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Prosecutor alleges Everett woman sought death of Arizona rival

Shawna Forde, a former Everett resident, was involved a conspiracy to eliminate a rival gang in the Arizona drug trade, prosecutors say.

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By Philip Franchine
Green Valley News
  • Shawna Forde

    Shawna Forde

ARIVACA, Ariz. — Prosecutors now say they think former Everett resident Shawna Forde was part of a conspiracy to rub out a co-defendant’s rival in the Arizona drug trade.
Prosecutors alleged in court papers that Arivaca resident Albert Gaxiola helped murder neighbor Raul Flores Jr. because he “belonged to a competing drug gang.”
Flores was shot along with his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia, in their Arivaca home in May 2009. The girl’s mother was shot but survived and fired at the assailants, apparently wounding co-defendant Jason Bush.
Until now, prosecutors have said the robbery was motivated by Forde’s desire to steal money and drugs to finance her anti-illegal immigrant activities.
However, a Pima County Superior Court document filed Sept. 20 said, “Gaxiola had allegedly been involved in conversations relating to killing Junior Flores, who belonged to a competing drug gang, and in hiring Forde and Bush to eliminate the competition.”
Minutes after the murders, at 1:33 a.m. on May 30, 2009, a text message was sent from Gaxiola’s phone to Forde’s phone saying, “Cops on scene. Lay low,” according to a court papers.
About 25 minutes later, a message from Forde’s phone to Gaxiola’s phone said, “No worries, all good, competition gone.”
Forde’s lawyer, Eric Larsen, asked that the first text message be excluded from the record because it would violate her constitutional right to confront and cross examine Gaxiola. He would presumably be unavailable at trial because he could invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself, the document said.
Prosecutors Kelly Johnson and Rick Unklesbay argued that allowing the text to be introduced at trial would not violate Forde’s rights because that applies to testimony given at trial and the text message is not “testimonial.”
Superior Court Judge John Leonardo agreed with the prosecution and Sept. 20 decided jurors can be told about the text messages.
Forde, 42, Gaxiola, 42, and Bush, 35, of Meadview, Ariz., are awaiting trial on first-degree murder and other charges. If convicted, Forde, Bush and Gaxiola could face the death penalty.
Forde and Gaxiola are being tried together and Bush is being tried separately after giving statements to investigators implicating the other two.
Forde was leader of Minutemen American Defense, a group she created with the stated mission of fighting drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Officials from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said the group hoped to steal drugs and money from Flores to fund their operations.
Story tags » Crime, Law & JusticeEverettHomicide

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