No trial for killer of Northwest man - Tucson Local Media: Pima Pinal

No trial for killer of Northwest man

County attorney says no evidence to contradict claim of self-defense

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Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009 12:00 am | Updated: 1:22 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

(This story contains graphic detail – Ed.)

 

Many questions were left unanswered on Sept. 21, 2009, the night Aaron Ham died of stab wounds in the side yard of a Picture Rocks house.

Those questions likely won't get answered anytime soon.

On Dec. 7, the Pima County Attorney's Office officially decided not to charge Scott Williams with Ham's death, despite his admitting to the stabbing.

"Mr. Williams asserted that Mr. Ham attacked him with a knife and he had to defend himself," wrote Rick Unklesbay, the county's chief trial lawyer, in letter to Pima County Sheriff's homicide detectives.

In interviews with detectives, Williams said he killed Ham in self-defense after the two argued. Williams' live-in girlfriend Jerri Jacobus and roommate Karyn Anderson corroborated his claim of self-defense.

Further, they all said Ham had threatened to "rape and kill" Anderson, Unklesbay wrote.

Friends of Ham, however, find claims that he was violent or threatening unbelievable and completely out of character.

"It sounds like something somebody who didn't know him made up," Celeste Reynolds said. She was a friend of Ham, 25, for many years and a former girlfriend. They also had a child together.

"Anyone who knows Aaron knows that would just not come out of his mouth," Reynolds said.

Ham's former boss Gaetano LaPinta was similarly incredulous with the claims of violence.

"If someone is a violent person, you're gonna see it come out," LaPinta said.

He said he never saw signs of aggression or anything that made him think Ham had problems.

But Reynolds said Ham did have a dark side, one that at times got him into trouble.

"Aaron was an alcoholic," Reynolds said. "That really handicapped him a lot."

She also said Ham had a tendency toward saying provocative things to get reactions out of people.

He also had issues with an ex-girlfriend that resulted in a domestic violence arrest, Reynolds said.

Despite his troubles, she maintains that Ham was not someone who was prone to violent behavior.

"Aaron was a lot of things, but he was a really good person," Reynolds said.

Police reports from the incident paint the picture of drunken partying gone awry the night Ham lost his life.

The reports say that Ham, Williams, Jacobus and Anderson had been drinking excessively at a mobile home on Hot Desert Trail in Picture Rocks when Ham was killed. Ham had a .29 blood alcohol level the night he died, according to Unklesbay's letter.

Ham met the women earlier that day at a nearby bar. The three of them later decided to drive to the mobile home where Williams and the women lived.

Friends of Ham said he went likely to continue drinking, but also because he wanted to sell them an exotic tortoise he had. His friends said Ham had a side business selling exotic reptiles.

At some point during the night, Ham and Williams went outside the mobile home to talk. Shortly afterward, Williams stabbed and killed Ham.

When Pima County Sheriff's deputies arrived at the home, they found Williams passed out on the ground near Ham. Ham lay shirtless and bloody with a knife sticking out of the base of his head. He also had numerous stabs and cut wounds on the front side of his upper body and face. A second knife was also found nearby.

The county attorney's office noted that nothing was discovered that would contradict the claims of self-defense.

"While the number and locations of wounds to Mr. Ham's body are troubling for self-defense, Arizona law allows a homeowner to use deadly force to protect himself and others at the home from the unlawful threat or use of force by another," Unklesbay wrote.

The burden to prove Williams did not act in self-defense, according to Unklesbay, could not have been met.

The county attorney did leave open the possibility to pursue charges against Williams if new evidence comes to light.

If that happens, friends of Ham say they're prepared to defend his name.

"I wanted to stand up somewhere where I could speak for him," LaPinta said.

Reynolds also wants the chance to speak up for Ham.

"No matter what he might have been saying, that doesn't give them the right to kill him," Reynolds said.

The Explorer could not find a number to contact Williams for comment. Reynolds said she thinks he may have moved out of town.

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