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Police: Daughter molested by mom, former counselor

Jackee Coe and Senta Scarborough
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 18, 2008 02:26 PM

A former Mesa family counselor groomed his fiancée into drugging her 11-year-old daughter with sleeping pills so they could take photographs while they molested her over a three-month period in 2006, police said Friday.

William L. Riedel, 43, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of sexual conduct with a minor and child molestation. His former girlfriend, now 55, whose name is being withheld by The Arizona Republic to protect the victim's identity, was also booked Thursday on suspicion of sexual exploitation of a minor, and sexual and child abuse.

The girl is in the custody of the state Child Protective Services, Mesa police spokesman Detective Chris Arvayo said.


"Right now she is where she needs to be," Arvayo said, "but there is a long road ahead dealing with the fact that she was molested by her own mother."

Arvayo said Riedel worked as a former in-home family counselor for an agency in the Valley.

Anyone who knows where he worked should contact police at 480-644-2211.

"Our fear is he had contact with other children. It is our duty to let the public know and make sure there is no one else (victims)," Arvayo said.

Riedel told police he met the girl's mother at his Mesa apartment complex and "groomed" the mother to help him molest her daughter. Police believe the molestation by the couple occurred from January to March 2006.

Riedel purchased Ambien sleeping pills and had victim's mother tell her daughter to take them for her allergies, police records show. The mother told investigators that she was intoxicated when she took photographs while Riedel molested her daughter. She also told police she molested her daughter, but was "sorry."

Police began their investigation Wednesday after a 13-year-old classmate of the victim found images of the girl being molested by Riedel. Riedel was living with the woman, then his fiancée, and her daughter when the classmate found the photographs on a computer. He had been living there for about two months, court records show.

The mother confronted Riedel, told him to leave her house, and called police.

Police seized the computer and discovered "thousands" of child pornographic images, including photographs of Riedel and the victim's mother molesting her while the girl appeared to be unconscious or drugged.

One image on the computer's hard drive shows the victim's mother placing her breast into her daughter's mouth while the girl was drugged, police records show.

The images also include child pornography widely circulated on the Internet, Arvayo said.

October 5, 2007 - 3:08AM

Police call child abuse case one of worst ever

Katie McDevitt, Tribune

Sometimes the beatings came from a military belt. Other times it was a computer cord. When the little girl wasn’t hit, she was forced to hold her petite frame in a push-up position and read from a book placed below her face.
If she didn’t know the meaning of a word, the lashes continued.

Police arrested a Mesa couple Tuesday in connection with what investigators are calling one of the worst cases of child abuse they’ve ever seen.

Ezra Emanuel Hazell, 29, and Kristie Marie Hazell, 25, were taken into custody on suspicion of several counts of child abuse that targeted the man’s 5-year-old daughter from another relationship, records show.

“Everybody in my life hurts me,” the child told investigators at Mesa’s Center Against Family Violence.

More than 100 bruises and other injuries covered her body and she was taken to a hospital to be checked for internal injuries.

Child Protective Services took custody of the girl and her 4-year-old and infant half-sisters.

Court records show the girl was abused at her home in the 1700 block of South Lemon, near Inverness Avenue and Val Vista Drive, for more than a month.

“It’s horrific, based on all the visible injuries and mental abuse this child has been through,” said Mesa police spokeswoman Detective Diana Tapia.

The girl had been in the custody of her father, police said, since her biological mother had also been suspected of abusing her. The family moved to Arizona from Texas in March. Ezra Hazell claims to be in the U.S. Army on his MySpace page, but military records could not be immediately verified.

Police were notified of the abuse after the child told her teacher and a school nurse at Gilbert’s Pioneer Elementary School that her father and stepmother beat her with a belt nearly every day, records show.

When police interviewed the father, he told investigators that he and his wife strike the girl, but that they didn’t realize they had hurt her and felt badly.

He said they sometimes place her in a push-up position for 15 minutes instead of a spanking.

Also, he said the couple has to hit his daughter because she loses control about twice a week and doesn’t listen or follow instructions. Kristie Hazell would not comment to police.




August 13, 2007 - 10:23PM

Mesa police arrest mom on suspicion of child abuse

David Biscobing, Tribune

A mother accused of beating her 10-year-old son until he was bloody inside a Wal-Mart was arrested Sunday by Mesa police.

Witnesses saw Tina Lynn Tatum, 29, repeatedly strike her son in the head, stomach and back with a closed fist and drag him by his feet at the retail store located at 1955 S. Stapley Drive, police said.

Tatum is on lifetime probation for child abuse due to her involvement in the death of her 3-month-old baby in 2003. Tatum’s then-boyfriend, Pedro Peralta, 32, was sentenced to life in prison for shaking the baby to death. Peralta is serving a second life sentence for suffocating another girlfriend’s baby to death later the same year.

Tatum was booked on suspicion of child abuse. Her son is in the care of a family member.

Rest in Peace
Tyler and Ariana

Feb 2007
Tucson father now accused of killing two of his children

Disturbing new information Monday in the deaths of two children; the body of one believed to have been found in a storage locker.

