14th January, 2005 // USA
Triple-slaying suspect freed
By BRYON WELLS
A baffled Chandler man suspected in the slaying of three people was
released from jail Tuesday afternoon, after investigators failed to
present sufficient evidence.
Michael Craig Walton, 22, left Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail
in Phoenix about 1 p.m., going with family and friends to his home.
Standing in the driveway, he hugged his father, saying he is
overwhelmed by everything since Phoenix police arrested him in the Sept. 12
"They tell me it's capital punishment," Walton said. "I still don't
even know what's going on."
His mother, Cheri Stenerson, said she believes the truth will come
"They might have forensic evidence from the crime scene, but it's
not going to place my son there," she said. "I'm a firm believer in
justice — and I don't think she's blind at all."
Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Bill FitzGerald said
Phoenix police have not submitted a case with significant evidence, but
detectives are still processing evidence. Walton had been held without bail
since Sept. 13 on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder.
Ryan Theraldson, 24, Carlena Hahne, 27, and Philip Shanoff, 22, were
found shot to death Sept. 12 at 747 E. Bethany Home Road in Phoenix. A
dog also was wounded in the attacks police said were centered on
Court records indicate an unnamed witness told detectives that Walton
was the gunman.
Phoenix police spokesman Tony Morales said physical evidence found in
the desert, which he described as "critical," is still being processed.
Morales said the eyewitness testimony was strong enough to arrest
"Michael Walton was arrested on probable cause," Morales said. "We
still believe he committed these murders."
Walton's family has maintained his innocence. Stenerson said the
unnamed witness is a childhood friend of Walton's who once threatened the
family while Walton was in prison on an unrelated charge.
So far police have not released any other evidence linking Walton to
the crime. Stenerson said police took no DNA samples of her son or test
for gunshot residue.
"I know Michael did not do this," she said. "There's got to be a
reason for it all."
Morales refused to say anything about the witness.
"We have information that this witness provided to us that makes him
a credible witness," Morales said. "What he told us also goes along
with what our investigators saw at the scene."
Stenerson said Walton was with the unnamed witness at a casino from
about midnight to 2 a.m. Sept. 12, and that the witness was upset about
losing money. Walton came home, went to bed, and then ate cereal the
next morning, Stenerson said.
Walton was arrested as he checked in with his parole officer,
accompanied by his 14-year-old brother. Prison officials say Walton was to
finish his supervised release and begin probation Monday. Stenerson said
her son had started up two Internet-based businesses and was trying to
get his life back in order.
Walton expressed sympathy for the victims and condolences to their
Then he went back inside his home, saying he wanted to get cleaned up
after staying more than a week in jail.
"I cried too much in the last week," Walton said. "I'm going to get a
haircut. I'm going to carry on where I left off last week."
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