Ft. Mohave man faces Manslaughter charges in Northern California

Fort Mohave man is jailed in California

FORT BRAGG, CALIF.—A Fort Mohave, Ariz. man was arraigned Wednesday morning on charges he killed a woman and seriously injured a baby Friday night in this northern California coastal city and police say it appears to be a random act of violence. Michael Bradford Bitney, 56, was formally charged with one count each of vehicular manslaughter and battery, as well as two counts of hit and run involving a fatality or serious injury.
Bitney is accused of ramming his white GMC pick-up truck into a motel Friday night, killing a 45-year old Lafayette woman and seriously injuring her 7-month old nephew. Fort Bragg police detectives say that Bitney had been staying in the motel room next to the victim. Evidence at the scene and eyewitness accounts show the Fort Mohave man was driving around the parking lot of the motel around 6 p.m. Friday night. Suddenly, and without warning, his pick-up jumped the curb and into the adjoining motel room.
The woman, whose body was located underneath the debris in the aftermath of the incident, died at the scene. Her infant nephew was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Oakland. His current condition is unknown at this time.
Bitney fled the scene, but was stopped by Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies near the town of Inglenook, which is north of Fort Bragg, on Highway 1. He was arrested without incident and was booked into the Mendocino County Detention Center in Ukiah, where he remains in custody in lieu of $155,000 bail.
Detectives have not been able to establish a motive for the killing. A department spokesman said, there is no evidence to indicate Bitney even knew the victim.
In addition to the manslaughter, battery and hit and run charges, the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office has added additional felony charges because of a previous conviction in California. He served four years in a California penitentiary for a prior robbery conviction.

Colorado City Teens Charged with Sexually Assault 10 & 12yr old Girls

COLORADO CITY, ARIZ.—Two teenage boys have been charged with felonies after allegedly having sexual contact with two female family members. The charges were filed after a one-week investigation by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators say the victims were 10 and 12-year old girls who lived at the same residence as their attackers.
Detectives were first summoned to a residence in the 500 block of Pioneer Street in Colorado City on Oct. 13 after a family member called the sheriff’s office to report the possible crime. An investigation eventually revealed that Richard Jessop, 17, of Colorado City, had sexual contact with a 10-year old girl. He is also believed to have inappropriately touched a 12-year old girl as well. Both incidents reportedly took place earlier this month.
During their investigation, the detectives also uncovered evidence that Jessop’s 14-year old brother, Simon, also inappropriately touched the same 12-year old girl.
Both Jessop brothers have been referred to Mohave County Juvenile Court authorities. Richard has been charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of molestation of a child. Simon has been charged with one count of molestation of a child.
Neither boy has been arrested. It will be up to a juvenile court judge to determine if the teenagers will be tried as adults. The victims have been turned over to the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
The victim’s family reported the crime directly to the sheriff’s office rather than the Colorado City Marshall’s Office, who would normally be the investigating agency. The sheriff’s office has been providing overlapping law enforcement in Colorado City for more than two years to give residents an opportunity to report crimes they feel may not be fully investigated by the Marshall’s office. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office believes the Colorado City police force is beholden to the FLDS church rather than the laws of the state of Arizona and has therefore subsidized the sheriff’s office presence in the community.

Mother of Murder Victim, Stepfather and others arrested in BHC Drug Raid

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. – The mother of the little girl that was brutally murdered last month has been arrested on charges she has been using her home to deal in illegal drugs. 29-year old Tania Grogan is the mother of 8-year old Isabella Grogan-Connella, better known as “Bella,” who, last month, was the subject of one of the city’s most heinous crimes. Mom is now locked up in the same facility as the man accused of killing her daughter.
Grogan was not the only target. A raid on her residence in the 2400 block of Lakeside Drive Wednesday afternoon also nabbed Grogan’s husband, 28-year old Ralph Folster, III; his mother, 59-year old Freddie Nicholson; Folster’s girlfriend, 21-year old Niki Fox and their neighbor, 27-year old Jaime Medrano.

