Tucson police to hold news conference about hit-and-run slayings

2014-01-08T18:00:00Z 2014-01-15T10:43:58Z Tucson police to hold news conference about hit-and-run slayingsBy Carmen Duarte and Veronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Family members and friends of two people killed in a deliberate hit and run on New Year’s Day are raising money to help with funeral costs as they try to come to terms with the deaths.

Friends of Cindy Burnett, 46, the woman killed in the incident, have planned a fundraiser this weekend for her family.

Burnett was a University of Arizona law-school graduate who worked as a prosecutor for the Tohono O’odham Nation. She was also an avid mixed-martial-arts participant and well-known in that community locally, friends said.

“Our community is very tight-knit,” said David Reilly, owner of a local gym Burnett frequented. “When this happened to Cindy, we really look at it like this happened to a legitimate family member.”

Also, a bank account has been opened in the name of Patrick Balbastro, who was killed trying to help Burnett. His family urges anyone with information about the assailant in the double homicide to come forward and talk to police.

Police have released no new information in the case and are still searching for the man who ran over the victims multiple times.

The department did announce that it will hold a news conference about the case at 3:30 p.m. today at the downtown headquarters.

Balbastro, 32, was the good Samaritan who stopped to help Burnett, who was being assaulted by a man in a south-side neighborhood early in the morning, according to police. The assault occurred in the 2200 block of East Sunland Vista, near East 36th Street and South Campbell Avenue.

Balbastro, an electrician who supervised a crew at the Morenci Mine, died at a hospital after the assailant then turned on him, jumped in Balbastro’s car and deliberately ran over him, his 43-year-old girlfriend, and Burnett.

Burnett died at the scene. Balbastro’s girlfriend remains in critical condition at a hospital, and her family is asking the community for prayers.

The Patrick Balbastro Memorial Fund was opened at Wells Fargo, and donations can be made at any branch in Arizona, said Jenna Sanchez, a bank manager. The account number is 3381663297.

“His death has been so hard,” Balbastro’s sister, Lorraine Solorzano, said through tears. “Everything is a process, and his life insurance policy will not be paid out right away. We need to plan his funeral,” she said.

Solorzano keeps in contact daily with the sister of Balbastro’s girlfriend. “We have to keep praying for her,” she said. “She has opened her eyes, but she is still not talking. She is in horrible pain.”

Meanwhile, police detectives have not released any further information. They have interviewed the cabdriver who dropped off the assailant and Burnett shortly before the attack.

A wake for Burnett was held Wednesday in Whiteriver.

Burnett earned her bachelor’s, master’s and law degree from the University of Arizona. She worked as a prosecutor for the Tohono O’odham Nation, did legal work for the White Mountain Apache Tribe and had two sons, according to an online obituary.

Demitri Downing, a former colleague of Burnett’s, said she was hired in January 2010 to head a team of prosecutors that would handle sexual- and domestic-violence cases after the tribe received a $1 million federal grant.

Downing said Burnett performed her job well.

Burnett was also dedicated to the sport of mixed martial arts and trained at several gyms in Tucson, often alongside her two sons.

Burnett loved spending time in the gym, and whenever she was training she always had a smile on her face, said Reilly, owner of Undisputed Fitness and Training Center. “She was tenacious, unbelievably gung-ho. She wasn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up,” he said.

On New Year’s Eve, Burnett was at Undisputed and was eager to start a new form of training and compete more, Reilly said. She had just bought new gear for herself and her son and set up a private training session with Reilly for a few days later, he said.

Burnett has been training for years and introduced her sons to the sport. The trio trained together and fought in the same tournaments, Reilly said.

“They were very, very close,” he said.

Reilly has organized an mixed martial arts, kickboxing and boxing training seminar with different instructors happening Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. on the campus of the old Wakefield Middle School, 101 W. 44th St. A donation of at least $20 is requested to be part of the event, which will help Burnett’s family with funeral expenses.

The event is open to all skill levels, and some people have asked if they can donate and just watch, Reilly said.

“The only thing we know how to do is try to come together as a unit and do whatever we can to help her family with some of the expenses,” he said.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at cduarte@azstarnet.com or 573-4104.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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