Two people died Thursday, Oct. 8, following a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center located down Forest Road 525B between Sedona and Page Springs.

Verde Valley Fire District personnel were called to the scene at 5:19 p.m. Crews found several victims who had been involved in sweat lodge ceremony. Approximately 48 people participated in the ceremony that lasted over two hours, according to VVFD reports.

angel-valley-deaths-10-14Initially, four patients were flown to Flagstaff Medical Center and six more were taken to Verde Valley Medical Center, in Cottonwood. In total, 21 people were evacuated to area medical centers, the reports stated.

A middle aged man and woman who were taken to VVMC were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Their names have not yet been released pending notification of next of kin, the reports stated.

At least one victim remains in critical condition.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at 10:27 p.m. and began conducting a full investigation. Deputies were still on the scene Friday, Oct. 9.

YCSO Detectives from the Criminal Investigations Section will determine the exact causes of death and other injuries. Detectives are also obtaining a search warrant for other buildings on the site.

The victims had been inside a “sweatbox” structure on the north side of the property. The sweat lodge was dome shaped and covered in tarps and blankets. Hot rocks and water are used to create a steam inside the closed structure, according to YCSO.

Owners of the retreat center told VVFD personnel that the center was rented out and being used by an outside agent, according to reports.

The retreat center is located south of Hwy. 89A along Oak Creek, west of Sedona and east of Page Springs.

Christopher Fox Graham

Larson Newspapers


Children’s laughter in the home Juan Doe shared with his family who died in a car accident is one of his last memories Doe has before he left the home he cannot remember and local law enforcement found him in a ditch.

Where he came from, he doesn’t remember. What he does remember is he had to get out of the home left empty after his wife and daughters died in a car accident.

JuanDoe_011-10-02Today, he lives in Cottonwood in a studio apartment owned by the Verde Valley Guidance Clinic.

A Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputy found Doe near Tapco Road outside Clarkdale on July 23 with cuts on his arms and neck. All he remembered then was his name, Juan.

Doe also thinks he remembers the name of his deceased wife, Juana.

“I always thought that was unusual that Juan and Juana hook up,” Doe said.

He believes his daughters were named Trisha, 12, and Silvia, 10. He said he thinks all three of them died in a car accident, possibly in March.

Before his family died, Doe said he had heart surgery. A big scar down Doe’s chest indicates this memory is likely true. He said he felt depressed after the surgery and his family was helping him through it. Then, they died, which he believes drove him from his home.

Doe said he couldn’t handle being in his family’s home any longer and took off in his car, which he later abandoned and began to hitchhike. He later turned up in the Verde Valley.

Since then, Paulette Guinn, Doe’s case manager at VVGC, has been working with him, trying to trigger any memory that will clue them in to who Doe is and where he came from.

Doe’s short term memory hasn’t been affected. He said he remembers everything since he was found.

Doe cut his hair in August hoping it would help him remember something.

“I am guessing I keep it something like this,” Doe said. He combs it different ways hoping to tap a memory.

Guinn said during her weekly sessions with Doe they talk about his dreams, which they’ve been able to use to make possible connections to his past.

Doe recalls dreams about working on computers. He said he thinks he may have been an electrician.

Guinn and Doe also look for clues in Doe’s behavior and mannerisms.

When Doe watches television, he said he adjusts his viewing schedule to correspond with the central showing time, which leads him to believe he is from somewhere in the central time zone.

Doe’s speech also has a drawl, which Guinn said leads her to believe he could be from Texas. Originally, Doe thought he was from New Mexico but now believes that to be false.

Now, Guinn said, nearly three months after authorities found Doe, they are going to try two new approaches.

A woman in Portland, Ore., contacted the clinic. She said it’s her hobby to find people who have forgotten their identity and match them with missing persons listings. Guinn said they’re going to give it a try.

Doe also agreed to be hypnotized, Guinn said. A Cottonwood hypnotist agreed to give Doe three free sessions of regression therapy, which uses hypnosis, to help Doe remember.

Until Doe remembers who he is, VVGC is trying to help him out mentally and emotionally.

Guinn said Doe’s picking up odd jobs to keep a little money

in his pocket and she unsuccessfully tried to get him on AHCCCS.

Doe doesn’t have any documentation required by AHCCCS to obtain coverage. However, Guinn said a clause allows documentation requirements to be bypassed. After filling out 32 pages of paperwork, Guinn said AHCCCS still rejected him.

