannot put either her boyfriend or Doody at the scene of the murders. Likewise, the kids Doody allegedly confessed to in the days just before his arrest are all part of the high school ROTC milieu, a subculture in which it's not unusual to talk about, in Ben Lenininger's phrase, "assassinations of political types" and those who "invade on the national security." During his testimony at Doody's transfer hearing, Lenininger was surly and whiny, almost belligerent toward Doody and his attorney Balkan. Sixteen-year-olds don't always make the best witnesses.

Balkan believes all that can be characterized as "boys blowing smoke," spouting off about how tough they are.

Another stratum of the state's witnesses, including Caratachea, Michael Myers and Angel Rowlett, may not make such good witnesses either. Caratachea and Myers both admitted they had committed burglaries, and Rowlett invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when Balkan tried to question him about pawning Doody's cameras. Myers and Caratachea also hinted that they at one point planned to fake a burglary at the apartment, steal Doody's property and either pawn or sell it. That plan was interrupted by the arrests.

REALITY MAY BE SLOWLY sinking in for Johnathon Doody. He has been removed from the dormlike atmosphere of the juvenile detention center and locked down in the Madison Street Jail. He is not a kid who is used to being in trouble-he has no prior record of detention, but behind his dull, lethargic eyes might burn the cool intelligence of the deadliest mass murderer in Arizona history. Doody's "performance IQ," measured by order of the court, is a very intelligent 134.

he state will argue that Doody is manipulative and sophisticated, that he believes he can think or talk himself out of trouble and that the murders at Wat Promkunaram were the premeditated, systematic execution of nine eyewitnesses. Johnathon Doody, they point out, owned books that described interrogation techniques and how to deal with them.

But books are a far cry from the report of a .22 rifle-it's tinny and percussive, a curious small pop that sounds more bureaucratic than lethal, more like the thwack of a stapler than the roar of a bigger gun. A .22 is a plinking weapon-it isn't designed for executions-and under the circumstances, it isn't surprising that whoever killed the monks found it necessary to pump three bullets into some of them.

Alex Garcia told investigators Johnathon Doody was a creature with the .22 who knew going into the temple that he might have to kill them all. By Garcia's account, this ROTC cadet may have killed nine people, systematically and up close-"mercenary-style."

But he looks like a lost boy, vacant and numb.
Perhaps that is his best defense. Peter Balkan, appointed to defend Doody, says flatly that Doody is no killer. That, if he was involved in the temple case at all, it was because he was drawn in to it by his friends. If Doody went to the temple that night, Balkan says, he went there to play a game.

That is the story Doody told the investigators, and Balkan says Doody was naive enough to trust them when they said they wanted to help him.

"Pat Riley and Rick Sinsabaugh, the detectives, really laid a heavy line on Johnathon," Balkan says. "They said, `Trust us, we're your friends, we'll take care of you.'"
Now Balkan says he must come in as another suit-wearing stranger, another adult, and tell Doody to trust him. Slowly, though, Doody has become more interested in his case. Slowly, he's beginning to contribute to his defense and supply Balkan the pertinent details.

Doody's parents maintain regular telephone contact with Peter Balkan, and they have flown down from Colorado Springs to visit their son several times. Alex Garcia's parents visit their son in the county's juvenile detention center in Mesa several times a week. Rolando Caratachea has moved back in with his parents, who are also hosting his friend Michael Myers.

And, in the West Valley, on the frontiers of Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Avondale, as the aftershocks of the temple killings have become gentler and less frequent, the buzz has receded into a barely perceptible murmur. Agua Fria Union High School has calmed down; the teachers are able to return to their classwork again. Bored looks return to the students' faces-yes, even desperadoes look mundane in their high school yearbook photographs.

part 4 of 4

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Philip Martin