Crown King Arizona
What began as a missing-persons report Thursday afternoon ended as an apparent murder-suicide Friday morning that shocked residents in the southwest Valley.
Thomas Watson, 47, and Tara Shermerhorn, 31, both of Goodyear, were found dead inside a truck near the Horse Thief Basin Recreation Area, north of the Valley.
It appears that Watson shot Shermerhorn and then himself, said Cmdr. Ralph McLaughlin with the Goodyear Police Department.
The pair had broken up in December after dating about a year, acco
rding to authorities and friends.
Shermerhorn was well-known in the community, having worked for a foundation supporting area charities and as a volunteer for Luke Air Force Base.
Litchfield Park Councilman Peter Mahoney, who owns the Old Pueblo Cafe and Pub in Litchfield Park where Shermerhorn was a longtime regular, said her death "was like a punch in the stomach."
Her family had reported her missing Thursday afternoon.
Watson left a note that morning saying he was despondent, with instructions on how to dispose of his property, McLaughlin said.
The pair had e-mailed one another on Wednesday and agreed to meet, McLaughlin said.
Authorities looked for the pair near Crown King after tracking her cellphone to the area.
Deputies with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office found the bodies Friday shortly after 10 a.m. inside Watson's Ford F-150 pickup. They believe the pair died that morning.
Goodyear and Yavapai County authorities continue to investigate.
Those who knew the couple are struggling to cope.
"She didn't deserve what she got," said Peter Katsars, owner of Dino's Greek and Italian Bar and Grill in Goodyear, where Shermerhorn worked as a bartender.
Friends described her as "classy, sophisticated and beautiful."
Luke officials had met Shermerhorn at community events when she oversaw the House of Elliott foundation, the charitable arm of a local publishing group. A couple of years ago, they invited her to be part of an honorary squadron-commander program.
She embraced it with gusto, said Steve Yamamori, the former director of Fighter Country Partnership, which supports Luke.
"She was so excited to be part of the program," he said. "She lived life to the fullest. She was very active in the community, and it's a huge loss for us in the West Valley."
A friend, Sara Nicholas, described her as always smiling.
Dec. 10, 1979
Sydney Nova Scotia, Canada
Feb. 3, 2011
Yavapai County Arizona, USA