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Christina-Taylor was just 1 of 8 local kids slain in '11

Christina-Taylor was just 1 of 8 local kids slain in '11

  • Updated

Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green caught the world's attention last Jan. 8 when she was shot and killed while waiting to shake the hand of her congresswoman.

But the third-grader was one of eight children, ranging in age from 7 months to 17 years, whose deaths in 2011 were classified as homicide by the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Three, including Christina-Taylor, were girls. Five were boys.

Five were shot to death. Two were stabbed. The youngest - 7-month-old Angel Diaz - was suffocated.

Eight is not an unusual number of children to be murdered in our metropolitan area of about 1 million people. The number has ranged from seven to 10 per year since 2007.

Of the 38 children who were victims of homicide in Pima County since 2007, there are some commonalities: More than 75 percent are minorities, and most are male.

In most cases since 2007, when an arrest was made the suspect was a young male. That trend held true in 2011 - arrests were made in six of the eight homicides, and all the suspects are young men ages 15 to 22.

Christina-Taylor was the first child in Pima County to be murdered in 2011. Here are the other seven:

• Jesus Salvador Nuñez Acosta, 17, a Mexican laborer, was shot in the back in early 2011 on the Tohono O'odham Reservation.

His body was already in a severe state of decomposition by the time it was discovered Feb. 21 near the remote village of Vaya Chin.

Tohono O'odham Police Chief Joe Delgado says the case is still under investigation and no arrests have been made. Delgado would not release any further details, and the Mexican consulate in Tucson could not provide additional information.

The autopsy report says the victim who weighed 121 pounds and stood 5 feet 8 inches tall, was discovered with a camouflage backpack containing clothing and food. He was wearing jeans, orange boxer shorts, a T-shirt, a canvas belt, a cord necklace with a white metal pendant and one white shoe.

• Jacob Lee Wilkins, 15, was shot Feb. 14 near South Mission Road and West Calle Guadalajara. He died on Feb. 28

He was an avid reader who would disappear for hours on end to devour Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books.

"He wouldn't like anyone to bug him," said his sister, Blanca Perez, 19.

The youngest of three children raised by a single mother, Wilkins grew up around a large extended family that liked to travel to the White Mountains together. Instead of buying Christmas gifts, they would save up and rent a cabin for the holidays, his grandmother, Josie Rinehart, said.

He liked quiet fishing outings with his cousins Mark and Nick Wilkins, and gave his aunt and mother foot rubs when they came home from work. He went to church with his family on Sundays, and as a youngster would do anything to play with his older sister, even if it meant playing dress-up or with her Barbie dolls. He played football and basketball with his older brother, Miguel Perez.

He was at someone else's home on Feb. 14 when he was shot in the chest. He collapsed on a sidewalk and never regained consciousness.

Authorities called it a robbery, but an investigation is ongoing.

"Jacob was truly a good kid, a gentle and happy person who always knew how to make us laugh, especially when we were down," said his aunt, Vanessa Valdez. "His mom is a very hard worker and honest and kind. They are so much alike and she did her best to raise him the right way."

His family can't stop asking themselves what happened to their friendly, big-hearted Jacob. Valdez said the family is praying for some peace for Jacob's mother, Malinda Figueroa, who has been severely depressed since her youngest son's death.

"Being a single mom is tough enough, and when something like this happens I feel like the single moms tend to take it all on themselves," Valdez said.

Valdez said the only solace at Jacob's crowded funeral was meeting so many teenagers who said they loved him. He'd been especially popular with girls.

"I just wish we could have done more to save him," Valdez said. "We celebrated his 16th birthday and all the holidays without him. I pray it gets easier as time passes. We all love and miss Jacob so much and can only take it day by day."

• Angel Diaz, 7 months, died in his home in the 6000 block of South Palo Verde Road, near East Benson Highway, on Feb. 17.

When tiny Angel wouldn't stop crying, authorities say, his 19-year-old father suffocated him with blankets. Court documents say the 19-pound boy had several fractures that were in various stages of healing.

Henry Diaz III has been accused of first-degree murder, and also faces five child-abuse charges.

Paramedics were called to the Diaz home after receiving a 911 call for an infant who wasn't breathing. Angel was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The baby's mother told detectives she woke up at about 2 a.m. when she heard Angel crying, an interim complaint said.

Diaz told her to make a bottle for the infant, but he refused to give the baby the bottle after she made it. He then reportedly covered Angel's face with the blankets.

When the couple woke up in the morning, the infant was unresponsive.

Authorities said Angel had fractures to his right arm below his elbow, his right ankle, a healing fracture to his right femur and healing fractures to his rib cage.

Diaz told detectives he had been rough with the infant in the past, but not to the point of breaking bones. The mother told detectives Diaz had problems with his temper.

Angel's mother could not be reached for more information about her son.

• Austin Wayne Maudsley, 16, was stabbed to death in Marana March 11.

Police say two teens lured him to a field under false pretenses, took his wallet and stabbed him to death. His body was found a week later after his family reported him missing.

Santos Angel Hernandez, 15, and Dante Ishmael Solomon, 17, have been accused of first-degree murder and robbery.

His family describes Maudsley as an outgoing middle child who was born in California and had been living in Marana since age 6. His mother says he made friends in a heartbeat, and that he was an avid protector of his younger sister. He took a lot of pride in being the man of the house after his older brother joined the military, and liked to take care of people.

