AZ double homicide case sent to new grand jury

Posted at 3:31 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 00:37:41-04

A double homicide case against a man accused of killing a Maricopa couple last year and burying their bodies in his backyard has been sent back to a Pinal County grand jury.

An attorney for suspect Jose Ignacio Valenzuela argued in court Tuesday that the case should be remanded because of misleading testimony in the initial grand jury proceedings in July.

The Casa Grande Dispatch reports a judge has set a May 9 status hearing to review any indictment brought by a new grand jury.

State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Valenzuela, 38. He's facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Michael Careccia, 44, and Tina Careccia, 42.

The airline pilot and his accountant wife were reported missing last June 22. Their bodies were discovered about 10 days later after authorities unearthed a 6-foot-deep grave on Valenzuela's property in Maricopa, about 35 miles south of Phoenix.

Authorities believe Valenzuela borrowed a backhoe from an unsuspecting acquaintance to hide the bodies.

Pinal County Sheriff's investigators also reported finding a .22-caliber revolver believed to be the murder weapon.

The county medical examiner's office said the couple each had a gunshot wound to the head.

Valenzuela told investigators he and the Careccias had been acquainted for two years and used methamphetamine together.

Authorities said Valenzuela told them he was high on the drug when he shot the couple.

James Mannato, a county public defender representing Valenzuela, filed a motion to remand, arguing that the county attorney's office presented no evidence to support motive or premeditation in the killings.

Mannato said a sheriff's detective gave misleading testimony during the grand jury proceedings, essentially speaking for Valenzuela when he was actually stating his personal opinion of what happened the night of the killings.

Mannato said he's hopeful a new grand jury will reach a different conclusion in the case and the defense will have the opportunity at a hearing to challenge the state's alleged aggravating factors that it believes justifies the death penalty.

"Having a case go back to a grand jury is not unusual," Tiffany Davila, a spokeswoman for the Pinal County attorney's office, said in an email Wednesday.

She declined comment on why the case is going back, saying it would be unethical for her to discuss the issue.