Oct. 27, 2004 - The good Samaritan efforts of a 16-year-old Oro Valley boy led the police department to arrest a pair of suspected identity thieves.
Daniel Kidwell was riding his bike around his neighborhood in Rancho Vistoso July 10, as he had on many other days, when he noticed something out of the ordinary. One of his neighbors, Francis Zoltowski, was in his garage, but he wasn't alone. A man, later identified as Shawmaine Moore, was peeking around the corner of the garage - he was a man Kidwell didn't remember seeing around before. When he rode his bike past, Moore kneeled down, as if he were tying his shoe, and watched.
"When he saw me, he bent over and I knew that was kind of stupid," Daniel Kidwell remembers. "But I acted like I didn't see him."
Kidwell said he knew something didn't seem right.
At that point, some people might have kept going, others might have called 911, said Det. Herb Williams, an Oro Valley police officer, but Kidwell went a step further. He rode his bike to the corner, where a black Mitsubishi was sitting, and observed two women sitting in the car parked on the street near a stop sign, who also were unfamiliar. Keeping his cool, Kidwell rode around the car and wrote down the license plate number. He then went to look for a phone.
On his way down North Hammerstone Lane, he ran into Sandra and Cassandra Ashley, who also were out enjoying the summer day with a walk around their neighborhood. They, too, had noticed the car and the three suspects, and were suspicious, but continued walking. They did not have a cell phone, so after talking to Kidwell, the three returned to the Zoltowski residence, where Francis Zoltowski told them he had been robbed, Moore had left and the police had been called.
He told the three, and later police, that he and his wife, Constance Zoltowski, had been out shopping and returned to their home through the attached garage to unload the groceries. When Constance Zoltowski went inside the house, Francis Zoltowski was approached by the male suspect, who asked him for directions, but did not know the name of the street for which he was looking. When Francis turned to go inside, Moore reportedly pulled out a knife, placing it to Francis Zoltowski's throat and demanding his wallet, money, credit cards and pin numbers. He then forced Francis Zoltowski inside and made the same demands from his wife.
At one point he slashed his knife in the direction of Constance Zoltowski, gashing open the one gallon milk container she was holding in front of her. Francis Zoltowski was able to wrestle the man out of their home by grabbing a small fiberglass ladder and using it as a barrier between him and the intruder. He pushed Moore into the garage and he reportedly fled the scene. The couple later told police they believe they had been followed from the Walgreens on First Avenue and Tangerine Road, where they remember seeing two black women who seemed to be tailing them through the store.
Daniel Kidwell's father, Chuck Kidwell, who works for the town in the transit department, said his son was out later that usual that evening, and when it started to get dark, he began to worry. When Daniel Kidwell came running through the front door shouting something about the robbery, Chuck Kidwell said he become even more uneasy and followed Daniel Kidwell back out the door and around the corner to where the incident took place, where he finally got the details of what had happened.
Chuck Kidwell said the family moved to Oro Valley in May and didn't know many of the neighbors at the time of the incident.
He said he's proud of his son for "having the poise" it took to remember the vehicle, the license plate number and a description of the suspects.
"He's a very observant young man," he said. "That's one of the things that helped him identify all those factors."
Through the quick-thinking of Kidwell, police were able to use the license plate number from the car, which led them to find the suspects, Moore and Letrice Perez, one of the women from the car, who were eventually arrested on charges of theft of credit cards obtained by fraudulent means and robbery. Moore also was arrested on assault, burglary and kidnapping charges.
Williams, one of several officers who worked on the case, said police found the suspects were engaged in a spree of identity theft and robbery in and around Tucson for more than a year. The trio focused on elderly women, primarily, as their targeted victims.
"If it hadn't been for that information, we may have never figured this out," said Williams of the license plate number.
After obtaining a search warrant for the apartment of Perez, the police found other forms of identification and credit cards in other names at the residence, according to Williams, who said they also found Zoltowski's wallet. When they placed a call to one of the names on the ID's, one woman said her mother was in the hospital after having been mugged, and that her identification had been stolen. Through seizure of a computer at the suspect's residence, police found a number of online purchases made in the names of people whose identifying information had been stolen.
Kidwell was honored at the Oct. 29 town council meeting for his service to the community. He received the Model Citizen Award, which was presented by Mayor Paul Loomis and Police Chief Danny Sharp. He was given a plaque of recognition and the Oro Valley Police Department also gave him a gift certificate as a "Thank you."
Becky Mendez, the public information officer for the police department, said the department and the town wanted to honor Kidwell for what he had done.
"For a young man to be so keenly aware of unusual behavior taking place in his neighborhood, his concern for his neighbors and to take responsibility to report that information to the police department was very commendable," she said. "He has set a fine example of how important it is to be committed to the safety and well being of your community."
Oro Valley Council News
At the Oct. 29 meeting, the Oro Valley council:
€ Gave the green light to proceedings for the town to annex three acres of unincorporated territory located east of the current town limits near Rams Field Pass Road and the vacated Tucson-Florence Highway, known as the Big Horn Commerce Center, by a 6-0 vote, with Councilmember Terry Parish absent from the meeting. Projects manager Scott Nelson said he will bring the annexation back before the council once the town has the necessary petitions signed.
€ Resolved a disagreement between the town and property owners in the La Reserve area over a riparian area designation. The council, with a 6-0 vote, denied an amendment to the area.
Harris Environmental, used by the town to determine riparian areas, reported that more of the 11-acre area than originally had been determined had native desert vegetation growing on it and should be preserved.
The area had been determined as a xeroriparian area, which according to the town is defined as an area where an intermittent or ephemeral stream flows. Mesquite, blue palo verde, desert willow and catclaw acacia typically grow in these areas.
However, an ecologist hired by the property owners stated at the meeting that much of the vegetation in the expanded area was dead, and should not be counted in making the determination. An area that preserved much of the wash there was eventually outlined and accepted by the council. Town homes are proposed to be built on the property.
€ Approved conditional use permits that will allow a bank and a BrakeMax to be built within the Oracle Crossings shopping center, scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2005. Both uses, especially the brake shop, had been stated concerns of the neighbors living around the center, located south of Magee Road at Oracle.