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Maricopa shooting victim remembered as kind-hearted
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MARICOPA — A grieving family is left with few answers after a 27-year-old man was shot and killed, and his roommate arrested, on Jan. 15 inside a Hidden Valley home.

Julia Hein recently reentered the home she owned outside Hidden Valley that was, until a few days ago, the home of her two sons Justin and Jason Hein and their roommate, 27-year-old Carlos Correa Ortiz. It looked much different than the last time she had been there.

Now, bullet holes were marked in the furniture and walls, blankets were laid over where Justin Hein died and the beads of his favorite necklace were scattered on the floor — Julia says likely broken when paramedics tried to save her son’s life.

Much of Hein’s family are still trying to wrap their heads around his death and the events beforehand that night.

“This has devastated so many people,” Julia said. “So many people are so devastated because nobody can figure out why. Why? Of all the people I’ve ever met in my life — why? There was just no reason, there was nothing.”

According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, a 911 call was made at around 7 p.m. regarding a shooting in a home on North Starview Lane. Hein’s roommate Correa Ortiz allegedly told police he was drinking and smoking a dab — a kind of concentrated marijuana product — before he “freaked out” and shot Hein.

The Hein family is originally from Wisconsin and previously lived in Maricopa for about eight years before moving back to Wisconsin in 2018. Julia and Mark Hein have three other children, Hein’s 17-year-old sister Emma and his two older brothers, Jason and Jacob.

When the family moved back to Wisconsin, Jason stayed behind in the home on Starview Lane.

Correa Ortiz responded to an ad Jason put up for a roommate, and the two lived together for about a year. Hein later decided to move back to Maricopa to be closer to his brother and had only been living there a few months when he was killed.

Julia alleges that there had been some tension between the roommates leading up to Hein’s death. Police were called in October for a domestic incident involving Correa Ortiz and a woman, which Julia says shook her son. Julia also stated there had been some issues with rent payments in the past.

However, according to her son Jason, there was nothing on the night of Jan. 15 that indicated the situation that was about to unfold.

Jason was witness to the alleged shooting, and he told his mom it began while Hein and Correa Ortiz were sitting inside drinking beers and hanging out. According to Jason, Correa Ortiz looked at his phone and saw something that angered him, and he threw the phone at Hein’s foot. He then left the room but returned firing into the room.

Hein was struck three times in the chest and died. Jason managed to escape and dialed 911 while Correa Ortiz remained in his room until police arrived.

Jason called his mom moments after it happened and told her Hein had been shot but didn’t say where. Julia remembers asking repeatedly “Why?” and Jason responding “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

That is the question that sticks with Julia in the days since her third youngest son died.

“I can’t understand why, why anybody would shoot Justin,” Julia said. “Justin was the happiest, most easiest-going person you’d ever want to meet.”

She remembers her son as a kind and thoughtful kid. A kid who, at age 12, shoveled his elderly neighbor’s walkway and returned her payment to her when he was done, not wanting to keep it for himself.

Hein was small for his age and struggled in school due to intellectual disabilities, but he was a tinkerer at home.

“He was always mechanical,” Julia said. “I’m talking like 5 years old, he would be the one who put the bookcase together from IKEA. He was only 2 when he got a hold of one of those little tiny screwdrivers, and he unscrewed every doorknob in our house.”

One of Hein’s proudest moments — and Julia’s as his mother — was wearing a military uniform while participating in Junior ROTC. According to Julia, his grandfather was a decorated war veteran who received many medals including a Purple Heart, and Hein looked up to him greatly. While he was unable to join the military due to his disabilities, Hein wore his uniform with great pride.

As an adult, Julia said her son was fearless and full of joy, and loved nothing more than his family, his Jack Russell terrier Benjamin Franklin and taking the snowmobile out for joyrides. While living in an apartment complex for individuals with disabilities, he took time to get to know an older man living next door.

“Justin spent all kinds of time with him, he just liked him so much,” Julia said. “He called me, he’s like, ‘Mom, he loves coconut. Can you make him a coconut pie?’ And he brought him this coconut pie — just simple little things, you know? It turned into me making a coconut pie like every two weeks.”

For Christmas, Hein received an official NASCAR jacket from his brother.

“His face lit up like he’d given him a million dollars — he just loved it,” Julia said.

Hein was wearing the jacket the night he died.

“I wanted it, but he had it on, so I can’t have it,” Julia said sadly. “He loved it so much, he had it on.”

