1/3/2013 2:03:00 PM Wokasch probe continues throughout 2012; investigation back in hands of Cottonwood PD
After years of investigation, former Mingus Union High School wrestling coach Tom Wokasch and his wife Laura were charged with fraud and theft over the misappropriation of proceeds from wrestling events from 2004 through 2009. But the case was barely entered in the Verde Valley Justice Court before it was dismissed with the condition that it could be re-filed
COTTONWOOD -- After years of investigation, former Mingus Union High School wrestling coach Tom Wokasch and his wife Laura were charged with fraud and theft over the misappropriation of proceeds from wrestling events from 2004 through 2009.
The investigation reached a point that Mingus refused to renew his contract in 2010.
But the case was barely entered in the Verde Valley Justice Court before it was dismissed with the condition that it could be re-filed. Even though it was investigated as a "white-collar crime" by the Department of Justice's Rocky Mountain Information Network in Denver, the County Attorney's Office decided that more interviews of Wokasch's peers were needed. In November, the investigation was put back in the hands of Cottonwood Police, but has still not been re-filed.
The woman who intended to adopt little Sylar Newton and her mother were finally sentenced for the 2-year-old's death at the Beaver Creek Campground where their family had gone on a camping trip in late July 2010. The child wandered away from the tent and may have been affected by seizure medication Nancy Collins kept in a box.
Both pleaded guilty to child abuse, but the sentences were dramatically different. Christina Priem, 33, will serve a total of 17 years in prison. Nancy Collins, Christina's mother, was given lifetime probation. The judge agreed to relax her sentence for community service and grant permission for her to visit her own grandchildren, while in their parent's custody. Collins continues to petition the court for even more lenient sentencing.
Michael Piccioli, in October, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of his girlfriend at their Verde Village home. Piccioli had no prior felony offenses before he pulled the trigger and killed Nancy Xiarong Wang at the home the two 23-years-olds shared. The lengthy time between the October plea and the February sentencing will allow the woman's family to be present. A Mandarin Chinese interpreter was also requested for the sentencing.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk took a series of legal actions in Superior Court this year to enforce a ban on synthetic designer drugs commonly called "spice" and "bath salts." Calling it a "public nuisance," Polk and the court shut down the sale of any such product, despite its chemical formula. Originally the case named 12 retailers across the county, including Wes Lance, a candidate for Yavapai County Supervisor, threatening penalties for their sale. In the latest of a series of actions, Internet vendors of the drugs have also been identified.
Yavapai County's is seen as a test case, where law enforcement has been stymied by strictly identifying specific chemicals involved due to rapidly changing formulas.
A Lake Montezuma man, Samuel Bassett was sentenced to over 205 years in prison last year. Bassett was labeled as one of the "Yavapai 6," all cases where men were charged with exploitation of minors for sexual conduct while on Internet chat sites. In all the cases, the girl posing as a 13-year-old was actually a woman detective for the Yavapai Sheriff's Office.
Bassett has filed an appeal of the case in the Arizona Court of Appeals, which, if accepted, is expected to be heard in 2013.
James Arthur Ray could also make headlines in 2013. Attorneys on both sides of the negligent homicide case have filed appeals and cross appeals to the Superior Court conviction. Three people died in an overheated sweat lodge at Angel Valley.