The Neighbors From Hell...
...And the system that coddles them.
By Vicki Hart
NOVEMBER 24, 1997: It's been a neighborhood under siege. And in the face of the savage onslaught, cops, prosecutors and courts--for which Tucsonans, in good faith, pay millions in taxes every year--seem utterly incapable of protecting the people who live here.
Who could be so heinous that the entire criminal justice system flounders and flaps like a headless chicken before them? Who has the power to shred dozens of ordinary, law-abiding citizens' lives into a tension-filled, anxiety-ridden hell smoldering over weeks, months and years?
Teenagers. Just a few teenagers.
The folks in this neighborhood are as varied as any other mid-town, middle-income population. They're working couples; young families with children; elderly folks, some of whom have lived here for 30 years. The smallish, '50s-style homes are mostly well-kept; the people are friendly. The kids go to neighborhood schools and play on soccer and baseball teams together. Until a few years ago, residents say, they would have described their neighborhood as "pleasant."
Then some of the kids became teens, and all hell broke loose.
Neighbors say the trouble is centered in two houses in the middle of the block on Eli Street, between Broadway Boulevard and 22nd Street. The house at 1002 E. Eli is home to Teresa Embry and her five sons, the oldest being Robert, now 17. Neighbors say Teresa Embry works, apparently leaving the kids unsupervised day and night. The Embry home is the neighborhood hangout, with kids pouring in and out at all hours.
The other house, at 1102 E. Eli, is owned by Gregory Lindsey, who lives there with his girlfriend Lisa Marine, their 4-year-old daughter and Marine's two sons from a former marriage--a 12-year-old, and 17-year-old Michael Marine. Neighbors say Lindsey and Lisa Marine bring their domestic squabbles out onto the street, at one time battling each other with a shovel and a bicycle for all the neighborhood to witness.
Besides an October 1994 charge of a domestic violence-assault and criminal damage, Lindsey is currently on probation after pleading a charge of attempted grand theft auto down to criminal damage. The incident involved a van belonging to Pantano Christian Church.
Neighbors describe both families as "totally dysfunctional," and complain both homes generally appear to be a blight on the neighborhood.
For the longest time, neighbors complain, the Embry house has been a broken-window shambles, with beer cans, plastic chairs, blankets and an old car littering the yard. For several months this year, two large recreational vehicles--complete with sewer lines plugged into the front yard clean-out and electrical wires snaking into the house--were parked in the Embrys' front yard.
But the real problem is the teenagers.
Michael Marine and his good buddies Robert Embry and 18-year-old Michael Schwartz (who, until just recently, lived with parents Gail and Rod Schwartz at 6819 E. 39th St. and just hung out on Eli) have made life miserable for the neighborhood.
Neighbors complain these teens threaten people, shoot guns--shotguns, BB guns and air rifles--burglarize and destroy property, carouse the neighborhood late at night and stage loud drug and beer parties in the Embry front yard until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.
Nearby residents have kept a list of things they've found in their own yards they say have been thrown, launched or shot from the Lindsey and Embry homes. It includes:
Neighbors report pellets and BBs zinging by their heads in their own backyards, and they say they've found birds and other animals with BB injuries.
Occasionally, the neighbors say, they've seen kids on the roofs and in the yards of these two houses, shooting air rifles, sling-shots, and--mercifully only once--a homemade bazooka ignited with lighter fluid.
They also complain of graffiti, including white-supremacist Aryan Nation symbols, spray-painted around the neighborhood. They say anti-Semitic literature has appeared in their yards, mailboxes, and on their doors.
Neighbors say they've been "mooned" by kids on a trampoline at the Embry house, and they've observed teen girls joining the boys in the sheds in the Embrys' backyard.
Children in the neighborhood say the teens have tried to lure them to the Embrys' yard and made sexual comments to them. Watchful parents no longer allow their kids to go to these homes, or to associate with the Embrys, the Marines or Michael Schwartz. Some refuse to let their kids even walk down Eli Street.
