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Red Rock teen faces manslaughter charge in shooting death of friend

RED ROCK — A 15-year-old boy has been charged with manslaughter after a shooting killed a 16-year-old friend during a sleepover at a Pinal County home.

According to Pinal County Superior Court records, Maxx Bonnell, 15, is charged in adult court with manslaughter and aggravated assault.

According to court records, around 11:45 p.m. on Sept. 26, Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies were called out to a home on Volunteer Drive in Red Rock for shots fired. The caller told dispatch that one of her son’s friends had been accidentally shot and she was in possession of the gun.

When deputies arrived, they found emergency medical crews working on a male teenager with a gunshot wound lying on the floor. One of the medical technicians told the deputy the firearm was on a kitchen counter. The deputy found a handgun on the counter and took possession of the weapon.

The family of the injured teen was contacted and told he was being flown to Banner-University Medical Center Tucson. The teen died four days later.

A woman at the scene told the deputy that all of the teens in the home were in a back bedroom. A deputy escorted her back to the same room and a PCSO Posse member stayed with the group until they could be interviewed.

Bonnell was one of five teens in the room. He was separated from the group and placed in a patrol vehicle when deputies determined that he might be the person who fired the weapon. His mother was contacted, advised of the situation and asked to come to the home.

According to court records, the woman at the home later told deputies that her son wanted to have a few friends over to spend the night. She told him that was OK and went out to eat with one of her other sons.

When she returned, her son and his friends were in the living room and kitchen area. She got up from the kitchen table and walked into her bedroom and heard a loud bang. She left the bedroom and came back into the living room, where she asked what the noise was.

She told deputies she saw Bonnell holding a handgun and standing next to the couch where one of the teens had been sitting.

She said Bonnell allegedly told her, “I shot him. I didn’t think it was loaded.”

She told deputies that she took the gun from Bonnell, set it on the kitchen counter and called 911. She tried to help the injured teen by following directions from the 911 dispatcher until an ambulance arrived.

The woman told deputies that both the teen that was killed and Bonnell had been over to her house frequently in the past and that she did not see the gun and did not know that anyone had a gun in the home prior to the shooting.

Deputies also interviewed Bonnell with his mother present. Bonnell told deputies that he had found the gun in the desert earlier in the day when he went home to get some clothes to stay over at his friend’s house.

According to court records, Bonnell told deputies that when he found the gun he pulled the clip out and pulled the slide back to see if it was loaded. He told deputies that he saw the clip had a full load of rounds and he didn’t remember cocking the weapon.

Bonnell told deputies that he intended to keep the weapon. He also said everyone in the home, except two younger children, knew he had the gun. He told deputies that two of the other teens at the home had allegedly held the gun and looked at it.

According to court records, Bonnell told deputies he was trying to scare his friend when he pointed the gun at the teen and the gun went off. He told deputies again that he didn’t know the weapon was cocked and he didn’t intend to shoot his friend.

Deputies also spoke with the four other teens who were in the room when the shooting happened.

One teen told deputies Bonnell had shown him the gun and he thought it was a BB gun. He said Bonnell got up from the kitchen table where the two were sitting and told him he was going to scare one of the other teens. He saw Bonnell point the gun at the teen and then heard a bang. He said Bonnell started “freaking out” after the shooting.

Another teen said he was playing video games in the living room when the shooting happened. He told deputies that Bonnell had brought the gun to the home in the past. He didn’t know if the gun was real or not. While he was playing video games, he heard a loud bang and saw Bonnell pointing the gun at the teen who was shot.

Another teen told deputies that he was sitting at the kitchen table when he heard a loud bang. He also knew Bonnell had the gun in the home.

According to court records, deputies later received information that Bonnell may have pointed the gun at a different friend, at a different location, several days prior to the shooting. Deputies interviewed the teen who was involved in that situation with his father sitting nearby.

That teen told deputies that two weeks prior to the shooting, he had been hanging out with Bonnell and other friends at the local pool. When the group decided to leave the area, the teen gave them all a ride in his father’s car. While the teen was driving, he said he heard Bonnell “rack” the slide on the gun from the back seat and turned to see Bonnell pointing the weapon at him. He said Bonnell told him he was joking and lowered the weapon.