Bullhead City Police and SWAT Teams raid the home of Tania Grogan, the mother of 8-year old Bella Grogan-Connella, who was murdered last month.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Bullhead City police and SWAT teams swarmed in on Grogan’s residence with information and evidence that the family has been dealing in methamphetamine and heroin for some time. Grogan went quietly. Her husband did not.
Folster refused to leave the residence. In fact, as it turned out, upon hearing that the police were there, he reportedly escaped to the attic, and through a window, made it to a neighbor’s apartment. After a two-hour stand off with police, Folster surrendered without incident, however, he did try to get the police to leave the area without him.

Ralph Folster's refusal to surrender kept police at bay for two hours. He and his wife, Tania Grogan, are accused of dealing meth and heroin from their home in the 2400 Block of Lakeside Dr.

Detectives believe that while Folster was holed up in his neighbor’s apartment, he called his girlfriend, Fox, and asked her to create a diversion to pull officers away from the raid. Fox obliged and in 15 minutes called 911 twice. The first call was to report that an officer had been shot at a local gas station. The second call was to report that an officer was down at a local motel. In both cases, dispatchers were fully aware of where their officers were located and knew that the calls were false. Fox was located at her residence in the 300 block of Church Street early Thursday morning. She was arrested on charges of hindering prosecution and false reporting to law enforcement.
Folster’s neighbor, Medrano, was also arrested when it was learned that he willingly allowed Folster to escape from the police. Medrano harbored Folster for about two hours. Medrano was also charged with hindering prosecution.
Police located some drug paraphernalia items in the Grogan home. The alleged drug sales stem from information gathered from a month-long narcotic investigation.
Grogan is still being investigated in connection with her daughter’s death. A police department spokesperson said, detectives are looking into charges against Grogan for leaving her children in a dangerous environment and for supplying methamphetamine to the man accused of murdering Bella, 26-year old Justin Rector.

Laughlin man arraigned in connection with last month’s barricade situation

LAUGHLIN, NEV. – The man who barricaded himself inside an apartment at the Riverwood Apartment Complex and kept Las Vegas Metro police at bay for almost three hours last month has been ordered to undergo psychological evaluation. Deshawn Hall, 31, of Laughlin, was arraigned this morning in Laughlin Justice Court.
Justice of the Peace Tim Atkins presided over this morning’s video arraignment. In an effort to prevent media coverage of the hearing, the judge cleared the courtroom, disallowing anyone from the public, including

Judge Tim Atkins ordered his courtroom cleared just prior to an arraignment hearing for Deshawn Hall. Reporters were forced to wait outside to determine what transpired behind closed doors.

reporters, to witness the proceedings. Nonetheless, Hall’s attorney, R. Roger Hillman, a deputy with the Clark County Public Defender’s office spoke to Hall’s family and the media after the hearing concluded.
Hillman said, Hall’s family had suggested the need for a psychological evaluation and the judge granted the request.
Hall, who attended today’s hearing by video conferencing from the Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, will remain in custody for at least the next three months. According to his attorney, Hall had some outstanding traffic citations and was sentenced to 100 days in jail after agreeing to plead guilty to those charges.
Hall faces three felony counts of Resisting a Public Officer with a Deadly Weapon after he barricaded himself inside his apartment on Sept. 19. He and his wife had been involved in a dispute that was witnessed by a Metro officer on patrol in the complex.
As the officer was looking for him, Hall managed to get back to his apartment, where he locked the door, armed himself with an axe and threatened harm to anyone who tried to enter his residence. Inside the apartment with Hall were his two small children, both of them under the age of two.
Officers with the Metro substation in Laughlin, as well as from the Bullhead City police department were dispatched to the complex shortly after 9 a.m. Metro SWAT and K9 units were later dispatched from Las Vegas.
The barricade situation ended peacefully shortly after 11 a.m. when Hall surrendered. In addition to the resisting charges, Hall was originally charged with two counts each of kidnapping and child abuse, but those charges were dropped by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s office claimed the evidence did not support the charges.

