The former Scottsdale beauty salon owner convicted in 2002 of killing and dismembering her husband is awaiting deportation to France following her release last month from prison.
Valerie Pape, 63, became a celebrity murderer after her arrest in 2000 for the gory slaying of her husband, Ira Pomerantz. The case had plenty of fodder for an extra-juicy true-crime story: Wealthy Scottsdale-ites, a photogenic, blond, French hairstylist suspect, allegations of domestic violence as a motive, and the gruesome discovery in January 2000 of a partial corpse.
The body part, found in a Mesa garbage bin behind a grocery store, began at the breast-line and ended at roughly the knees. The head, arms, and legs of Pomerantz never were found. The news media dubbed it the "Torso Murder" case.
Pape was arrested about a week later.
A witness had seen her pull up to the dumpster in her Jaguar and toss in the torso. After an initial denial, Pape later confessed that she'd shot her husband during a domestic dispute, then dumped the body four days later. She never explained how she dismembered the body; police believe the petite woman may have had the help of an unidentified accomplice. A search of her purse revealed a receipt for an electric saw she purchased just before the murder.
Pape's downtown Scottsdale salon also was a gallery, showcasing the works of local artists, including Mesa politician Rusty Bowers, who was a state senator in 2000 and now serves as a state representative.
For a time, police were investigating a possible connection between Pape and the murder of Ron Bianchi, a former Phoenix Gazette columnist found shot to death in 1999 in the woods near Payson. His killer has never been found.
After separating from Pomerantz, police said at the time, Pape had moved in for a while with Bianchi's wife, Merle. The Bianchi case received national attention in 2000 after the Arizona Republic published a heavily criticized article implying that Bianchi was murdered because he knew something about an alleged affair — of which no evidence ever surfaced — between Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain and singer Connie Stevens. The article apparently has been removed from the Republic's website.
Pape pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
She made headlines again in 2006, when Dora Schriro, former Arizona Department of Corrections director, approved Pape's transfer to a prison in France. She was flown to a holding facility in Oklahoma City, but then the DOC reneged on the deal after pressure from Pomerantz's daughters, who feared France would release Pape on parole.
Pape was transferred back to Arizona, where she served out the rest of her sentence.
She was released on January 25 into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Based on [her] conviction, she was ordered removed from the U.S. by an immigration judge in 2008," says ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe. Pape "remains at the Eloy Detention Center pending her removal to France.”
A call to the French Consulate in Phoenix was not returned.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.