Shortly before he died, he was riding in a car with his mother and asked her to stop when they saw a driver on the side of the road with a flat tire. Maudsley got out of the car, changed the tire and wouldn't accept any money when the driver offered.

Fixing cars was one of Maudsley's passions, and he hoped to buy himself an older Mustang one day. He wanted to get a part-time job and "feel responsible," his mother, Michelle Roach, said.

At 5 feet 6 inches with blue eyes and blond hair, Maudsley was also "a ladies man," his family said.

Roach and Maudsley's stepfather, John Burford, attended a recent holiday party sponsored by the local group Homicide Survivors, hoping to brighten their spirits. But the event was difficult for Roach in particular, who remains devastated by the death. The family put up a cross at the site where his body was found and spent hours there on Christmas Eve.

Both Roach and Burford are also upset about media reports about Maudsley's struggles before his murder, and about family problems.

None of that is relevant, Burford said, shaking his head.

"We cooked together, and he learned how to make spaghetti, corn bread from scratch, all kinds of things," Burford said.

The family has a tradition of throwing a piece of cake on birthdays. Maudsley threw one at his stepdad on his 16th birthday - something Burford took as a sign of affection.

"He talked about joining the Marines," Roach said. "He could have done a lot of things."

• Britnee Lavetta Monique Wright, 16, was shot to death April 1 in the 8400 block of East Broadway.

Wright, 16, was shot following a Friday-evening fight between two groups of mostly teenagers outside an apartment complex.

She stood 5 feet 6 inches, weighed 118 pounds and wore a delicate, clear stone through her upper right lip.

Tucson police said that on the day of the fight, one female representing each of the two groups had agreed to meet. After an altercation between an adult and juvenile ended within minutes, police say, Wright and four others, ranging from 15 to 17 years of age, got into a vehicle to leave.

That's when a male who was part of the other group tried to stop the vehicle and fired several shots. Wright was killed, and another girl suffered wounds that were not life-threatening.

Jaime Antonio Chavez, 18, was arrested in the shootings after Douglas police received an anonymous tip.

Efforts to reach Wright's mother and cousin were unsuccessful.

• Johnathan Federico, 7, was shot to death April 9 at an apartment near East 29th Street and South Craycroft Road.

"John John" loved SpongeBob SquarePants so much he slept with a SpongeBob pillow and blanket.

His family says the first-grader was joyful and positive, just like the yellow cartoon sea sponge he so admired.

"He was a happy boy," his mother said.

John John was playing at a neighbor's midtown home with his older sister early in the morning of April 9 when he heard gunshots outside. He ran to the door to see what was happening and was shot.

"Ow, it hurts," he told his sister and the neighbor, and said he wanted to lie down. He died at a hospital.

Alvin Chavez Valenzuela, 21, was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and multiple aggravated-assault charges.

John John was in first grade at Corbett Elementary School, where he was known for his ready smile. At the time of his death he'd just finished helping to compose a first-grade opera. He loved music and was especially fond of the Bruno Mars song "Grenade."

"He was cheerful and playful and got along with everybody," his mother, Renae Guerrero, said. "He was really close to his older sister, too. He always wanted to be around her and hang out with her friends."

John John's older sister, Abigail Federico, 14, has been struggling with deep grief ever since her brother's death and still cannot talk about her brother without crying. The family said the holidays, which John John loved, have been especially hard.

"I don't know what he wanted to do when he grew up," Guerrero said. "He did want to go to Disneyland."

• Ignacia Rae Aranda, 17, was stabbed to death Aug. 9 at her boyfriend's apartment near East Grant Road and North Alvernon Way.

Aranda, known to some family members as Nacha, was the middle of three girls in a tightly knit family. Her mom, Kelly Aranda, raised her girls alone mostly in central Tucson, where they live in a tidy rental house that now contains a large living room shrine to Aranda, a gentle, talkative girl who played the cello, loved to read the Twilight books and dreamed of being a veterinarian or an animal detective.

She attended Amphitheater High School until she became pregnant at 15, and then switched to a school for teenage parents. But she'd been hoping to go back to Amphi as a senior this school year and get help from her older sister and mother in caring for her daughter, Isabella - "Bella" - now 22 months old.

Carlos J. Torres Jr., 19, is Bella's father and was Aranda's boyfriend. On Aug. 9 he called 911 and reported his girlfriend as suicidal, but detectives determined her death was a homicide. He was arrested and accused of stabbing her to death.

Aranda and her mother had been arguing the day of the murder. Kelly Aranda felt her daughter's attitude and personality had changed since the relationship with Torres began.

"We'd had a falling out," she said. "She wanted to spend the night with him and I got mad."

While Kelly Aranda didn't approve of her daughter's relationship, she had no idea her daughter's life was in peril. She believed she had raised all her daughters to be strong, to understand that abuse is not love. She said she hopes other girls look at her daughter's death as a warning about domestic violence.

"It was like she'd do anything to have a family," she said. "I don't know what went through her mind that night. It really, really hurts to think about it."

Editor's note: The Star did not have access to photos of Britnee Wright, Angel Diaz and Jesus Salvador Nuñez Acosta. Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at sinnes@azstarnet.com or 573-4134.


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