Crime Tale

     During High School I started to get into reading true crime stories.  I also enjoyed watching Unsolved Mysteries during this time as well. These days I still enjoy reading true crime stores, re-watching Unsolved with my daughter and Forensic Files with my wife. Sometime I wonder how did I become fascinated by reading/watching true crime stories. I started to think about this and see what caused me to get into it. I could not figure out why, but I remembered something I had forgotten about.
     I have memories of my parents telling that the father of a family in the area had disappeared. No one knew what had happened to him. It was some time later that that his body was found and the person who killed him was caught using his credit cards. This was a faded memory and I was curious to see if I could find anything about it. I was able to piece together the story from articles in The Arizona Republic, Court Records, and Prisoner information. The only difference is that I have altered names in the narrative.

Missing

     A local Scottsdale Arizona realtor named George, met with and individual named Cliff on March 14, 1983. They met at 6:00 pm at the Denny's located on the Southwest corner of Scottsdale and Shea. Interestingly enough this is across the street from where the Windmill Theater was. Bob Crane was performing there when he was murdered in 1978. Today, the Denny's is now a Mattress Firm. The meeting was to discuss property that Cliff had "inherited" recently. It was locate near the Pinnacle Peal area. Shortly after meeting they left and headed north on Scottsdale Road in George's car. That was the last time George was seen alive.

Clues

 On March 15th and 16th, Cliff used George's credit cards to withdraw $1,000 at the Arizona Bank branch located in downtown Phoenix and the Great Western Bank located across from present day Steele Indian School Park. The building Arizona Bank was located in later became the Bank of America building, where I worked for a short time, and is now the US Bank Building.

      George's car was located at Sky Harbor Airport on March 16th. It was probably around this time when the police suggested to George's wife that he might have abandon her and her children. The policy comments is not based on the public records, but information relayed to me. Based on how police techniques were far different back then, it is possible the police thought of this. Hopefully this view changed with the next event.

      It was reported to the police on March 18th, that George's credit cards were used in Phoenix and Tucson. Because of the suspicious nature on how the cards were used in Tucson, the employee who ran the card, took down the license plate of the van Cliff was using. This allowed the police to track it down as being rented with the forged signature of George. Later in the investigation, Cliff's girlfriend testified that Cliff went down to Tucson to purchase marijuana but that the deal fell through.

     During the investigation, another realtor reported to the police with a story similar to the one that lured George to the Denny's. He stated that he had received a phone call on March 11th. Due to the story Cliff told him, he was suspicious, but still met with him at the Denny's on March 14th. However, he decided not to go and look at the property as there was no home on the property. After he left the Denny's, Cliff called him back to say he changed his mind about selling the property. He later identified in a policy line up and in court, that the individual was Cliff.

Discovery and Trial

     From this point on wards, I could not find any public records of what was happening with the case. It is not clear if the police were are able to identify Cliff being involved, or using George's credit cards, or if there was any surveillance going on or not. The next event in the case that was reported on was when George's body was found.

     A pair of dove hunters discovered George's body in a shallow grave on November 6th, near Lone Mountain and Hayden Road. It was later revealed that he had been shot once in the head. During the court case, Cliff's girlfriend testified that he showed her a rifle twice before the crime. On November 10th, Cliff was arrested in connection with the murder in a joint effort by Phoenix and Scottsdale police.

     The trial of Cliff started on April 16th and lasted a week and a half. Cliff was found guilty April 25th on the following 10 counts:

  • First degree murder 
  • Three counts of theft of property valued in excess of $1,000
  • Two counts of fraudulent schemes and artifices
     
     When the sentencing stage started on June 6th, the judge in the case received 52 letters asking for clemency. In addition his layer argued that because he had no previous criminal record and had been cooperating with the police, he should not get the death penalty. George's mother and wife also testified at the hearing asking for justice to be severed. When the judge handed down the sentence she indicated that Cliff was a danger to society. She sentenced him to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

     The sentences were to be served concurrently. The final count on the sentences was broken down as follows:

  • First Degree Murder - Life
  • 1st Count of Theft - 10 Years
  • 2nd Count of Theft - 15 Years
  • 3rd Count of Theft - 15 Years
  • 1st Count of fraudulent schemes and artifices - 12 Years
  • 2nd Count of fraudulent schemes and artifices - 12 Years

Afterwards

    In the years since the crime, I do not know what has happened to George's family. At the time of his murder, he had 4 daughters, the youngest being two. An educational fund was set created for the girls after George's body was found. The trauma of loosing a loved one to a crime can be tough and bring different struggles to it. Hopefully his family has been able to do the best they can.
     
     As for Cliff, he did file an appeal on his conviction over various procedures points. This appeal went to the Arizona Supreme Court where it was denied in 1985. By 1999 he had completed the final sentence outside of life imprisonment. At the sentencing the earliest he would be eligible for parole would have been in 2009. Cliff was released on parole October 17, 2019. He was 63 years old at the time of being released, have served 36 years in prison. George was 36 at the time of his death. 

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