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Police say arrests made in murder of Arizona couple with Utah ties

Published February 8, 2012 1:55 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. • Police said Tuesday that they have arrested five people in the shocking deaths of an Arizona couple found tied up and burned beyond recognition in their stylish stucco home in a posh Phoenix suburb.

The murders of Lawrence and Glenna Shapiro, well-to-do philanthropists in their 70s, were the first in nearly eight years in Paradise Valley, which is set among picture-perfect mountains popular with hikers and is home to some of the area's nicest resorts and lushest golf courses.

Police have released few details about the crime, including what they think the motive might have been. But a murder weapon and stolen property have been recovered, and one of the suspects — Michael Lee Crane — is facing two murder charges, police Chief John Bennett told reporters Tuesday.

Four other suspects face theft or trafficking in stolen property charges.

Officers went to the couple's sprawling home the morning of Jan. 30 after Phoenix police found their car on fire behind a strip mall about 20 miles away.

When an officer arrived at the house, she saw smoke coming from inside. Firefighters put out fires that had been set in two bedrooms, including the master bedroom, where the Shapiros' bodies were discovered. The couple had to be positively identified using dental records.

Police did not say what the murder weapon was, how they tracked down the suspects who were arrested, and refused to answer reporters' questions after holding a brief news conference. A judge agreed to seal court records in the case that could provide further details, and members of the local news media are contesting the decision.

Bennett said detectives didn't have reason to believe that the Shapiros were specifically targeted. Also, police think that all the major suspects are now in custody.

Crane, 31, was arrested on two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery, and one count each of burglary and arson, police said. It was unclear where he was from.

The other suspects were identified as Kelly Steward, 29, of Glendale; Shawn Nicloy, 29, of Phoenix; Brittnay Beinhauer, 27, of Tempe; and Danielle Rossman, 26, of Phoenix.

Steward faces one charge each of theft and trafficking in stolen property, Nicloy faces one count each of trafficking in stolen property and hindering prosecution, Beinhauer faces two counts of theft, and Rossman faces one count each of possession of stolen property, trafficking in stolen property, and hindering prosecution.

Lawyers for the suspects could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

Tuesday's revelations came the same day as hundreds packed a historic theater in downtown Phoenix for a memorial service for the Shapiros, who started their own charitable organization in 2010 and have actively supported many local civic organizations and charities.

Their family issued a statement on a website they set up after the killings.

"We are eager to see the perpetrators brought to justice so that they can be prevented from doing further harm, and the community may have some peace of mind," they wrote. "However, our foremost concern at this moment is coming to grips with the loss of our parents, which is very difficult."

Lawrence Shapiro was a handsome doctor who had a gentle touch and fierce devotion to his wife. She was the picture of elegance and grace, a tall blonde Sunday school teacher who once reminded a child of Glinda the Good Witch from "The Wizard of Oz."

Their three grown children, including David and Steven Shapiro who have practiced law in Utah for nearly two decades, and other friends and family spent the afternoon reminiscing about the pair, who met on a blind date at a football game between rivals Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

Though he was Jewish and she was Mormon, they fell in love and made the difference in their faiths work, and as one friend joked, Glenna learned how to make matzoballs.

In all their years 51 years of marriage, their children said the two never had a harsh word for each other and were very much in love. In fact, Steven Shapiro said the only issue that ever came up was how slow his mother thought Lawrence was behind the wheel.

"It drove her nuts," he said.

Steven Shapiro choked up when he recalled how loved he felt, remembering how his father was so upset when he left for an 18-month Mormon mission in Spain, that one of his father's patients asked him why he was so visibly distraught.

"In much the same way today, I feel as if I'm going to be distraught for quite some time."

Glenna's brother said he has read stories over the last week describing the couple as wealthy and their neighborhood as upscale.

"Those words are correct to an extent but they don't define them," Rob Jones said. "Perhaps they planned well for the future and they were philanthropists but most of all they were family... Love was Glenna and Larry's center."