FLORENCE — A 25-year-old San Tan Valley woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for her involvement in the murder of her ex-boyfriend.
Danielle Kinyon pleaded guilty earlier this year to hindering a prosecution and vehicle theft. The charges were a reduction from the first-degree murder charge she was indicted on last year.
The defendant was arrested in May 2016, shortly after the body of her ex-boyfriend, Curtis Fish, was discovered on the side of the road near Quail Run Lane and Skyline Drive.
Supporters of the victim and defendant filled a courtroom in Pinal County Superior Court on Friday afternoon, and some of them offered last-minute testimony before Kinyon was sentenced.
Judge Jason Holmberg made it clear to the packed courtroom that he wasn’t sentencing Kinyon for Fish’s murder, since she hadn’t pleaded guilty to that offense. He instead gave Kinyon a five-year sentence because of the “great lengths” she took to protect the man, 34-year-old Chad Jenkins, who shot Fish multiple times.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year and was sentenced to 21 years in prison. This came after Kinyon signed an agreement with prosecutors to testify against Jenkins.
Prosecutor Amy Diederich said there are still unanswered questions about what exactly happened at the scene of the crime. But the state believes Kinyon wanted there to be a conflict that day.
Jenkins has been described as a former boyfriend of Kinyon’s and a point of contention in the defendant’s relationship with Fish. Diederich said text messages between Kinyon and Fish show an argument would erupt whenever Jenkins entered the conversation.
The prosecutor said there likely was a level of domestic violence in the couple’s relationship, but it is not what caused the events leading up to Fish’s death.
In the days prior to the murder, Fish was attempting to get back a car he loaned out to Kinyon. But the state alleges the defendant kept stalling.
Diederich described Kinyon as the “catalyst” to the crime, based on how she got Jenkins involved in the incident. Kinyon could have gotten someone else to come with her to return the car, the prosecutor argued.
“But she chose to bring the person who would cause a confrontation,” Diederich said.
James Soslowsky, the defendant’s lawyer, rebutted this theory, claiming Kinyon chose to bring Jenkins with her that day as a “safety feature.” Her actions need to be understood through Kinyon’s dysfunctional relationship with Fish, he said.
“This was a toxic relationship,” Soslowsky said. “It was bad.”
Soslowsky admitted his client’s actions after Fish’s death were “terrible,” but she attempted to make steps to right her wrongs.
Kinyon and Jenkins fled in separate vehicles after Fish was shot. She took the murder weapon and allegedly gave some spray paint to Jenkins to change the color of his motorcycle in order to evade authorities.
Kinyon handed over the murder weapon to law enforcement and later wrote a letter to the victim’s mother while in custody, her lawyer added.
After her arrest, Kinyon gave two different accounts of what happened at the scene of the crime. She originally told authorities she shot Fish, then later recanted that story to claim Jenkins shot the victim on her behalf. These conflicting accounts would have made Kinyon a problematic witness at trial, according to Diederich.
Renee Brewer, Fish’s mother, told the court Friday she’s struggled with her feelings over Kinyon. She grew to love the defendant but Kinyon left her with a broken heart, she said.
“She could have done so many things differently that day,” Brewer said, “but she didn’t. I will never understand her thinking that day.”
Other friends and family of the victim criticized Kinyon for causing Fish’s death and manipulating him into a deadly trap. Kinyon’s family described her as a caring, loving person who is grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kinyon told the court she was “forever remorseful” for her actions and apologized to the victim’s family.
“I’m aware of the mistakes I’ve made and I made some really big ones,” Kinyon said. “And I fully understand I need to take responsibility.”
Holmberg ordered Kinyon to be placed on five years of supervised probation following her prison sentence. The defendant was credited with 534 days for her pre-sentence incarceration at the Pinal County jail.
Published on PinalCentral.com, by Kevin Reagan, on 7/17/17. To see article, go to - http://www.pinalcentral.com/coolidge_examiner/news/second-mistrial-in-coolidge-walmart-robbery-case/article_6a17f91e-b87f-58e9-a7ba-e1b35083e4ca.html
SECOND MISTRIAL IN COOLIDGE WALMART ROBBERY CASE
By Kevin Reagan, Staff Writer
FLORENCE — Another mistrial was declared for a defendant accused of conspiring with others to steal more than $100,000 from a Walmart in Coolidge.
A jury failed to reach a verdict for charges filed against Nathaniel Hearn, one of four suspects arrested in 2012 for robbing the store at gunpoint.
Two of the suspects have already been convicted and prosecutors attempted again to convict Hearn after his first trial ended with a hung jury two years ago.
The jurors in Hearn’s second trial began deliberating Friday afternoon and returned to Judge Joseph Georgini’s courtroom without a unanimous verdict on Monday.
In his closing arguments, Deputy County Attorney Patrick Johnson tried emphasizing Hearn’s guilt by displaying phone logs of the four suspects.
Johnson highlighted how Hearn was the only one calling and talking to Aaron Sharpe, the man who went inside the Walmart with a gun and stole more than $100,000 from a clerk.
Sharpe was convicted of armed robbery in 2015 and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Johnson reminded the jury of evidence showing Sharpe calling Hearn the morning of the robbery shortly before 7 a.m., the time when employees switch shifts at the store. This didn’t factor into their plan, the prosecutor argued, so they were trying to keep things from falling apart.
James Soslowsky, the defendant’s attorney, stressed the lack of physical evidence tied to his client. He said there was no video surveillance footage or DNA evidence that pinpointed Hearn to the scene.
The defense further argued that there was no evidence presented to verify Hearn was the person actually talking on his phone for the call reported during the robbery. According to the phone logs, Soslowsky said there would have been an instance during the robbery when Sharpe and Hearn would be driving away in the same car but still talking to each other on the phone.
This was a case with more questions than answers, Soslowsky argued during closing arguments.
Johnson said there was no possibility Hearn was not involved in the robbery, telling the jury there was evidence indicating Hearn was at Sharpe’s house after the crime, reportedly counting the money.
By Friday afternoon, the jury indicated it wasn’t reaching a consensus in notes to the court. Georgini chose to dismiss jurors for the weekend, wanting them to continue deliberating on Monday.
Jurors were able to quickly reach a verdict last month for Efrain Hernandez, one of Hearn’s co-defendants. Hernandez’s first trial ended in a mistrial but prosecutors managed to convict him the second time for conspiracy to commit robbery, kidnapping and aggravated assault with a weapon.
According to previous media reports, Efrain was a former employee of a Walmart in San Tan Valley before being temporarily assigned to the Coolidge store.
Eric Hernandez, the fourth defendant, is scheduled to stand trial later this year. The court will reconvene July 25 to set a new trial date for Hearn.