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10:53 AM Sun, Dec. 16th

Judge sets couple's trial date

PRESCOTT – A Chino Valley couple who allegedly offered drugs and a motorcycle to an undercover officer playing the role of a hit man will go on trial in December.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge William Kiger set Dec. 11 as the starting date for the trial of Joshua and Deidre Long, who allegedly tried to arrange the murder of Chino Valley Police Officer Mark Garcia.

Both face charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and solicitation of murder, as well as drug and weapons charges. They are in the Yavapai County Jail without bond because their arrests came while they were on release awaiting court dates on prior drug charges.

At Thursday's case management conference, Kiger agreed to sever the case of Amanda McMurren, Mrs. Long's daughter. McMurren was present at the Longs' Anthony Lane home in Chino Valley when officers from the Prescott Area Narcotics Task Force (PANT) served a search warrant on Aug. 9 and arrested all three. McMurren faces drug and child abuse charges but has no apparent involvement in the alleged plot against Garcia.

According to prosecution records, police began a month-long operation in early July when Mrs. Long allegedly told a PANT informant that she wanted to arrange the murder of Garcia, with whom she had had multiple contacts. PANT officers arranged for a Department of Public Safety officer to play the role of Scott Bauer, alleged hit man.

Bauer contacted Mrs. Long, who, in a taped conversation, allegedly offered four ounces of methamphetamine and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for Garcia's death, with one ounce of the drug as down payment. The officer and Mrs. Long met on at least two occasions, but she never provided the initial payment before officers chose to close the case with the Aug. 9 raid.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Long allegedly told officers he did not come to know about the plot until some time after its inception.

Mr. Long, 23, and his attorney, Dave Stoller, told the court Thursday they wanted to invoke their right to a speedy trial. But Mrs. Long, 39, and her attorney, Craig Williams of the Yavapai County Public Defender's Office, asked for additional time to prepare for a trial that should last six days and could involve the testimony of as many as 40 police officers. Court rules mandate that if one co-defendant waives pre-trial time, the other must as well.

Williams said he believes his client is innocent of the conspiracy charge, and that he can make a defensible case. A conviction could result in a term of life imprisonment.