Guinn said she doesn’t know what they’ll do next.


Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin said Thursday, Oct. 1, he is seriously considering running for governor in the 2010 election.

“I’m running in 2010. There’s no question about that,” Martin said. He will run for either reelection at his current post or governor of Arizona.

Martin spoke at the Republican Men’s club meeting Oct. 1 and they wanted to know if he plans to try his luck for governor on

the ballot.

“I’m convinced there needs to be a change,” Martin said, but he’s less concerned with who does it than he is with something being done.

dean-martin-10-7He told the group he can’t make an official statement until Jan. 1. If he declares his candidacy prior to the election year he would be forced to resign from the treasurer position.

If Martin were governor now, he said he would handle the state’s economic situation differently than Gov. Janet Brewer.

First, he said he’d bring spending levels back to where they were before the housing bubble burst. He would call an immediate special session and readopt the state’s fiscal year 2005-06 budget.

His office is currently running on 75 percent of its FY 1991-92 budget, according to Martin. Other state departments should be able to cut back to FY 2005-06 levels.

“You just don’t spend more than you make,” Martin said.

Mandatory rainy day funds for every department would become a ballot measure if Martin where governor. State departments need to be encouraged to save their surplus rather than spend it but the money needs to be voter protected. A state statute wouldn’t protect savings from being raided.

Establishing separate funds for each department would make it possible to determine if a department can afford its current programs before adding new ones, Martin said.

Lastly, if Martin were governor, he said he’d lower commercial property tax to attract more businesses to Arizona. Businesses are moving to Utah and Texas and skipping right over Arizona.

Ultimately, the governor and Legislature need to clean up the mess, not the taxpayers.

“Why should you have to pay for their mistakes?” Martin asked.

However, all Martin can do is advise at this point.

“I’m like the dealer at the poker game,” Martin said, “but I don’t get to play the game.”

Sedona city vehicles and equipment went to the auction block to bring in approximately $55,000 and save the city maintenance and insurance costs.

The city conducted a review of its fleet in April directed by the city manager’s office, according to Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms. The review looked at the number of vehicles used and the efficiency of the city’s vehicle policies.

cityofsedonalogoThe city auctioned 13 vehicles reducing its overall fleet by 20 percent, according to Zelms.

“We were able to reduce our fleet by a significant amount,” Zelms said.

Vehicle use policies also changed.

Instead of assigning each vehicle to an individual, a group of city staff will use a single vehicle, Zelms said. Not every city staff member was assigned a car.

The Sedona Police Department saw the greatest reduction percentage in the city.

According to Zelms, the auction reduced the police department’s fleet by 10 percent.

The police depart-ment sold its older vehicles including the school resource officer cruisers, Cmdr. Ron Wheeler said.

Resource offices will continue to drive police cars to the schools during the day but they won’t be the cars decorated with school mascots, according to Wheeler. The school officers will take regular cruisers that can in turn be used in the evenings and on weekends for patrol.

The department also auctioned off its older vehicles or those with high millage, as did the rest of the city departments.

Loss of vehicles won’t, however, change the police department’s level of service, according to Wheeler.

“No vehicles were auctioned that would hinder our operation in any way,” Wheeler said.

Reducing the fleet will also bring down the city’s maintenance and insurance costs.

Zelms estimates insurance premiums could drop by around $4,000. Fewer cars will be replaced as well keeping the savings intact.

The city’s goals for its fleet, according to Zelms, include: reducing the number of vehicles in the City Hall parking lot during working hours and in turn increasing parking availability; auctioning vehicles in a timely manner to recoup or prevent additional maintenance costs; minimizing the number of vehicles used; reducing the number of vehicles approaching 5 to 8 years old; and reducing maintenance, insurance and replacement costs.

Sedona residents with an interest in land use planning and development are encouraged to apply to serve on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The commission plays a critical role in the city’s planning process as they serve as the council’s advisor on land use planning topics, according to a press release. The commission is also involved in important community issues and considers goals and policies for directing and managing future development. Duties include reviewing, evaluating and making recommendations to the council on Community Plan and Land Development Code amendments, rezonings and subdivision applications. Additionally, the commission makes the final decision on conditional use permits and development review applications.

cityofsedonalogoIt is desirable that Planning and Zoning commissioners have some experience or knowledge in land use or related fields, including but not limited to architecture, construction, landscaping, and planning. This voluntary commission is made up of seven citizens appointed to three-year terms by City Council. Currently there are three vacancies. Citizens can learn more about the Planning and Zoning Commission’s particular responsibilities by contacting the Community Development Department and referring to the Land Development Code.

