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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended August 20, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 31Aug00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Trial Begins For Two Accused of Murdering LDS Girl & Others in Pizza Hut

TUCSON, ARIZONA -- The Arizona Daily Star's justice reporter, Inger Sandal, will be covering the trial of two men charged in the January 17, 1999 murder of three Tucson residents who were murdered while working at an East Side Pizza Hut. The trial was moved more than 200 miles north after a judge determined that inflammatory media converge would deny the accused murderers of a fair trial in Pima County.

The murder was discovered at 11 p.m. on January 17, when Cary Michael, fiance of victim Melissa L. Moniz, found Moniz, 20 wounded on the floor. Walking through the unlocked door he saw the murdered bodies of Pizza Hut manager Robert Curry, 44, and kitchen worker James Bloxham, 17. Munoz was rushed to the hospital but died within a few hours.

Homicide detectives, Russ Charlton and Raul Olivas were briefed by Sgt. Tom Thompson. Detectives James Filippelli and Benjamin Jimenez collected evidence and interviewed potential witnesses. Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay is prosecuting the case.

The police received an important phone call from a man who said he had information about the case. Meeting at Fort Lowell Park the next afternoon, detectives brought him to the East Side police substation to record his statement. Information describing two people, Huerstel and Prasertphong, known as "Tom", led to their arrest.

Prasertphong and Huerstel were looking for a place to sleep and woke a friend around 3 a.m. requesting that they be taken to buy some cigarettes and a trip to a Jack-in-the-Box. While in the car Huerstel asked if he had ever killed anyone and the man thought he was joking. "And then he had told me that they had killed people at um.....Pizza Hut...him and Tom," the man told the police.

Huerstel admitted that they had eaten there and mentioned using Prasertphong's credit card. "And then he started to bring up how he knew a girl that worked there and they were gonna rob the place. And that's why, I guess, he killed the people that were there - 'cause the girl knew him. And he had said that he had shot the girl first and kept going...And Tom was trying to break the girl's neck 'cause she wasn't dead," he said.

Detectives arrested Prasertphong at 6:21 p.m. on January 18. Huerstel was arrested shortly after and both were placed in separate patrol cars. Huerstel was 17 at the time of the slayings. Prasertphong was born in Thailand and attended Catalin Magnet High School where Bloxham was a senior in the aeronautics program. Court records show that Prasertphong had a criminal record dating back to 1994. In 1997, he was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession, carrying a weapon and driving under the influence.

Police asked Huerstel if he felt any remorse. "I feel sorry for all of them. I ....feel like a piece of (expletive)" Huerstel replied. Detective Olivas replied, "Well, I agree with you." "We talked to Tom. Tom says he feels a little bit sorry for the girl but doesn't care about the guys.

The trial began with a selection of two juries. Advocates in the case delivered their opening statements to both sets of jurors. The trial is currently in its second week. Curry's son, who was about the age of Bloxham, spoke to an overflow crowd at his father's funeral.


Two on trial
(Tucson) AZ Daily Star 20Aug00 D2
Proceedings start this week in Prescott, 19 months after the triple murder: A look at the justice system


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