The FBI was told that Shawna Forde was planning a home invasion in the Arivaca area weeks before a man and his 9-year-old daughter were shot to death there.
According to documents filed this week in Pima County Superior Court, two confidential informants for the FBI say they told agents in April 2009 that Forde was recruiting people to raid a house she believed was filled with illicit drugs, money and guns.
Raul Flores, 29; his wife, Gina Gonzalez; and their daughter, Brisenia Flores, 9, were shot by one member of a group of people who claimed to be law enforcement officers and demanded to be let inside their house on May 30, 2009. Gonzalez was the only survivor.
The documents say Forde, 42, and others were on the verge of hitting additional targets when she, Jason Bush, 35, and Albert Gaxiola, 43, were arrested on June 12, 2009.
All three have been charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Sheriff's officials said at the time that Raul Flores was suspected of being a drug dealer, and the three suspects targeted the house with the intention of stealing money and drugs.
In a phone conversation taped by the FBI, Forde tells one of the informants that future jobs would be something of a test for a new recruit, saying: "Our hands are already dirty. We've got to know he can pull the trigger."
Earlier this week, Forde's defense attorney, Eric Larsen, filed a motion asking Judge John Leonardo to force prosecutors to hand over all FBI documents pertaining to the two confidential informants. The documents indicate neither was paid for his information, nor were they cooperating to avoid prosecution in any unrelated cases.
The documents include transcripts of separate interviews conducted by Pima County sheriff's Sgt. Jill Murphy and by defense attorneys. Also included are nonconfidential FBI reports summing up what the informants told agents.
While the men say they told the FBI about Forde's plans before the slayings, the FBI reports don't reflect when it received the information.
Dave Joly, a spokesman for the FBI's Denver division, said the bureau received the information "after the fact." He declined to comment further because the case has not yet gone to trial.
Larsen said that, assuming the FBI actually was aware of the alleged plot, he wants to know what the FBI thought about the information because, he said, if the agency chose not to act on the men's information, that damages their credibility.
"If the FBI didn't believe (the informants), why should the jury?" Larsen said.
Both men are described as active members of the border-defense movement who routinely camp on the border so they can spot illegal immigrants and report them to the U.S. Border Patrol.
One of them told investigators that he met Forde in October 2007 while on a mission outside Arivaca. He said that in April 2009, Forde called him, saying the other men she knew in the border-defense movement were "sissies," and she was impressed with his courage.
The informant says Forde knew rocket-propelled grenades, drugs and millions of dollars were being funneled into the U.S. through Arivaca and wanted him to help her protect the community.
Not wanting to get involved, the man told Forde to call another man.
The second man says Forde shared her intelligence with him several times in person, over the phone and by e-mail.
Once Forde made arrangements to meet with him, the second man said he deemed her serious and contacted his FBI handler, who instructed him to keep gathering information.
The two men say they and two other men met with Forde at an Aurora, Colo., truck stop in late April 2009, at which time Forde said she wanted them to force their way into an Arivaca house and get control of the occupants.
They said she told them a second team would then come in and gather up the drugs, money and weapons, which would be sold to help the Minutemen American Defense, an organization based in the state of Washington.
One of them relayed the information to the FBI a few days later. The other corroborated his account of the meeting. They were told to keep on gathering information.
Forde later called one of the men to ask if he could be in Arivaca within 18 hours, but he said he made excuses about why he couldn't. About 10 days later, they learned of the slayings.
The men said they immediately suspected Forde, suspicions they said were confirmed when Forde called an associate to help Bush, who had been shot in the leg.
Forde told their associate that Bush was shot while patrolling the desert, but they suspected Bush had really been shot during the home invasion, they told authorities.
On June 7, one of the informants told Forde in a conversation taped by the FBI that he and the other informant wouldn't be able to drive to Tucson for a few days. He also told her he didn't want to bring one of the other participants in their truck-stop meeting because he didn't trust him.
Forde replied that she did trust him and went on to say: "We can train him. We can start him on soft targets. Our hands are already dirty. We've got to know he can pull the trigger."
Forde then put Bush on the phone. After saying he was recovering well from his gunshot wound, Bush told the informant: "We have a couple new areas; we have our eye on a couple potentials. We'll be ready to go Thursday or Friday."
When Forde got back on the phone, the report indicates she bragged about Bush's toughness and said: "It's a brand-new team. They've been bled in."
Larsen said that while authorities may assume Forde and Bush were talking about committing additional home invasions, they could just as easily have been discussing going on more desert patrols.
Prosecutors had not received Larsen's motion last week and thus hadn't written a reply.
Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay declined to comment on the motion, citing ethical rules.
The FBI provided all of its other information to prosecutors in October, but in doing so it stated it was "loaning" them the documents, along with an admonition that it would be illegal to share them outside the office "for any purpose other than for use in prosecution."
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org