The teen told deputies that he did not know that Bonnell had a gun. He dropped Bonnell off at his home and had not talked to him since. Another friend later told the teen that Bonnell had had the gun for at least a year and had bought it from someone.

According to court records, deputies later found that the handgun used in the shooting had been reported stolen out of Tucson.

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With new book, Janel Lamb reveals what it's like to be 'The Sheriff's Wife'

SAN TAN VALLEY — Janel Lamb is often asked what it’s like to be married to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, whom she describes as a “pretty famous politician.”

Her answer to that question comes in her new book, “The Sheriff’s Wife: Holding it all together behind the scenes in politics.” As well as giving an idea of what her life is like, Lamb hopes her book helps people understand that they are not alone even when times seem tough.

“There is no handbook of how to navigate the political life, so I decided I should share my experience and maybe someone would find it useful,” she said.

Lamb has been married to Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb for 26 years. The couple has five children and one grandchild.

Although writing the book was a difficult experience, Lamb said she hopes it takes readers on “the roller coaster we have been on and are currently on every day.”

“As I was writing my story, I was definitely reliving a lot of what we had gone through,” she said. “There were definitely tears shed on my part. As hard as that was to put it out into the world, my hope was that the authenticity would shine through the words on the pages.”


Author Janel Lamb and her husband, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, are featured on the cover of her new book.

In a description of the book on Amazon.com, Lamb writes: “Are you ever curious about what life would be like if you were married to a politician? Do you ever wonder how the spouses of law enforcement officers handle the increasing danger and pressure they face every day just doing their job? Maybe you want to do something big in your life, but you just can’t seem to get past the imaginary barrier that’s holding you back because you feel too ordinary.”

The book, according to the description, “explores these topics with relatable experiences as a wife, mother and support system to her famous sheriff husband and reveals how she learned how to fake it till you make it and face huge obstacles with grace under pressure.”

Other law enforcement spouses helped inspire the idea to write the book. She often speaks to spouses around the county.

“I began to realize we have so much in common, yet nobody really feels comfortable putting their real face forward,” she said. “Over the last four years working along with (Sheriff Lamb) to keep the family running, the household, and all the loose ends, I knew other spouses must be feeling the same overwhelm I do from time to time, and I wanted to be able to reach out to celebrate what we do behind the scenes.”

While she said she had reservations about writing the book and had concerns for her family’s privacy, she said her husband and children have been very supportive.

Mark Lamb is also writing a book, which is expected to be released soon.

“(My husband) was the one who really encouraged me in the first place,” she said. “He and I have really enjoyed being on the book-writing journey together. Our kids are extremely supportive as well, they are super proud of both of us. I think they are pretty used to being out there so they were fine. It’s definitely a fine line of being authentic while protecting their privacy, and I feel we have a really good balance going in the book.”

She said she’s always been a candid person and wanted the book to be an authentic telling of her story.

“I think people really appreciate authenticity, they can tell when you’re holding back, and I really tried to be as open and honest as possible while protecting the innocent — and not so innocent,” she said.

In the book, Lamb is open about her experience with depression and how she overcame it. But she said writing about her depression was difficult.

“I know that so many people experience what I went through and much worse, and I really want to help people understand that you are not alone in your dark times,” she said. “We need to pull together as compassionate humans and cut each other some slack as much as possible, because everyone is fighting battles behind the scenes. Everyone. We are all in the human existence together.”

Although now retired, Lamb has worked as a hairdresser and as a flight attendant. For 15 years, she was a stay-at-home mom to the couple’s children, then returned to the workforce when they were older.

“I have felt the criticism for doing both,” she said. “My family always comes first. But we as women wear a lot of hats, and prioritizing the challenges we face every day is key to our happiness.”

Lamb is originally from Minnesota but moved to Mesa as a child.

“I feel like an Arizona native, although a big piece of my heart will always be a country girl from Minnesota. All of my extended family is still there and I love visiting my homeland,” she said.