Correa Ortiz was charged with first-degree murder for the events of Jan. 15. According to Julia, deputies later informed her that Correa Ortiz allegedly told police he did not know why he shot Hein and that Hein was his friend.

“I hope he gets convicted of first-degree murder,” Julia said. “My worst fear is that he’ll plead it down to something other than murder — because I know that happens — but it was murder. It was no manslaughter or anything like that, and it’ll just diminish the memory of my child if something like that happens.”

The Hein family dropped everything when they learned of their son’s death, and drove through the night to reach an airport in Wisconsin that could take them to Phoenix. Jason was too distraught to remain in the home where his brother was killed and spent the night at a local hospital until his family arrived.

The home is currently a crime scene, but the family was able to return in the days following to retrieve necessary medication.

Meanwhile, a local victim-witness program helped the family get a hotel in Casa Grande for two nights, and a group effort by Maricopans helped them secure a reduced rate at another hotel when their stay ended.

A GoFundMe page was also set up to help support the family as they remain in Maricopa, and for funeral expenses.

“I would like him to think every day about this,” Julia said of Correa Ortiz. “I hope he finds God and he understands what he did — that he did something that I can’t forgive him for, but maybe God can.”

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Maricopa's first COVID-19 vaccination clinic distributes hundreds of doses
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MARICOPA — The city of Maricopa’s first vaccine clinic went off without a hitch Saturday, with more than 500 doses administered to community members in the 1B vaccination group.

Southwestern Pediatrics and Family Care reached out to the city for help organizing an efficient and effective way to dole out their recent delivery of vaccinations, and the city happily obliged.

“We’re excited to get to play a part in this,” Assistant City Manager Jennifer Brown said. “Pinal County was able to give us 400 vaccines, so that’s been phenomenal. From what I’ve heard, the county has had some shortages in terms of getting the vaccine. … If we can, we will, but it’s just getting the vaccine that has been the difficult part.”

Pinal County has struggled with getting the proper dosages needed for residents in the 1B-1 group: essential workers and individuals over the age of 75. Those in the 1B-2 group — persons ages 65 to 74 or with acute medical conditions — are being asked to wait due to limited vaccine supplies.

“Limited vaccine supply to Pinal County has contributed to the frustration for those attempting to get the vaccine,” Pinal County’s website states. “We have received 15,800 doses to administer to over 75,000 people in the existing 1A/1B group. All of these are accounted for.”

According to Brown, sign-ups for the limited doses in Maricopa went live on Tuesday last week and were filled in just 20 minutes, with the 8 a.m. time slot gone in under 60 seconds.

No one was signed up ahead of that time, and registration was on a first-come, first-serve basis. Those who were unable to get a time slot were put on a wait list, which also had a cap, to help prevent any vaccines from going to waste due to no-shows.

The event went so smooth, in fact, that an additional 100 doses were distributed to those on the wait list the day of the event.

All of the individuals who attended Saturday’s event were also automatically signed up for their follow-up shot Feb. 20, and are guaranteed their second dose on that date.

“This wouldn’t have been able to happen without them taking on this extra task,” Brown said of Southwestern Pediatrics and Family Care. “It’s been a huge undertaking for them. They’ve been committed to serving the community through this and have really stepped up to make this happen.”

Southwestern Pediatrics and Family Care were the first to reach out to the city for this partnership, but Brown hopes there will be more vaccine events like this in the future with other local vaccine providers.

Maricopa COVID-19 vaccine clinic

“If there are more vaccines available, and we’re able to partner with folks to make it happen, that would be an ideal scenario,” Brown said.

It’s all in the name of streamlining the vaccination process, and ensuring the community is properly protected against COVID-19.

“(It’s) really as a service to the community,” Brown said. “It’s about getting our businesses and organizations back open, getting to see our friends and family members again and getting back to some semblance of normal. I think it’s a service that’s needed in our community and so we were able to fill that void.”

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Maricopa plans future civic center in heart of city
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MARICOPA — When Maricopa first built its City Hall on a large swath of land off White and Parker Road, many questioned why it had been placed east of the main thoroughfare for the city, State Route 347.

However, City Hall sits directly in the geographic center of the city, and it’s a 160-acre area officials like City Manager Rick Horst want to see developed into a bustling city center.

In a Future Planning Conference held Jan. 13, Horst presented a vision of what this city center could look like. The center would serve the main purpose of creating a walkable, open-air space where community members could congregate. It would also have retail, dining, office space and leisure areas to keep residents engaged.