Since it appears these young men don't go to school, neighbors fear leaving their homes unattended when they go to work. Some have spent a great deal of money installing security systems.
Though he can't prove it was these kids in all cases, one neighbor claims that in the last few years:
His 1992 Mustang convertible was vandalized, spray-painted with Aryan Nation symbols, causing $3,000 in damage;
The tires were slashed on another car;
His son's mountain bike was stolen and recovered from a friend of Michael Marine's, Justin Grant;
A handgun was stolen and remains unrecovered;
He was verbally assaulted and his life threatened by Michael Marine and Michael Schwartz in his own driveway;
He was harassed by Lisa Marine, who filed a restraining order against him, which the judge threw out while admonishing Marine that perjury would not be tolerated;
And in June, his home was burglarized while he was on vacation. He has reason to suspect Michael Marine and Michael Schwartz were involved because Gregory Lindsey (Lisa Marine's boyfriend) allegedly told him he found items from the burglary in Michael Marine's possession. Saying that he wanted "this stuff to stop," Lindsey returned some of the stolen items, the victim says. But he didn't return the rifle, shotgun and shotgun shells that were also taken. According to the victim, Lindsey said Michael Schwartz had the guns and ammunition.
The victim says he immediately called the Tucson Police Department, the Pima County Attorney's Office and the county Juvenile Probation Department and gave them this information.
He says he followed up with a letter to Deputy County Attorney Grace Atwell.
And herein lies the frustration the entire neighborhood has been experiencing:
The police, the probation department and the County Attorney's Office never called him back. In fact, they never responded to him at all.
The reporter then attempted to speak with Deputy County Attorney Grace Atwell, who handles juvenile cases. When contacted on July 27, Atwell admitted, "The ball may have been dropped on these kids, because I was gone most of July on a family emergency." She promised to review the boys' case files and get back to the reporter that afternoon. But Atwell never called back nor returned numerous other calls.
The neighbors say they have to "beg" police to respond. One neighbor joked, "I did see a police car cruise down our street one day. I figured the poor cop was probably lost."
They say two cops who responded to their 911 calls, Stan Archer and Ceferino Garcia, appeared disinterested and acted as if the neighbors were the ones causing the trouble.
When a car was vandalized with spray-painted racist symbols, one officer asked if the victim was dating any blacks or Mexicans. Following a June burglary, Officer Garcia refused to take fingerprints, the victim says. He also alleges Officer Archer refused to intervene or make an arrest when called to a July 9 incident allegedly involving threats from Michael Marine and Michael Schwartz. The neighbor recalls the cop saying the boys and Lisa Marine had alleged the neighbor himself had been the one making threats. The officer also reportedly advised the neighbor that it wouldn't do any good to request a restraining order.
On August 5, another neighbor called 911 after Robert Embry and several others allegedly drove up and down the street yelling and "flipping him off." This neighbor alleges the kids threw water balloons at him from the Marine house. About a dozen kids then gathered at the end of the street. Fearful of what was going to happen, the neighbor called 911.
When officers arrived, the kids denied doing anything. Officer David Mosert took the opportunity to lecture the neighbor about calling the police, telling him that his call to 911 was taking away from someone else, that police were understaffed, and that when he came on duty he already had a list of calls a mile long.
Says one frustrated neighbor: "They've stood right here on my front porch time and time again and just shrug their shoulders when I ask what to do."
In the June burglary of guns and ammunition in which the victim was able to tell police where to look for the weapons, the potentially deadly loot has not been recovered. The victim says that after Lindsey told him where the guns could be found, he called in the information to Tucson Police Detective B.C. Moore and spoke to him on July 9, 10 and 11. The victim adds that he never heard another thing.
On August 4, a reporter called Detective Moore to ask about the case. Moore said he was unable to find the file, but added, "The case isn't being worked." He said this case and other home burglaries are not a "high priority," adding TPD has only six burglary detectives, and they're overworked. Moore also said he didn't set the priorities, that his supervisors did.
