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Evidence from Chandler murder case leads to teen crime-spree arrests

Murder victim becomes 'hero in death'
Posted at 10:25 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-13 00:39:27-05

CHANDLER, AZ — Evidence discovered after a Chandler woman’s murder led to the arrest of two teens, which ended a two-month East Valley crime spree, according to police.

Amber Patton, 34, was an Army veteran who survived Iraq. She arrived home from work at a car wash just before 11 p.m. on September 19, 2020. According to police and court reports, two teens who had crashed a stolen car nearby followed Patton into her garage.

“We all believe that we're safe at home,” said Chandler Police Sgt. Jason McClimans. “What they did at that house was savage.”

A roommate found Patton dead the next morning.

In the hall, Patton’s backpack and fast-food dinner were dumped on the floor, according to police. Her body was on the bedroom floor, and she had been shot. Bullet casings were found in the laundry room and garage.

Marilyn Suchla, Patton’s mother, said an officer who came to her door “basically gave me a bullet when he said she's deceased.”

Patton, loved animals, Batman, and the Green Bay Packers, Suchla said. As a young woman, Patton served in the Army and was deployed to Iraq. Suchla said she struggled with PTSD after coming home.

According to police and court records, the teens who are accused of killing Patton are also accused in another murder, two other shootings, a kidnapping, carjackings, and robberies, dating back to July 2020. Police identify the teens as James Quintero,16, of Tempe, and Corbin McNeil, of Phoenix, who was just 15 years old when arrested.

“It was almost like a case of Grand Theft Auto,” said Sgt. McClimans, referencing the popular, violent video game.

The crime spree hit its climax on September 19.

According to police and court reports, the young gunmen started just after midnight, carjacking a man in an apartment complex parking garage at 4th Street and Indian School Road in Phoenix.

The stolen car resurfaced in Chandler near Riggs and Gilbert roads after 9 p.m. A passenger got out and stole beer from a Circle K, according to Chandler police. Gilbert police said the stolen car crashed near Riggs and Val Vista roads a few minutes later.

Investigators said Amber lived just a few blocks from the crash scene. She was attacked after she arrived home shortly before 11 p.m.

Amber’s car is found crashed near Florence, and the teens are accused of kidnapping and carjacking a man in Mesa at 5 p.m. the next day.

“It took a toll on our detectives and our patrol officers and our forensics,” said McClimans. “Especially when we found out the ages of the individuals involved, we were just shocked.”

Quintero and McNeil are accused of crimes dating back to July. However, it was Amber’s murder in September, and the associated crimes that day, that led a multijurisdictional police team to compare forensic and photographic evidence.

The teens were arrested a few days later.

“Them killing her ended the crime spree,” Suchla said. “If that's what it took to keep another family from going through what we're going through, then I know she didn't die in vain.”

Quintero and McNeil are now charged as adults in a 25-count felony indictment. If convicted on all counts, they could face life in prison. They would not be eligible for the death penalty because they were under 18 at the time of the crimes.

Quintero’s lawyer said he is still going through the evidence and mitigating factors in the case, so he declined to comment further. ABC15 also reached out to McNeil’s lawyer and family this week, and we are still waiting for comment.

Quintero and McNeil both pleaded not guilty. Their trial is set for summer 2021.