Horst described the latest design as a puzzle, with individual pieces that can be plugged into place. There are four main parts of the square 160-acre piece of land, with the current City Hall and library area making up the northwest quadrant.

He pitched the civic center as a whole concept, with a long walkway down the middle and four water features at the center of each quadrant. Dotted circles on the design map indicate a five-minute walking distance, and Horst envisioned office workers being able to walk to an eatery for a quick bite or impulse buy on a lunch break.

And some of the elements of the civic center vision are already falling into place.

The brand-new library is nearing completion, targeted for the end of March, according to Deputy Director of Community Services Jennifer Bostian. During a tour inside the new building, Bostian described how each space would be utilized.

Large, two-story bay windows on the north and south sides of the building allow for natural light, and colorful yellow and orange walls direct the eye to different areas of the open space. The western side will house the majority of the library areas, with a dedicated kids section decorated with soft flooring, a barn door and a kid-sized tunnel entrance. Study rooms have been added for quiet areas, and a future reception desk will sit in the center of the western wing.

The eastern and western sides of the building can be sealed off from one another with large pull-down doors, and the eastern side will house several city offices and meeting spaces as well as the technology lab, bathrooms and maker-space.

During the tour, Horst said the building was “designed for as much multi-use and flexibility as possible.”

The same can be said for much of the future spaces envisioned by the city.

In the same northwest quadrant as the library, Horst proposed new buildings surrounding the current City Hall, which could include an art museum building and a theater. To the south of the library is another area of land that Horst says is ready to go on the market for potential builders.

Horst said that by pitching an entire concept, developers could come in and buy out one of the quadrants for town homes or other amenities in the future, and he feels there’s no better time to get started.

“In my opinion, it’s time to start marketing this thing,” Horst told city officials at the conference. “The market is hot, the time is ready, and it’s time to start.”

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price was on board with this latest concept and said that a previous civic center concept proposed in 2018 paled in comparison.

“I’ve always hated the other plan,” Price said with a laugh. “I really did not care for it. It was too structured, just packed in there and it just didn’t fit. It didn’t feel like a place to socialize together and gather. … I really like this idea.”

Price said he hoped the new proposed civic space would allow for constant activity at the heart of the city instead of just city business.

“What I’ve always envisioned is something that is active during the day and maintains that activity at night, even though the government goes home,” Price said.

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'MEDA 2.0' vows to move Maricopa into new-look economy
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MARICOPA — Maricopa city officials and the board of directors for the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance met Wednesday to discuss “MEDA 2.0” — a new direction for the group.

The alliance was founded in 2009 and partners with the city to help further economic development and a prosperous economy for Maricopa. MEDA adviser Ioanna Morfessis detailed how the board had evolved in the last decade into an advisory role, including marketing and promotion for the city.

Eventually it became what it is today, an entity that can generate deals on the city’s behalf to create new business leads and prospects for the city.

“A tremendous amount of our investment this current fiscal year has been focused on building that deal-generating pipeline, getting in front of decision makers and capitalizing on our own relationships and networks,” Morfessis said.

During the meeting, Morfessis detailed how the workforce is changing due to the pandemic, and how Maricopa can capitalize on these societal changes in a beneficial way.

“The notion and concept of the work environment is changing dramatically,” Morfessis said. “The adoption and integration of digital technology in the workplace and in business operations had a 10-year leap in less than 10 months. We will continue to see ‘work from home’ as an enduring characteristic of work in America.”

This means office spaces are left empty, with decreasing demand for these spaces in cities like Maricopa. Meanwhile, increased manufacturing demands during the pandemic have meant a need for more manufacturing spaces.

Morfessis also noted a trend in individuals fleeing larger cities in favor of urban centers and suburbs, one that has only accelerated during the pandemic.

In FY 2021, MEDA hopes to strengthen its current ties with city officials, successfully market Maricopa to businesses, capitalize on modern workforce changes and remain adaptable to future changes as they arise.

Those in attendance at the meeting concurred with Morfessis’ vision, including President of El Dorado Holdings Jim Kenny, whose company created Rancho El Dorado, The Lakes at Rancho El Dorado and The Duke golf course in Maricopa.

“We’re one of the few cities that has this kind of unique and, frankly, intimate partnership between business, government and education for our mutual benefit via economic development, and I think we need to maximize it,” Kenny said. “All of our team members are committed to contributing to our growth and prosperity — we are absolutely aligned.”