Death penalty sought for Hunt: Trial set for 2020

The trial for 22-year-old Sterling Randall Hunt, of Globe, has been set for Oct. 6, 2020, in the Division One Courtroom of Judge Bryan B. Chambers.

Hunt is the defendant in the Nov. 11, 2018 mass shooting in downtown Globe that ultimately left three people dead and one critically injured.

During the Dec. 17 status hearing in Globe, Chambers scheduled the next status hearing for 3:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 4.

Designated as a complex case, the initial trial date would be set for 24 months after the Gila County Attorney’s Office gave its notice of intent to seek the death penalty for Hunt, Chambers said.

Hunt would also be required to complete IQ tests as well as a competency exam, he said.

Added to Hunt’s defense team a week prior, attorney Michael Ziemba provided Chambers with the defendant’s objection to the IQ, competency and sanity prescreen evaluations.

Deputy County Attorney Bradley Soos, who is prosecuting the case, said that he had just received the documents, to which Ziemba replied that he had no objection to giving Soos 15 days to review them.

Chambers said he would hear Ziemba’s motion at the next status hearing, giving Soos the opportunity to respond in writing.

The judge also addressed a defense request to extend the time for filing a motion to remand the grand jury. Soos had no objection, so Chambers gave the defense team until Feb. 15 to do so.

As for trial setting, Soos asked Chambers to set the actual trial date rather than just an initial one.

Soos called 24 months “plenty of time, as long as we stick to the schedule.”

Ziemba replied that he had seen “very little discovery,” and was currently “flying by the seat of [his] pants.”

Originally, Chambers set Hunt’s trial for Nov. 17, 2020, but Soos pointed out that a trial lasting three or four weeks could run into the holidays.

Soos asked that the trial be started in early November instead.

Acknowledging that Ziemba and his co-counsel, Thomas Henager, had been appointed a week earlier, Chambers scheduled the trial to the earlier date.

Ziemba pointed out that it was “not even the full 24 months,” to which Chambers replied that the Oct. 6 date “gives us some hope of finishing before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.”

Chambers went on to say that death penalty cases tend to require more time.

Hunt was arraigned Nov. 26, 2018, six days after a grand jury handed down an indictment on three counts of first degree/premeditated murder and two counts of attempted first degree/premeditated murder.

Anna Ortiz was appointed Nov. 15 as Hunt’s defense attorney.

At Hunt’s Nov. 26 arraignment/preliminary hearing, Ortiz entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of the defendant.

During court proceedings that day, Chambers informed all parties that the court administrator was seeking death-qualified counsel to represent Hunt.

In conjunction with the County Attorney’s Office, the Globe Police Department obtained charges against Hunt the afternoon of Nov. 13, and a bench warrant was issued.

The extradition hearing for Hunt was held Nov. 15 in San Carlos. With extradition granted, Hunt was arrested and transported to Gila County Jail.

His initial appearance was held in Gila County Superior Court before Judge Gary V. Scales, in Globe. Hunt was held without bond.

The case was then assigned to Division One.

On Nov. 11, Cristi Licano, 44, and Daniel Albo, 22, were pronounced dead at the scene, while victims Ashley Sanchez and Charlene (Charli) Peak, both age 22, were airlifted to Valley trauma centers for their critical injuries.

Sanchez succumbed to her injuries on Nov. 15.

A fifth victim, 32-year-old Scott Mills, was shot at during the incident but was “able to run for cover and he was not hit by any of the gunman’s bullets,” according to Globe Police Chief Dale Walters.

During press conferences in November, Walters described the scenario in which Albo, Sanchez and Peak had gone to the back patio of Jammerz Bar for a smoke, while Hunt went to the front.

While the three were smoking, Hunt went to the back patio and opened fire. He then left the back patio, encountering Mills and Licano and shot at them, Walters said.

Hunt played pool with the victims earlier that night, he said.

Police confiscated the weapon, which Walters described as a Glock, “9 mm, semi-automatic handgun.”

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