D’Amico and Tunforss Clash Over Integrity

Steve DAmico

Larry Tunforss

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. – It started out as your typical candidate’s forum, but a question regarding each candidate’s past and whether or not there would be anything that would be embarrassing to the city, drew some sparks as one candidate challenged his opponents to be truthful with the voters.
Candidate Steve D’Amico, who finished in fourth place during the primary election in August, was the last candidate to answer the question during the forum Wednesday night at Mohave Community College, which was sponsored by the Colorado River Women’s Council. All three of the other city council candidates—Annette Wegmann, Larry Tunforss and Mickey McClure—answered the question first.
“Integrity is above anything else,” D’Amico said. “It’s too bad others here didn’t really answer the question.”
He paused and then decided to go directly after fellow council candidate Larry Tunforss, challenging him to explain two hit and run accidents he was allegedly involved in, including one that occurred in Laughlin, as well as his departure from the Bullhead City Fire Department three years ago. Tunforss, who was the public information officer with the fire department, retired, but was also facing termination. As D’Amico was directing his question, Tunforss repeatedly said, ‘it didn’t happen.’
While he did not respond directly to D’Amico’s challenge, Tunforss later on admitted that he did retire in lieu of termination saying that was the agreement that he and Fire Chief Rick Southey worked out. He did not go into any specifics as to the reasons why the chief was seeking his dismissal.
After chiding Tunforss for what he felt was evasiveness, D’Amico said, “Integrity is a good thing.”
“My integrity is what got me here right now,” he added. “I was honest. I won’t lie to you.”

Regatta Makes A Profit, Impact on Businesses Even Better

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. – For the first time since its inception, the Bullhead City River Regatta brought in more money than it cost in 2014, but city officials say there is more to crow about than a profit. Bullhead City manager Toby Cotter released the Regatta’s financial report at Tuesday’s city council meeting and it showed the city made a profit of $42,336.
With revenues of $1.09 million, the Regatta has established itself as the city’s main attraction and city officials claim it is doing exactly what it was always intended to do and that was to bring visitors to the Tri-State area. Although pleased that the city more than broke even, the fact that August sales tax revenues have increased $87,000 since 2010 to $580,000 this year, is a more important statistic, especially since business has to generate more than $29 million in taxable sales to raise that amount of sales tax.
“We have a more clear comparison on how much the Regatta has brought in,” said Councilman Mark Clark. “The event has more than broken even.”
Mayor Jack Hakim, who first developed the concept of the Regatta eight years ago, was excited to see the event finally make a profit. Calling it the city’s “signature event,” Hakim said, it’s taken some time for people to realize what the city has actually accomplished and that was to bring in thousands of visitors.

BHC Community Meeting Address Child Safety, Substance Abuse

A panel of experts called together by Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim, left, address questions of the nearly 50 people who attended a special community meeting to address child safety and substance abuse.

