Tucson police have identified and are searching for a suspect in connection with the slayings of two people who were deliberately run over and killed early on New Year’s Day.
Michael D. Leday, 28, was named in an arrest warrant for the double-homicide. The announcement came during a news conference Thursday at police headquarters, 270 S. Stone Ave.
If caught, Leday faces two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Patrick Balbastro and Cindy Burnett, said Lt. James Graves, who oversees the homicide unit.
Additional charges are expected in regard to a third victim, Balbastro’s girlfriend, who also was run over by Leday. She remains hospitalized.
Police do not know the whereabouts of Leday, and Graves said Leday may be out of state or out of the country.
If anyone knows his whereabouts, they are asked to not approach him but rather to call 911 or 88-CRIME, said Graves.
Leday has also lived in San Diego and had several arrests there in 2007 to 2010, online records show. The records do not detail the charges.
He also was arrested in Tucson in 2013 on misdemeanors, including criminal damage, disorderly conduct and traffic offenses. Records indicate the charges were dismissed.
Balbastro, 32, was the good Samaritan who stopped to help Burnett, 46, who was being assaulted by a man — now identified as Leday by police — in a south-side neighborhood shortly before 4 a.m. Jan. 1, according to police. The assault occurred in the 2200 block of East Sunland Vista, near East 36th Street and South Campbell Avenue.
Balbastro, an electrician who supervised a crew at the Morenci Mine, died at a hospital after Leday turned on him, jumped in Balbastro’s car and deliberately ran over him, his 43-year-old girlfriend and Burnett, police said.
Burnett died at the scene. Balbastro’s girlfriend remains in critical condition at a hospital, and her family is asking the community for prayers.
The man police say was Leday crashed Balbastro’s car and fled. Police said earlier he may have been injured in the crash.
A taxi picked up Burnett and Leday from the downtown area, and it is believed Leday directed the cab driver to drop them off on Sunland Vista, said Graves.
Residents of the neighborhood reported seeing the man and woman now identified as Burnett and Leday walking down the street, and the two got into a confrontation. Balbastro was headed to his grandmother’s house with his girlfriend after celebrating New Year’s Eve when he saw the assault, called 911 and told a dispatcher he was going to help the woman.
Graves said Leday has relatives who live in the area where the incident took place. Detectives have talked to the relatives, who told investigators they have not seen Leday.
When Graves was asked if Burnett and Leday knew each other, he said, “By all accounts we believe they just ran into each other in the downtown area that evening.” Graves would not elaborate. Police have said that Burnett was seen at the Junxion Bar, 63 E. Congress St., around 2 a.m.
“I am very happy that police know who he is,” said Lorraine Solorzano, who is Balbastro’s sister, after hearing the news about Leday. “I am hoping that somebody knows something and will call TPD and report where he is at.”
“I just want him caught before he does something to someone else,” Solorzano said. “This monster ran over my brother multiple times. We are unable to have an open casket at his funeral,” said Solorzano through sobs. “He has caused so much tragedy to so many families.”
She said relatives and friends of her brother’s are struggling to come up with the funeral costs because his life insurance policy will not be paid out right away.
The Patrick Balbastro Memorial Fund was opened at Wells Fargo, and donations can be made at any branch in Arizona. The account number is 3381663297.
Meanwhile, Solorzano said funeral services are planned for Balbastro on Jan. 18 at 12:30 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave. Burial will follow at South Lawn Cemetery, 5401 S. Park Ave.
“We wanted his services there because Patrick did electrical work at the cathedral during the renovation,” she said.
A funeral service was held for Burnett on Thursday in
Whiteriver. Friends are holding a mixed-martial-arts fundraiser in Tucson on Saturday to help her family with expenses. The event is from noon to 3 p.m. at the old Wakefield Middle School, 101 W. 44th St. Organizers ask for a $20 donation.
Burnett earned her bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from the University of Arizona. She worked as a prosecutor for the Tohono O’odham Nation, did legal work for the White Mountain Apache Tribe and had two sons, according to an online obituary.
A former colleague said she was hired in 2010 to head a team of prosecutors to handle sexual- and domestic-violence cases.
Burnett was also dedicated to the sport of mixed martial arts and trained at several gyms in Tucson, often with her sons. After hearing the news about Leday, David Reilly, owner of Undisputed Fitness and Training Center, said: “It brings some relief that police know who it is, and I just hope they catch him.”