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Gasoline manufacturer plans to build $3.3B plant in Casa Grande
 Suzanne Adams  / 

CASA GRANDE — The City Council unveiled the latest new industry to move to Casa Grande at Monday night’s meeting.

Nacero Inc. is looking to build a $3.3 billion plant to convert natural gas to gasoline along Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway across from Abbott Nutrition and Frito-Lay.

The Houston, Texas-based company plans to start construction on the plant in 2021 and have it completed in 2025. The plan would generate approximately 2,000 construction jobs and 265 permanent jobs that pay about $90,000 a year once it is complete.

The plant will add an estimated $6.9 billion to the state economy, not including income taxes, Nacero stated in a press release.

The plant would also ease gasoline price fluctuations in the state by supplying about 17% of the state’s gasoline or 35,000 barrels of gasoline a day.

Nacero is also calling its gasoline more environmentally friendly than traditional gasoline. The process to manufacture the gasoline from natural gas is cleaner, avoiding some of the byproducts that are created with refining crude oil. The company also claims that the gasoline it makes will reduce air pollution because it has a zero-sulfur content, which enables catalytic converters in cars to be more efficient at removing pollutants.

“By making an environmentally superior gasoline from natural gas rather than crude oil, Nacero will enable drivers to keep their cars and help the planet,” said Jay McKenna, Nacero CEO. “Using existing vehicles, markets, infrastructure and proven technology affords Nacero the opportunity to quickly and predictably create meaningful benefits at world-class scale.”

One byproduct of the process that Nacero uses is water. The process creates two and a half gallons of water for every gallon of gasoline, according to the company. Nacero plans to use that water to help run the plant. The water from the gasoline process will provide about 80% of the water the plant needs to run. The remaining 20%, about 1,000 acre-feet per year, is to come from the city’s treatment plant. Nacero said it plans to leave the 4,000 acre-feet a year of water that is currently used to grow alfalfa on the site in the aquifer.

Nacero also plans to build a solar plant on the site to help power the plant. Two major natural gas pipelines cross the area of the plant.

The company plans to build additional plants like the one in Casa Grande throughout the country.

Nacero was founded in 2015. Its leaders have experience in power, renewables, liquid natural gas, fuels and petrochemicals.

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Co-defendant will also face death penalty for 2017 CG multiple homicides
 jheadley  / 

FLORENCE — Rodney Ortiz is eligible for the death penalty as his case proceeds in Pinal County Superior Court.

Ortiz is one of the co-defendants in a Casa Grande quadruple homicide, along with Alec Perez, who will be tried separately.

Ortiz is accused of killing two men and two women on the morning of Oct. 5, 2017, at a housing complex on West 13th Street in Casa Grande.

On Friday a five-hour hearing took place before Pinal County Superior Court Judge Patrick Gard to determine if Ortiz would be eligible for the death penalty if convicted of the murders at his upcoming trial, potentially in 2022.

Co-defendant Perez was ruled eligible for the death penalty after a hearing took place on Oct. 25.

On Friday, Gard determined Ortiz is also eligible for the death penalty based on three of six factors presented by the state.

One of the victims, 29-year-old Crysta Proctor, was married to Perez, and police reports show the couple had a history of domestic violence. During an altercation in September 2017, police reported Perez had threatened to kill his wife.

The other victims were identified as Connie Carrera, 31; Jose Martin Aguilera, 27; and Justin Allen Yates, 32.

On Friday, prosecutors Patrick Johnson and Shawn Jensvold called two witnesses to the stand to determine Perez’s eligibility for the death penalty in the event he is convicted of the murders.

Johnson called Dr. John Hu, chief medical examiner of Pinal County, to the stand.

He discussed autopsy reports for victims after their deaths in October 2017. Hu said the cause of death for Yates was a gunshot wound to the head. Yates did not die immediately from the gunshot wound, according to Hu.

He added that the gun used to kill Yates was fired within a 2-foot range of the victim.

Hu said Aguilera died from multiple gunshot wounds and sharp force injury. Hu said at least one of the bullets caused certain death rather quickly, but he would not say it caused immediate death.

He said shots fired into Aguilera were also at close range. One bullet went into his forehead and another into his ear. Hu said he had injuries in addition to those that caused death, which is a mitigating factor for the state in the pursuit of the death penalty.

Aguilera also suffered two stab wounds that could have caused very quick death as his cirrhotic artery was cut. He also suffered additional stab wounds, according to Hu.

Hu said Carrera had two gunshot wounds to her head and her right hand. One head wound was in the top of her forehead and would have been fatal in minutes, but not instantaneous, he said.

Hu said the other gunshot wounds she suffered were not immediately fatal. Hu said she died from four gunshot and two stab wounds.

Hu said Carrera was also shot in the chest with a fatal round and was stabbed twice in the neck. He said one of the stab wounds was considered potentially fatal.

Proctor, the ex-wife of the defendant, died of multiple sharp and blunt force injuries, according to Hu. He said she was hit and received multiple blunt force injuries to her head. Hu said she was stabbed in the right shoulder and several times in the back, with one that penetrated her lung.

Proctor did not suffer any gunshot wounds like the others.

She did suffer several sharp force wounds to her hand. Hu said the wounds are considered defensive wounds.

Hu said she received additional stab wounds in the chest, which he considered to be her most fatal injuries. He said this could have caused death in 30 seconds to a minute.

She suffered a single stab wound into her heart, one to the liver and three into her lungs.

Hu said she suffered more than 20 stab wounds and experienced a painful death, according to the medical examiner.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Bret Huggins, Hu was asked if he knew the sequence of injuries the victims suffered and he said he couldn’t determine in what order the injuries happened.

Proctor’s death was more violent than the other three, Hu said under cross-examination.

Casa Grande Police Detective Troy Schmitz was called next by prosecutors.

Schmitz described the murder scene and the investigation. He said two guns related to the investigation were found.

He said two people were seen walking in the area and wearing black clothing. Police tried to stop them and got within a few feet and one suspect took off running. The other suspect was Perez and was taken into custody.

Ortiz was found by police in the area four hours after the homicide.

Maps of the area and photographs of the four victims after they were murdered were shown in the courtroom.

Schmitz said a revolver was found near the area where Perez was arrested. Another handgun was found in the area where police chased Ortiz.

Schmitz said there were spent shell casings in Ortiz’s pants pockets. He said the victim’s blood was also found on the gun located near Perez.

Both the guns found by police were .22-caliber.

Blood evidence on a gun even tied Oritz’s DNA on the grip and hammer to a victim’s blood on the barrel of the same handgun.

A knife with blood on it was also found on the path Ortiz is believed to have taken when he escaped police.

Schmitz said Ortiz was picked out of a photo lineup by one of the eye witnesses to the homicide six days later. The witness told police she saw Ortiz shoot a man in the neck with a handgun, according to Schmitz.

Under cross-examination, the focus of the hearing was shifted off Ortiz and onto co-defendant Perez along with a list of other people associated with Perez.

At the end of the hearing, Gard said that the state had proven a need of probable cause, and three aggravating factors and not two aggravating factors necessary to pursue the death penalty against Ortiz.

A new trial date for Ortiz has not been determined. He is scheduled to appear at 3:30 p.m. June 15 for a status hearing and the possibility of setting Jan. 25, 2022, as a trial date.