Asked if it wasn't important to the burglary division to retrieve guns from people whom the neighbors claim have ties to the Aryan Nation, his response was, "Do you have confirmation of that?" The reporter replied this was the information she had from neighbors. Moore's response was, "Can I quote you on that to these kids?"
Neighborhood Watch leaders confirm the area has been having problems with these teens for some time, and they add they're concerned about the frustration level in the neighborhood and the fact that some of the neighbors have armed themselves in the face of apparent official indifference.
The TPD crime-prevention specialist assigned to the neighborhood, Officer Chris Scholl, says he doesn't remember complaints from neighbors in the area, but allowed that he oversees 380 Neighborhood Watches. He confirms manpower shortages, and says the police spend their shifts running from call to call. He says the neighborhood may be expecting too much from the cops, and suggests the residents talk to the City Council to get more money for more police. He also says they must become more pro-active and get restraining orders against offending teens and pursue their parents in civil court.
But at least two households in the neighborhood have given up asking the system for help. They say they have permits to carry concealed weapons and will protect themselves and their property from now on. Two families have moved from the area as a result of the harassment, and a third is planning to put their house up for sale in the near future.
"This was my grandmother's house," says the head of the soon-to-be-moving household. "She lived here for 30 years before me. But I can't raise my child here in this unsafe environment."
Another neighbor vows he'll not let the "little bastards" chase him away, and says he'd use "force" if necessary to protect his family and property.
Neighbors also say they think the death of an elderly woman in the neighborhood was hastened by the harassment she received from these teens.
No one can predict an end to the torment.
Folks are bitter. Says one neighbor, "If they aren't going to do anything about the kids, if probation is really a joke and no one's going to get busted for violating it, and if they aren't going to investigate burglaries in this town, they ought to be honest and let us know."
One official in the juvenile justice system, who does not wish to be identified, says, "It's a shame the system has failed this neighborhood. If these kids were Hispanics from the southside, with an 85713 zip code, you can be certain they'd have been off the streets a long, long time ago."
Because he recently turned 18, Michael Schwartz is facing prosecution in adult court on criminal charges; although, oddly, the court is not listing what those charges are. His phone has been disconnected and neighbors say he's moved out of state; police apparently never contacted him before he left. City Court officials say they have nothing in the computer on him. The system seems to have "lost" him somewhere.
On October 23, Michael Marine was sentenced for possession of stolen property and violating probation. Even after his track record of non-compliance with the system, Marine was sentenced to one year of probation, with the possibility of release by March 23. He was to do 40 hours of community service, attend a schooling program, get a job and attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings once a week. The neighbors are incredulous and wonder aloud whose side the system is on.
As for the Tucson Police Department, the victim whose guns were stolen complained to Lt. Robert Shoun, head of the economic crime unit, about Det. Moore's failure to follow up on his case. On October 17, the victim received a call from Moore. The victim says Moore told him he was missing his notepad from June, on which he had taken the details of the burglary, so he no longer has any information on the case.
The victim says Moore told him it's no longer possible to investigate the case, the guns are unrecoverable, and that Michael Schwartz's number was disconnected and he'd left town, so police could no longer contact him. The victim asked Moore whether, if the police had done their investigation three months earlier, Moore didn't think he could have recovered the weapons.
He says Moore agreed it would have been more likely, adding, "I'm human, I make mistakes."
Neighbors say they don't know if Lisa Marine and Teresa Embry are blind to their sons' behavior, don't care, or simply have lost all control.
They note that the younger kids in the neighborhood are starting to mimic the older kids' behavior and hang out with them. Marine's younger son and one of Embry's younger sons have also been referred to Pima County Juvenile Court. Michael Schwartz's brother also has been referred.
And so the neighborhood tradition continues.
Juvenile Court Records Reveal Three Young Lives On The Road To Ruin--And A System That Does Nothing.
Michael Marine, 17
4/17/96. Same as above, plus truancy, 16 days out of 30, violation of probation.
