• The suspects are also teen-agers. One was captured only after authorities used dogs to track him to brush near his home.
DAVID L. TEIBEL Citizen Staff Writer
Two Willcox-area teens have been arrested in the slayings of two Willcox High School sweethearts, a possibly drug-related homicide that has rocked the small ranching and farming community east of Tucson.
Trent Stout, 19, was arrested last night and Scott Gorman, 17, was apprehended this morning in the Willcox area.
Each was named in arrest warrants charging them with two counts of first-degree murder, according to Carol Capas, a Cochise County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
Jennifer A. Teeters, 16, and Thomas Gerady Grout, 18 or 19, were found shot to death Sunday in the girl’s home about 1 1/2 miles north of Willcox.
A third victim – Owen Thomas Kendrick, 23, of Willcox – also was shot. He is recovering at a Tucson hospital and is expected to live.
Capas said charges in connection with the Kendrick shooting are pending a County Attorney’s Office review of the case.
The dead teens were among Willcox High School’s 450 students. Teeters would have been a sophomore this fall; Grout, a senior.
”It’s really hard to believe,” Willcox High School Principal Bob Nelson said of the killings. ”It always happens somewhere else, not in a small community.”
Willcox, about 70 miles east of Tucson, has a population of 3,500. Another 10,000 people live in surrounding areas.
Townsfolk ”are outraged, for one thing, and they’re fearful of these kinds of things happening in Willcox. It’s a pretty gruesome crime,” said Cmdr. Tom Rogers of the town’s Department of Public Safety.
There had been no homicides in the town so far this year, and only one previously in the surrounding county area, he said.
By comparison, there have been 46 homicides so far in the Tucson metro area.
Capas said interviews, including with Kendrick, led to the suspects being identified.
Capas said a team of law officers from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, state Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Border Patrol had gone to Gorman’s home on Hamilton Road five miles west of Willcox to arrest him.
But, she said, he escaped before officers could surround the home. When a sheriff’s Special Weapons and Tactics team burst into the home about 9 p.m., he was gone, Capas said.
She said a tracking dog team from the state Department of Corrections just before 7 a.m. today found Gorman hiding in brush near his home.
As law officers were raiding Gorman’s home last night, Capas said, other deputies arrested Stout, without incident, at his home in an apartment complex in town.
Both suspects were booked into a Cochise County lock-up in Willcox, but were to be transferred today to the main county jail in Bisbee.
The two victims were well known by townfolk, with the school principal calling them ”typical teen-agers.”
”She was a fireball,” Nelson said of Teeters, who would have been on the school’s volleyball team. ”She stood up for what she thought was right.”
Grout, meanwhile, ”loved to play basketball,” Nelson recalled.
”I believe he was working somewhere here in town. He lived with his grandma, a very honest young man,” Nelson said.
Cochise County sheriff’s deputies are saying little about the shootings, but possible motives for the slayings abound.
”There are as many as you’ve got fingers and toes,” Rogers said. ”There are rumors and speculation all over town about what, when, where, how and why.”
He refused to share such talk.
At the Arizona Range News, a weekly newspaper serving Cochise County, reporter Ainslee Wittig, said people are talking about the killings at lunch counters and adult league softball games.
Wittig said there are rumors the shootings had something to do with drugs.
Tucson police, who made a report when the survivor was flown to a Tucson hospital, said Cochise sheriff’s deputies said the shooting was gang- or drug-related.
The sheriff’s department has backed off that stance, with Capas yesterday saying detectives had not established a clear motive, but believe it was not a random act of violence.
Neither victim had been in trouble with the law.
No possible motive was released this morning.
Capas said drug paraphernalia was found in Teeters’ home, but she added detectives could not be sure whose it was or how it got there and whether drugs played a factor in the slayings.