If you are interested in serving on this important commission, applications are available from the City Clerk’s office at City hall located at 102 Roadrunner Drive, or by calling 282-3113. Return completed applications to City Clerk’s Office, Planning and Zoning Commission, 102 Roadrunner Drive, Sedona, AZ 86336.

The deadline to return completed applications is Friday, Oct. 23, by 5 p.m. For more information about the commission, call Audree Juhlin at 204-7107.


The city of Sedona wants to hear from all stakeholders before it drafts a resolution endorsing National Scenic Area legislation.

Letters went out to over 35 parties with vested interest in the community’s future a week and a half ago inviting them to the Sedona City Council’s special meeting Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had that discussion where we’ve all been at the table,” Councilwoman Nancy Scagnelli said.

NSA-meeting-preview-10-2Letters went to the Sedona Oak Creek School District, Coconino and Yavapai counties, the Sedona Fire District, Keep Sedona Beautiful, utility companies and any other group that could be potentially affected if the United States Congress adopts the designation.

Scagnelli said she believes it will be the first time there has been a “frank, in-depth” conversation about the issue.

Council will look at a draft resolution Wednesday night and decide whether it wants to adopt it, according to City Manager Tim Ernster. If council adopts a resolution, it will be forwarded to U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick [D-District 1], who recently announced her office will be drafting legislation in support of NSA.

Joe Katz, Kirkpatrick’s press secretary, said she is in the process of writing an initial draft of the bill that will be given to interested community members for review. She welcomes any additional support or feedback on the project that will help her develop the legislation.

The city adopted two resolutions in support of NSA in the past, Mayor Rob Adams said, but he hopes this one will be more comprehensive addressing specific city concerns.

“We need to look at all sides of the issue and make sure we have everything covered from the city standpoint,” Adams said.

For example, Adams said he wants to ensure the city would be able to use the property at the Wastewater Reclamation Plant west of the city and be able to build necessary infrastructure if needed for the benefit of the city, including an alternate route.

Scagnelli said the conversation is more important to her than whether council signs a resolution. She too wants to discuss infrastructure impacts with regard to the school district, counties and utility companies.

“There are a lot of stakeholders out there we need to consider,” Scagnelli said.

Keep Sedona Beautiful President Steve DeVol said he plans to speak at the meeting. KSB is a longtime supporter of NSA legislation.

According to DeVol, NSA would not affect the possibility of constructing an alternate route from West Sedona to the Village of Oak Creek or infringe on private property rights.

Any confusion about the bill can be easily cleared up by simply reading it, DeVol said.

“It’s incredibly brief. It’s incredibly comprehensive. It’s incredibly clear,” DeVol said. He hopes people attend the meeting and misconceptions are cleared up.

Adams said he will run a tight ship and asks for all members of the public to be respectful while council tries to bring this issue to a resolution.

“This is an issue that’s been ongoing since the city has been incorporated,” Adams said.

Three weeks after a flash flood poured through Tlaquepaque arts and crafts village the only sign of distress visible on the exterior is a little extra dust on the roads and walkways.

Visitors meander through the cobblestone maze enjoying the village as if the storm Sept. 10 hadn’t washed cars into statues and forced businesses to close.

Behind the stucco walls, however, recovery continues.

tlaq-recovery-10-2James Cecil and his wife, Candace Peterson Cecil, lost approximately $10,000 in sales and merchandise Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at their business, The Secret Garden Cafe, James Cecil said.

Since Sept. 14, Cecil said they’ve been forced to close their doors at 2:30 or 3 p.m. each day rather than 5 p.m. for repairs to be made to the building costing them an estimated $500 to $1,000 per day.

The work on the building is being done by Tlaquepaque, the owner, and not directly costing Cecil any money.

Loss of income, however, is coming right out of the business’s bank account. According to Cecil, their insurance company doesn’t cover natural disasters. However, if a loss was caused by a bursting pipe rather than a flood, they’d be covered.

Sedona Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Wesselhoff said the Small Business Administration will be setting up shop in the chamber’s offices to help business owners. Their staff will be in the chamber offices in the mornings and out in the community meeting with business owners in the afternoon.