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. —About 50 people attended a special community meeting to address concerns related to child safety, drug abuse and how much the people of Bullhead City should put up with when it comes to repeat offenders. Mayor Jack Hakim and Councilwoman Kathy Bruck called the meeting in the wake of the tragedy surrounding last month’s murder of 8-year old Isabella Grogan-Connella, better known by her nickname—Bella.
Representatives from more than a dozen agencies from law enforcement and victim services to counselors and church organizations attended the Tuesday night meeting at the Bullhead City Senior Nutrition Center.
Early on parents asked questions related to providing tools to their children to help them help themselves in the event of an attack. Some questioned whether it was legal to give children tasers or pepper spray while others asked if the police department could offer self-defense classes. While understanding their desire to keep their children safe, police chief Brian Williamson reminded parents that their actions could have unintended consequences.
“To have a child carry a taser or pepper spray you would have to, as a parent, feel very comfortable that, one, they know what they’re doing, and two, that they’re going to use it appropriately,” Williamson said. “In many instances, kids will be kids and then we’ll have another problem with that.”
Some parents and even grandparent that attended who are raising their grandchildren wanted to know what was being done in school to keep their students safe. They were also curious to know if the local schools were teaching safety or addressing the problems associated with what has happened recently. Bullhead City Elementary School District superintendent Riley Frei told those in attendance that things have changed in the last five years. Teaching students how to keep from becoming a vehicle has shifted since the advent of the smart phone, social media and a general increased reliance on emerging technology.
“We’re dealing with a very different student now than we were five years ago,” he said. “Our children grow up where their major means of communication is not face-to-face.”
“In all circumstances, when children are comfortable talking to anybody and everybody that’s out there, we run a substantial risk,” he added.
The school district spends a lot of time directing its safety messages toward social media and ‘electronic citizenship.’
While child abuse and sexual abuse of minors have made headlines numerous times in recent months, most cases that involve the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS-formerly Child Protective Services) are neglect, which is harder to identify. DCS assistant program manager Debra Walgren told those who want to do more in their community to spot problems that looking for neglect is not as easy as abuse.
Abuse cases, Walgren said, are easier to recognize because there are visible signs that can be identified. She said, sexual abuse cases come directly for the police department, which usually comes from an upset family member that discovers the situation. Neglect cases, however, the signs are more subtle.
“Emotional abuse—you can see it happening when parents belittle their children or are demeaning to their children,” Walgren said. “Neglect can come from substance abuse, inadequate shelter, or inadequate medical care.”
In many cases, DCS says it’s a combination of circumstances that draws their attention. She asked community members to be aware of their surroundings. Get to know your neighbors and don’t hesitate to report possible neglect cases.
While discussions about child safety took up a majority of the time Tuesday night, there was also substantial discussion about dealing with substance abuse and those that would harm children. Most of the panel of experts addressed the services available or the needs to help substance abusers get out of that lifestyle. However, Mohave County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Hildy Angius said, it was just as important to address what to do with those people who cannot be helped.
“What do we do with those that just cannot be helped?” she questioned. “No matter what we do, there will be a certain number that just will not stop. What then?”
Angius was disappointed that no one from the Mohave County Superior Court was in attendance. Understanding that there are Constitutional rights afforded to criminals, Angius said, the community still needs to address at what point they’ve had enough with a person who will not change.
Because police can only arrest offenders and document their cases and judges have very specific guidelines on sentencing convicted felons, there maybe little that can be done. Nonetheless, Angius feels the community needs to decide what they’re willing to accept and then strive to make the necessary changes to make it happen.
In the end, police chief Brian Williamson said, the most serious battle that the community fights is trying to convince its citizens to accept personal responsibility for their actions and their children. Help only goes as far as their willingness to accept responsibility. Making changes in lifestyle only goes as far as their willingness to accept personal responsibility. Educating their children is also another acceptance of personal responsibility, according to Williamson.

Weapons Instructor Succumbs to Injuries Sustained in Accidental Shooting

DOLAN SPRINGS, ARIZ.—The weapons instructor that was accidentally shot in the head by a 9-year old girl at a shooting range on Monday has succumbed to his injuries. The Clark County Coroner’s Office in Las Vegas has identified the victim as Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City. He had been airlifted to a Nevada hospital shortly after the accidental shooting at a shooting range in Dolan Springs. The girl had been visiting the shooting range with her parents. Vacca was pronounced dead later that same evening while at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Meanwhile back in Arizona, detectives with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office believe the accident was took place while the instructor was preparing to show the young girl how to shoot a fully automatic Uzi. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said, Vacca was standing next to the girl and instructing her on how to use the weapon when she reportedly pulled the trigger on the Uzi. The recoil sent the gun over her head, shooting the instructor in the head.
The sheriff’s office is continuing their investigation.

Librarian Arrested at Sunrise Elementary School

BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ.—An elementary school librarian has been arrested on charges he has been sexually molesting three young boys that had been adopted by his parents for several years. Michael Gregory Oakleaf, 43, was taken into custody at Sunrise Elementary School Thursday afternoon, where he worked as the school’s librarian. Police detectives purposely waited until after all school children had left for the day before making the arrest.
Although the arrest took place at the school, police are certain none of the criminal acts took place on the school campus. Instead, detectives believe the crimes were committed at the house Oakleaf shares with the victims and his parents in the 1400 block of Summit Cir.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety notified local authorities after receiving information on their anonymous tip hotline that Oakleaf was abusing his younger, adopted brothers, which range in age from 11-13. The abuse had reportedly been going on over the course of several years.
Police are not sure if there are other victims so they are asking anyone with additional information about Michael Oakleaf to call them. They’re being encouraged to contact Det. Charlie English at (928)763-9200, extension 203.