Monday, a grand jury indicted their father, Christopher Payne, for both of their murders.

The indictment lays out the case against Christopher Payne.

Even though Tyler Payne's body hasn't been found... Payne is charged with his murder.

Also, there are new clues that the children may have died a slow, abusive death.

It's almost hard to believe the words printed on the page.

Up until the indictment, 5-year-old Tyler Payne, Ariana's older brother was thought to be missing.

The indictment reads otherwise. It says, "Christopher Mathew Payne murdered Tyler Payne."   

Police have always suspected foul play in Tyler's death. At one point, dozens of investigators searched the Los Reales Landfill.

They never said what they were looking for and in the end; the investigators didn't turn up anything.

Tyler's body is still missing. The indictment reads that Payne "... intentionally or knowingly moved a dead human body or parts of a human body with the intent to abandon or conceal."

The indictment also reveals new details about how Tyler and his 4-year-old sister, Ariana, may have died.

Ariana's body is believed to have been found in a storage locker last month. 

The indictment says, "Christopher Payne caused or permitted her bones to be broken."

Probably the most disturbing information... in reference to both children...  Payne's indictment says he "failed to seek prompt medical attention and/or allowed the children to starve to death."

Police do not think the children's mother was involved in the death of the two children.      

We went by her home, again Monday night to get her reaction to the indictment.   

Her boyfriend told News 4 she's meeting with the family's attorney on Tuesday.

He said they will be releasing a statement to the media, soon



Toy Box Killing

By Paul Rubin 

Published: August 10, 2006

Last week, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted former Phoenix resident Eric Natzel on two counts of felony child abuse in the brutal August 2005 death of his 2-year-old daughter Abbey.  

Eric Natzel was playing a video game when his baby died.

Subject(s): Eric Natzel

Police in Michigan arrested the 27-year-old Natzel and are holding him in lieu of $500,000 bond at the Lenawee County Jail in Adrian, a small city near the Ohio border.

A few days after the indictment, Phoenix homicide detective Jack Ballentine flew to Michigan to see if Natzel would speak with him. However, Natzel told Ballentine that his attorney in Arizona previously advised him not to discuss the case.

Ballentine also interviewed acquaintances of Natzel's in the town of Owasso (about half an hour from East Lansing, the home of Michigan State University), where Natzel had been living since shortly after his daughter died.

Early on the evening of August 27, 2005, Natzel told his wife, Amy Minor, in a phone call that he had found his daughter inside a cardboard toy box with a domed lid.

According to Amy's later account, Natzel had claimed before hanging up the phone that the baby was "choking."

But phone records later indicated that Natzel did not call 911 for assistance until more than 30 minutes after that. When paramedics got to the couple's apartment in north Phoenix, Abbey Minor was dead.

Natzel was unemployed at the time, and was staying at home with Abbey while his pregnant wife worked full-time at a Phoenix pharmacy. Natzel told police that he had been spending his days tending to Abbey inside their apartment as he played hour upon hour of video games.

Natzel insisted that he never physically abused Abbey, whom he told police was named after the Beatles' famous record Abbey Road.

But an examination of the baby's body at John C. Lincoln-Deer Valley Hospital shortly after she died revealed fresh abrasions on her forehead, small bruises above both eyes and a bundle of inexplicable bruises. The back of the baby's head also was badly swollen.

Detective Ballentine interviewed Eric Natzel and Amy Minor at the hospital separately on that night last August.

Amy defended her husband in that first, brief interview, but later turned against him and alleged that he had been physically abusing her for some time.

Ballentine asked Natzel that night to explain the many bruises on the baby's body.

"They weren't there this morning," Natzel told the detective, noting that he'd showered with his little daughter sometime before noon. "I don't even remember seeing them when I picked her up [out of the toy box]."

Natzel also conceded that Abbey had been in his sole care and custody from the time his wife had left for work in the early afternoon (a few hours after the shower) until he had allegedly "discovered" her in the toy box.

. Natzel left the hospital that night with his parents. His wife Amy left with her parents. At the time, she was just a few weeks away from giving birth to her second child.

Last February, a county medical examiner concluded that Abbey had suffocated inside the toy box but listed the manner of her death as "undetermined," not as a homicide or an accident.

Dr. John Hu wrote that he could find no evidence of internal injuries, bone fractures, or any sign of what's known as "shaken-baby syndrome."

The pathologist also noted that the bruises, however plentiful, did not kill the little girl.

Importantly, though, Dr. Hu concluded that many of the multiple injuries the child suffered — particularly the ugly and fresh cluster of bruises in the middle of her back — had been "intentionally afflicted" by another person.

That comported with Ballentine's theory that Eric Natzel had smashed Abbey with his fists, probably after crunching her into the domed toy box.

Many more months of continued investigation ensued, including consultation with medical experts in Arizona and elsewhere, before county prosecutors decided that they had enough evidence to convict Natzel of child abuse.

For myriad reasons, child abuse cases akin to this can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors often must rely on expert witnesses to try to convince jurors that the accused committed the crime.

Natzel faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted on the more serious of the two felony counts, which is classified as a dangerous crime against a child.

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