When people read her book, she hopes the message that “God has a plan for us all” comes through.

“You don’t have to be anyone well known or special to do great things with your life,” she said. “God has a plan for us all and it’s way bigger than we could ever imagine if we just have the courage to take opportunities that come our way and we keep our eyes and ears open for great things in our path. Every one of us can make a positive difference in the world.”

“The Sheriff’s Wife” is 72 pages. It’s available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. Personalized or autographed paperback editions are available on Lamb’s website, Sheriffswife.com.

Mark Lamb was elected as Pinal County sheriff in 2016, following predecessor Paul Babeu. He has worked for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office since 2012. He is currently running for reelection unopposed.

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Pinal forum: Water, pandemic among challenges to future economic growth in county

SAN TAN VALLEY — Is Pinal County fulfilling its destiny as the growth corridor of the state of Arizona?

That was the question moderator and former state politician Stan Barnes pitched to a panel of local legislators during the first Pinal County Regional Legislative Forum. The forum, held at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley, was framed as a discussion of the future of economic growth in the region. Despite touting the burgeoning commerce and business moving into the county, the panel acknowledged the dual constraints of water resources and the current pandemic as major present impediments.

The panel, which consisted of three state representatives — David Cook, R-Globe; T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge; and John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction — and state Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, generally agreed that the county was moving beyond its reputation as largely a bedroom community for the Phoenix and Tucson metro regions, but that lawmakers needed to facilitate the necessary infrastructure changes, such as expanding highway systems and ensuring access to water.

“When you talk about Pinal County, this is the center of the state and this is where the growth is gonna be,” Fillmore said.

Pratt said that the region’s business potential was exemplified by the under-construction Lucid Motors electric auto plant in Casa Grande. “To watch a factory being built,” Pratt said, “and knowing they will be building the cars of the future, is really mind boggling.”

The panelists touted the county’s proximity both to natural splendor and major population centers. “The people living here choose to live here,” Cook said. “They want to live out in the country, in open space where it’s affordable and taxes are affordable.”

Any future increase in commerce or population, however, is dependent on the county’s access to water.

“Water continues to be an issue that is either going to hold up growth or allow growth to occur,” Shope said. Earlier this month, EPCOR Water reached an agreement to acquire Johnson Utilities, a move Pratt touted as a way to improve water and sewage services in northern Pinal.

Cook also mentioned the transfer of water rights from a farm in Cibola to the town of Queen Creek as another important development for the area.

Water access would be essential not just to any future housing community projects but for the tech industry, which often uses water-intensive manufacturing processes.

Several of the panelists also expressed frustration at the role of the pandemic in both budgetary discussions and more generally the restrictions imposed over the past eight months. Fillmore was adamant COVID-19 was not much worse than bird flu and contended the restriction on rights, and potential trauma to kids’ disrupted school schedules, was not worth the increased safety.

“I would like to see the governor lift the shutdown and get rid of masks,” Fillmore said. Calling it “common sense,” Fillmore insisted that the average business person knew how to wash their hands or “keep a bit of distance.”

Pratt praised Gov. Doug Ducey’s handling of the situation and said that the novelty of the pandemic means that everyone was “doing the best job we could at the time.”

Shope acknowledged that it made things difficult for budgetary issues. “Anybody who’s served (in the Legislature) knows you have to have stuff on schedule,” Shope said. “You can’t go a year without buying school buses or sheriff’s vehicles. Once you get behind, it can take multiple years to come back from.”

Another issue that was brought up is whether San Tan Valley would benefit from incorporating as a city. Shope suggested that it was important that legislators listen to residents and help them.

None of the panelists, all Republicans, wanted to comment publicly on whether they thought there would be a new speaker of the House via next month’s election. Fillmore said the situation was “fluid” and Pratt predicted at best they would retain a “thin majority” in the state House, but that they already knew several key committee chairs were moving on.

The panel was hosted by District 2 Pinal County Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, who hoped to have similar forums in the near future. The full discussion is available on the county’s Facebook page.