8/29/96. Violation of probation--tested positive for marijuana, violated curfew, failed to see probation officer.
1/8/97. Theft of a bicycle.
2/21/97. Violation of probation.
3/10/97. Theft by control; petition to revoke probation.*
6/17/97. Possession of stolen property.
7/31/97-8/4/97 Theft and possession of stolen property; violation of probation; extension of 6-17-97 referral. Probation officer notes that statements made by juvenile lead him to believe his involvement is more serious than reflected in police report. Appears no (police) follow-up was done to see if defendant had committed the burglary, or if he had the guns.
* Michael Marine did not complete his community service, he failed to contact his probation officer, failed to attend school, failed to go to Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous, and tested positive for marijuana. Though he violated all conditions of probation, it was decided he did not meet criteria for commitment.
Michael Schwartz, 18
5/13/94. Domestic violence and assault--threatened brother and mother with shovel, and threatened to kill brother while sleeping.
11/21/94. Theft of firearm, burglary, trafficking, runaway.
8/10/95. Domestic violence, assault, criminal damage, curfew. Grabbed mother, pushed her back and forth and said, "I'll lay you out flat."
12/14/95. Burglary of CD. AM/FM receiver, VCR, pager and games.
12/16/95. Car theft, DUI, fleeing law enforcement, leaving scene of an accident.
4/30/96. Probation violation--tested positive for marijuana while on probation.
4/4/96, 4/19/96, 7/17/97. Two counts domestic violence.
Robert Embry, 16
5/20/94. Threatening, intimidation and disorderly conduct--minor antagonized three elderly people.
1/17/95. Criminal trespass.
4/8/95. Carrying a concealed weapon at Spring Fling.
7/20/95. Possession of tobacco; curfew violation, runaway.
2/21/96. Curfew violation--found driving around with co-defendants, whom court had ruled off-limits.
9/4/96. Possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.
10/10/96. Same as above.
3/10/97. Same as above
7/7/97. Possession of marijuana for sale (over 4 pounds), and use and possession of methamphetamine.
Tough New Juvenile Laws And A Bigger Detention Facility Are In The Works.
Gabriela Rico, public information officer at Pima County Juvenile Court, said recently there were 86 beds in the local juvenile detention hall, but there were 137 kids in custody. Twenty-five kids were sleeping in the facility's gym. Rico added there were 375 kids "out there" on warrants that authorities couldn't pick up because there was nowhere to put them. As of last month, there were 979 kids on regular probation and 265 on intensive probation. They were being overseen by 135 probation officers.
So far this year, more than 7,539 kids have been referred to Juvenile Court on more than 12,558 offenses.
The system can't keep up, Rico says.
She says the good news is that voters approved a $42 million bond issue in May. That will mean the Juvenile Court can begin constructing new facilities next month, with completion targeted for summer 1999. The number of beds available for juvenile detention will rise to 306. Says Rico, "It will be good to be able to pick these kids up when they have a gun, rather than having to wait until they pull the trigger."
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall says the juvenile justice initiative passed by voters in November 1996, which toughens Arizona's juvenile laws, will also make a big difference. She notes that the three kids discussed in the main story would be facing serious consequences had the new laws been in effect. She says juveniles facing a third felony offense will be prosecuted as an adults under the new law.
LaWall explains that under the new juvenile law, after an initial felony conviction in Juvenile Court, the judge would warn the young criminal that if he were convicted of a second felony, he'd be sentenced to intensive probation, mandatory detention, house arrest or electronic monitoring, or he could be sent to the Juvenile Department of Corrections. After his second felony conviction under the new law, the judge would have to sentence him to detention, Juvenile Department of Corrections, or home arrest/electronic monitoring. He'd also be warned that if he were arrested for a third felony offense, he'd be deemed a "chronic offender" and charges would be filed in adult court.
LaWall is distributing a new brochure, "Hey Kids, The Party's Over," alerting juveniles to the changes in the law.
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