FLORENCE — A 35-year-old woman found guilty last month of murdering her ex-boyfriend in Maricopa in December 2016 will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Kathryn Sinkevitch was convicted May 7 on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Michael Agerter. On Thursday morning, she was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Kevin White.
Agerter’s parents spoke to the court during the sentencing hearing. Sinkevitch made no comment.
In a statement to PinalCentral, Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said he was glad to see justice for the victim.
“This is a unique situation where all of our law enforcement partners collaborated to hold the defendant fully accountable,” he said. “It’s my hope now that Michael’s family can begin the long process of healing from this tragic loss.”
Agerter was gunned down in his car after pulling into the garage of his Maricopa home. Surveillance videos captured his killer running up to the home and shooting him within a matter of seconds.
During the trial, the state presented evidence that Sinkevitch was found with two stolen license plates in her car. The prosecution said it showed she had been planning to commit a crime.
Sinkevitch also received an email the morning of the murder that informed her Agerter was scheduled to take a paternity test that afternoon. The state argued this let Sinkevitch know exactly when Agerter would arrive back at his home that day.
Sinkevitch and Agerter were in the middle of a custody dispute over their infant child at the time of the crime. Sinkevitch even hired a private investigator to obtain information on Agerter’s home address.
The victim was previously granted an order of protection in Maricopa County Superior Court against Sinkevitch in April 2016, just one month after their romantic relationship had ended.
After the jury reached a guilty verdict last month, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office said in a press release that Agerter had been actively involved in trying to establish paternity of Sinkevitch’s son, who was born in October. He believed he was the father.
“Agerter never saw his son before he was murdered, and the paternity results later confirmed he was the boy’s father,” the release stated.
Agerter’s family also made a statement after Sinkevitch was convicted.
“(Michael) took every legal precaution to protect himself and was trying to do the same for his child,” the family said. “Domestic violence knows no boundaries. Mike’s attempt to protect the child he never met escalated (Sinkevitch’s) aggression towards him, ultimately leading to his death.”
WASHINGTON — Tribal and environmental officials urged House lawmakers Wednesday to protect sacred land and natural resources by supporting a permanent ban on mining on just over 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon.
The “Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act” would prohibit all mining in the affected area, but supporters were focused on the uranium mining that has a troubled history on tribal lands.
“Uranium mining has already poisoned and will continue to poison the springs and waters of my Grand Canyon home,” said Havasupai Councilwoman Carletta Tilousi at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing. “It will be poisoning the land, the plants, the animals and the people that live there, including all the visitors that come to visit the Grand Canyon.”
But critics attacked those claims as “scare tactics.” Uranium mining poses no more threat than the area’s naturally occurring uranium, they said, and the “ill-conceived” and “misguided” bill would cost the region billions of dollars in potential economic activity.
“You can have your clean air, clean water and mining too,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, who grilled witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing. “It would seem to me that it would be better to take it out than to leave it in.”
The bill would withdraw 1,006,545 acres of federal lands north and south of Grand Canyon National Park from mining. The Obama administration in 2012 instituted a 20-year ban on uranium mining on those lands.
But the Trump administration has been pushing for more-open mining policies, with the Commerce Department on Tuesday releasing recommendations to safeguard U.S. access to a list of minerals, including uranium, that are considered critical to the nation’s economy and defense.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, sponsored the bill that would make the Obama-era moratorium a permanent ban.
“It’s a simple piece of legislation. It takes what Obama did with the moratorium and makes that ban on mining permanent, simple as that,” Grijalva said Tuesday at a news conference in support of the bill. “It does not create a new monument. It doesn’t include any public land designations. It merely protects what exists now.”
Tilousi said the ban is needed to protect her village, which is on the floor of the canyon, as well as the region that draws millions of tourists a year from around the world.
Tilousi said the Havasupai — which means “people of the blue-green water” — worry that mining will contaminate the waters that not only sustained them but has been a source of tourist revenue for many years.
It’s not just her village, she said. The Colorado River is a primary water source for millions in the Southwest, in cities such as Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“According to the National Academy of Science there are no safe levels of consumption of ionized radiation; the only safe level is zero, Tilousi said.
But Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson cited a U.S. Geological Survey report that said water samples from 428 sites in northern Arizona showed dissolved uranium concentrations were no different in areas with mines than in areas without.
“I can tell you if I had the slightest indication that mining would affect the canyon or the health of the people I represent I would be adamantly opposed to it,” Johnson said during testimony to the committee.
Both Johnson and Gosar stressed the potential economic benefits from uranium mining, which they valued at $29 billion. Gosar said mining could provide 2,000 to 4,000 jobs between Arizona and Utah, while helping the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign nations, which provide 97 percent of the country’s uranium for nuclear power.
Johnson said sufficient environmental protections are in place even without the bill.
“The canyon and people are protected and the economic benefit of over $29 billion and the security of our nation is what’s at stake,” he said.
But supporters say any economic benefit from mining would be outweighed by its threat to the region’s tourism industry.
Amber Reimondo, energy program director for the Grand Canyon Trust, testified that uranium mining supports few and temporary jobs compared to tourism. She cited a National Park Service study that said the Grand Canyon brought 6.3 million visitors in 2018, who spent $947 million in nearby communities, supporting 12,558 jobs.
“Permanently contaminating the Grand Canyon threatens the loss of billions of dollars to the backbone of our regional economy,” Reimondo said.
PHOENIX — A new law signed Thursday by Gov. Doug Ducey is designed to provide legal protections to those who drill wells into underground streams they are not legally entitled to tap.
The measure repeals existing laws that make it a crime when a well owner “uses water to which another is entitled.” That law, until now, has subjected violators to up to four months in jail and a $750 fine.
Now, that criminal penalty will be available only when someone knew they were breaking the law.
But that exception bothered several lawmakers.
Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, said he has no problem immunizing those who already have put wells into the ground, only to find out that they have dipped into a subsurface flow that doesn’t belong to them.
Campbell, however, said he wanted a provision included in the legislation to tell those who have yet to drill a well that they would be subject to criminal penalties if they ended up tapping into someone else’s water. It was not included.
Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said she fears the new law will create a loophole for the unscrupulous.
She pointed out that it would be a defense to criminal charges that the well was drilled without knowledge that it was actually taking water from a subsurface flow.
“That would make it very easy for certain groups or organizations or people to do something unethically and get away with it,” Blanc said, by claiming “I didn’t know this was against the law.”
And Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said the law “undercuts private property rights.”
The legislation was pushed by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa. He argued that those who drill wells don’t — and can’t — know whether they’ve actually tapped into a subsurface flow. And that water, like surface water, is allocated not based on who owns the land but on different laws about who has the right to use it.
Bowers said the state is still trying to determine who has the rights to certain surface and subsurface waters.
He said some of the water rights at issue actually could turn out to belong to tribes. Bowers said there’s no reason to subject well drillers to criminal liability if it turns out that what they’re pumping “contains one molecule of subflow.”
That includes Bowers himself, who said he drilled a new well two years ago.
“We don’t know where that water comes from,” he testified during hearings earlier this year. “It could be coming from the river, being forced up by capillary action.”
But Bowers said there are “tens of thousands of people” who face similar risk, especially in the Verde Valley and the San Pedro watershed.
CASA GRANDE — Teens from the BlackBox Foundation summer program will perform Green Day’s “American Idiot the Musical” next weekend.
The show is a rock-based musical based on Green Day’s 2004 concept album of the same title.
The story follows three young men as they strive to find meaning in life and yearn to escape the suburban lifestyle and parental rules. Along the way, they struggle with various life situations such as drugs, teen pregnancy and other issues.
Several teens from Casa Grande, Coolidge, Florence and Maricopa are cast in the show, including:
Cast in the ensemble are Anna Lucier, Lexi Winegrad, Alexis Dubbs, Chloe McQueen, Samantha Ostrowski, Lillie Peterson, Marisa Pike, Logan Herbert, Haden Herbert, Angel Enriquez, Madison Ewald and Payton Toscano.
The musical is based on a book written by Billie Joe Armstrong.
Shows will be performed at 7 p.m. June 14-15 at the Pence Center at Central Arizona College.
As the musical deals with mature themes, it may not be suitable for all audiences. Tickets are $10 and are available online at www.blackboxaz.org.