Tucson police ID suspect in deliberate hit-and-run slayings

2014-01-09T15:29:00Z 2014-01-15T14:41:14Z Tucson police ID suspect in deliberate hit-and-run slayingsArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 09, 2014 3:29 pm  • 

Tucson police said it has a suspect in connection with the slayings of two people who were deliberately run over and killed early on New Year's Day.

Michael D. Leday, 28, was named as a suspect by police officials during a news conference this afternoon. An arrest warrant for two counts of first-degree murder has been issued for him, said Lt. James Graves, who is in charge of the police department's homicide unit.

Anyone who knows Leday's whereabouts can call 911 or 88-CRIME. Leday has family that lives in Tucson. He also lived in San Diego, online records show.

Patrick Balbastro, 32, was the good Samaritan who stopped to help Cindy Burnett, 46, who was being assaulted by a man in a south-side neighborhood early in the morning Jan. 1, 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 suspect crashed Balbastro's car and fled. Police said earlier he may have been injured in the crash. Police said Burnett and the man who attacked her were dropped off in the area by a taxi. Neighbors reported seeing the two walking down the street.

Police have talked to his family, which said they had not seen him.

Leday and Burnett may have known each other. A friend of Burnett's told police the two were seen getting in a cab together in the downtown area. Leday apparently directed the cab driver to drive to the area on Sunland Vista, police said.

Leday had several arrests in Tucson, for disorderly conduct and criminal damage. They were listed as misdemeanors and online records indicate the charges were dropped. He also was arrested on several charges in San Diego, but online records don't indicate what the offenses were.

“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.”

A wake for Burnett was held Wednesday in Whiteriver. She was buried there on Thursday.

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.

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.

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