The leading Internet supporter of Arivaca murder suspect Shawna Forde met with Forde soon after the killings occurred May 30, a key witness in the case said.
Laine Lawless, founder of the Web site Justiceforshawnaforde.com, traveled with one of the members of Forde's group, Chuck Stonex, when he went to patch a bullet wound suffered by one of Forde's co-defendants, Jason Bush, Stonex said. The visit occurred the night of May 30, perhaps 18 hours after the killings.
Stonex had previously acknowledged, in comments to investigators and the press, that Forde had called him about 8 a.m. May 30, asking him to come to Arivaca to help treat a "scout" who had been struck by a bullet while patrolling the border as part of the activities of her group, Minutemen American Defense. Now Stonex says that Lawless was with him when he went to treat that person - Forde's co-defendant, Jason Bush.
Lawless has visited Forde several times in the Pima County jail since Forde was arrested June 12, and Lawless has argued that Forde is innocent of murder charges.
Contacted Wednesday by the Star, Lawless declined to answer questions, repeating a comment she has made earlier: that she doesn't want to try Forde's case in the press.
Forde, Bush and Albert Gaxiola have been indicted on two counts of first degree murder, one of attempted murder and other charges. Authorities accuse them of carrying out a home invasion at the home of an Arivaca man, Raul Junior Flores, whom Forde's group suspected of drug trafficking.
All three have pleaded not guilty, and in an interview with the Star Bush has denied involvement, while Gaxiola has claimed innocence in letters to the Star.
Pima County Sheriff's Department investigators said Forde had planned a series of home invasions against suspected drug traffickers to fund her border-watch group and other activities. They accuse Bush of firing the shots that killed Flores and his daughter Brisenia and wounded Flores' wife.
The wife survived and called 911. While she was on the phone with the dispatcher, the group of attackers returned and started firing shots. Investigators say the wife fired back, striking Bush in the leg.
Stonex said Wednesday that he had never met Lawless before making her acquaintance that day during a barbeque at the Sierra Vista-area home of Glenn Spencer, founder of the group American Border Patrol.
Stonex invited Lawless to accompany him while he drove to Arivaca to treat Bush's wound, he said Wednesday. They drove in separate vehicles up to the Arivaca Road exit off Interstate 19, then drove in Stonex's truck to Arivaca, where they met Forde at the Mercantile, the unincorporated town's grocery store.
During the trip, Lawless bought some notebooks, but Stonex persuaded her not to take notes while they were meeting with Forde, he said. Previously, Stonex said, Forde had given him permission to discuss Forde's story with Lawless, an occasional writer.
When they met in Arivaca, Forde was driving a teal minivan, Stonex said. It's the same model and color of what investigators now suspect was the escape vehicle, he said.
When they got to the home where Bush was - a house that Stonex now suspects belonged to co-defendant Gaxiola - Bush was resting in a bedroom, Stonex said.
" Laine was sitting on the foot of the bed. He was sitting on the side," Stonex said. "Shawna ran around and got me some gloves, got me some scissors."
"Towards the end there, when Bush and I were finishing up, Laine and Shawna went out into the other room. I have no idea what they were talking about," he said.
The wound was minor, Stonex said - "It looked like a 10-year-old did a crash and burn on home plate."
Stonex said he had not previously mentioned the detail publicly because she considered it insignificant. He would have mentioned it if asked, he said. But he noticed that while he immediately told authorities of his encounter with Bush and Forde, Lawless didn't.
"The minute I found out how he (Bush) had gotten that injury, within an hour and a half I had talked to the FBI in Sierra Vista and the Pima County Sheriff's Department," Stonex said.
"I kept trying to give Laine an opportunity to own up to it," Stonex said of Lawless' presence with him.
Lawless and Stonex exchanged increasingly heated e-mails Tuesday after a reporter for the Everett, Wash., Herald, Scott North, questioned Lawless about her trip with Stonex, according to copies of the e-mails forwarded by Stonex.
"How dare you tell a reporter?? you didn't even tell Det. Svec, but you're telling a scummy reporter? Call Scott and tell him immediately you were mistaken!"
In another e-mail, she said: "I'm not hiding anything from the authorities. They know where they can find me."
Contact reporter Tim Steller at email@example.com or at 807-8427.