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Slain cabbie was father-to-be

Timothy Royce was found shot to death not far from his cab in this midtown alley.

Timothy Royce was found shot to death not far from his cab in this midtown alley.

Timothy Royce’s 27th year was supposed to be full of new beginnings, his mother said, not an end.

Royce, who had been driving for Yellow Cab to pay his way through college, was found shot to death not far from his cab in a midtown alley Wednesday, police said.

Tucson police say it was an apparent robbery attempt, just north of East Helen Street and west of North Sixth Avenue. Police have made no arrests and have no suspects.

Royce had just graduated from Pima Community College with an associate’s degree in business, his mother, Dianna Barsotti, said in a phone interview Friday from his hometown of Woodland, Calif.

Her enthusiastic son, an Army veteran, had started to send out résumés for a full-time job in accounting or finance.

Royce and his girlfriend also were expecting a baby and planned to get married, Barsotti said.

“He was happy. He was excited to be moving on to the next level of his life,” Barsotti said.

Royce moved to Tucson after his stint in the Army, his mother said, to be with his Army buddies.

“He had a really nice apartment, a real bachelor pad,” said Barsotti, who visited him once in his new digs. “We had fun fixing it up.”

Earlier additions to the heavy-metal music fan’s apartment included holiday lights spelling out the name of the band “Slayer” when it came to town, his mother said.

Royce was close to his sister, Alicia, 28, who also enlisted in the Army and had been deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005. The love was mutual, his mother said.

“He was a great boy,” she said, “just shining. He was fabulous. His fares would ask for him by name.”

Barsotti was making her second visit to Tucson on Friday, this time not to fix up her son’s apartment but to help make his funeral arrangements.

Former Yellow Cab driver John Gosner, 38, said the midtown area is rife with trouble.

“Ironically, I had less problems and felt more secure working Valencia and Mission than I did at Grant and Alvernon,” he said.

Gosner was never robbed, but he was run off the road and cornered by another midtown motorist around 3 a.m. one day.

He drove cabs because it was good money between full-time jobs, he said, but gave it up when he thought of his two young children and five older ones.

“The older ones were hassling me to stop doing it, to find a different part-time job,” he said. “They said, ‘Dad, we don’t want you dead.’ ”

In addition to Royce, two more Tucson cab drivers have been killed in the past six years, one after picking up a fare and the other during a heroic act.

Troy Prather, 41, was found shot to death inside a burning Yellow Cab at Estevan Park, near West Speedway Boulevard and North Main Avenue, on Nov. 21, 2002, according to Tucson Citizen archives.

Prather had picked up a customer at a gas station at North First Avenue and East Grant Road just before 10 p.m. and was found dead about 10 minutes later, the archives said.

Ricardo Joaquin Purdie-Pagan was convicted of second-degree murder in 2004 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was 17 at the time of his crime.

On Aug. 10, 2005, cab driver Dawud Abusida, 56, got out of his cab to assist a Pima County sheriff’s deputy who was struggling with a man suffering from schizophrenia.

The struggle took place on a median on West Ajo Way and all three men were killed when they tumbled into the street and were struck by a truck.

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