Assistant City Manager Alison Zelms said last week the state was working on a request of individual assistance for economic impact for businesses through the Small Business Administration that

businesses would have to apply


If the money is a grant, Cecil said he’d be interested. If it’s a loan, he’s not.

While Cecil wasn’t able to recover in time for Fiesta del Tlaquepaque, the village as a whole was cleaned up and ready to go Sept. 12.

People were confused, Wesselhoff said, and thought Sedona had been devastated by the flood but chamber staff worked diligently to get the word out that the fiesta would go

on and Sedona was open for business.

The chamber sent out press releases to state media outlets and used social media, including its Web site, Twitter and Facebook.

Wesselhoff said the communications let visitors know business would be open Sept. 12 specifically mentioning fiesta even though chamber staff knew most businesses would probably be closed Sept. 11.

People called in the first few days inquiring about the situation, according to Wesselhoff, but concern about travel to Sedona has died down quickly.

“When things happen like this that are national news there are times that we feel a ripple effect,” Wesselhoff said meaning people are concerned long after the fact. That didn’t happen with the flood and she attributes it to the chamber’s proactive campaign to get the word out right away.

Water damaged the walls around Cecil’s cafe requiring remediation, or cleaning the wall cavities and resealing them. New drywall, paint and a new floor is also necessary, according to Cecil.

When the floor’s repaired, Cecil said the cafe will be forced to shut down completely, which will probably happen in November during the slow season.

Cecil estimated the building repairs to cost $75,000 to $100,000 when the work is completed.

A new animal shelter law that takes effect Wednesday, Sept. 30, has local shelters worried that owners won’t be able to afford to bail their pets out of jail.

The new bill signed by Gov. Jan Brewer on July 10 sets new stipulations for shelters when it comes to returning pets to owners.

HSUS-fees-9-30“I’m just scared of what is going to happen to them,” Cyndi Sessoms, CEO of the Verde Valley Humane Society, said. With the economy in the state it is, Sessoms worries people will be discouraged from picking up their animals if they’re brought to the shelter.

The new law requires shelters to charge a $50 fee on top of an impound fee, or the cost of spaying or neutering the animal and implanting it with a microchip unless the animal is already vaccinated for rabies, sterilized and registered. The new law applies to both dogs and cats.

In Sedona, Humane Society of Sedona Executive Director Brigitte Skielvig said most people could afford the impound fees prior to the new law which included a stipulation to spay or neuter the animal as soon as possible with a follow-up scheduled with an animal control office to ensure the pet owner complies.

Now, Skielvig fears the law could have an impact on the number of pets retrieved by owners because sterilization and vaccination services aren’t as readily available in rural Arizona. Before the law took effect, she said the majority of Sedona pet owners showed up for their pet.

“We do half a dozen RTOs [return to owner] in a week,” Skielvig said.

Rodrigo Silva, director of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, was active in pushing the bill through the Legislature, according to April Hollis, the agency’s public information officer.

According to Hollis, Maricopa County sees 57,000 dogs and cats at its two shelters each year.

“There are way too many homeless animals on the street,” Hollis said, and her agency wants to lower its pet population. The county’s shelter is the second largest municipal shelter in the country.

Hollis said, however, she couldn’t speak for Silva on what inspired him to push for this legislation. Silva did not return a phone call.

Both Sessoms and Skielvig agree that if pet owners comply with the law, which says dogs must be registered anywhere in the county, and if owners sterilize their pets, they won’t have to worry about ramifications of the law.

Sedona cat owners may have a problem, according to Skielvig. The city of Sedona doesn’t require cats to be licensed and there is no mechanism within the city to do so. However, the law says the owner has to be charged $50 or the cat has to be chipped if it ends up in the shelter before its owner can take it home.

Skielvig said the shelter will be forced to chip or charge because it has to comply with the law.

The Sedona shelter contacted Yavapai County to ask if it can become a licensing center for animals that live outside municipalities to help streamline the system, Skielvig said. The shelter wants to offer licensing at the time of adoption to avoid penalties in the future and make it convenient for pet owners.

Sessoms said Verde Valley Humane Society can license pets living in Clarkdale, Cottonwood or any of the unincorporated towns.

The law also requires shelters to hold animals for five days before they are put up for adoption.

Sessoms said her shelter already has a five-day policy.

Skielvig said the Sedona shelter previously complied with the city’s law which said animals had to be held for four days. Now, they will be held for five.


Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 124, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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