FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Two friends from New Hampshire who were fatally shot at a scenic lookout in northern Arizona loved nature and often visited the Grand Canyon state to hike and camp.
The bodies of James Johnson and Carol Raynsford were found in their red sedan last Friday in a tourist area well known for its views of red rocks.
Their deaths have baffled authorities and have led to speculation that the fatal shooting could have been committed by Drew Ryan Maras, who was killed in a shootout Sunday with police in Phoenix. Maricopa County sheriff’s Deputy William Coleman also was fatally shot in the gun battle, authorities said.
Similar guns — high-powered rifles — are believed to have been used in both cases, and the crime scene near Sedona and the one in Phoenix are connected by Interstate 17.
“Because of the type of weapon used in Sedona, he could be the guy,” Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, adding that investigators are awaiting ballistic results to determine whether Maras killed Coleman, Johnson and Raynsford.
Detectives in Yavapai County found numerous casings from a .223-caliber rifle on both sides of Johnson and Raynsford’s car. Some callers reported seeing the car parked at the turnout on Thursday. Authorities believe the two might have been in Flagstaff, Winslow, Sedona and Cottonwood before they were killed, based on gas and store receipts found in the car.
The biggest unanswered question, said Yavapai County sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn, was why. “There does not appear to be an indication of a robbery, any indication of provocation on the part of the victims,” he said. “It’s a mystery.”
Maras, 30, attended Arizona State University in 2004 but was not currently enrolled, said university spokeswoman Julie Newberg.
Before that, he served with the U.S. Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003, completing infantry training with a specialty as a rifleman before joining a reserve unit in Chicago, said Marine Maj. Shawn Haney.
Johnson and Raynsford, both 62, were looking for a house for Johnson and planned to head home at the end of the month, said Raynsford’s piano teacher and friend, Jayne Kelly. The pair belonged to a nonprofit group that adopts and preserves parts of a 48-mile hiking trail from Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.
“They both loved nature equally,” Kelly said. “They would go off to different places — often to Arizona — and just hike and camp in the most rustic style and love it.”
Friends of Raynsford remembered her as a talented jazz and folk singer who performed at local clubs in a band. Raynsford also studied acupuncture, practiced Shiatsu massage, and had friends and family in Arizona. She had been friends with Johnson, a former park ranger at Monadnock State Park, for several years.
“When I first heard the horrible news of her murder, I envisioned the violence of what she must have experienced,” friend Gordon Peery said. “But I also felt she was so comfortable with her spirituality, that she may well have radiated peace and forgiveness as she transitioned to the next realm.”
Jane Difley, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, called Johnson a tireless volunteer whose work benefited many.
“No doubt Forest Society volunteers and staff alike … will continue to be inspired by his hard work and dedication,” she said. “Not only will we all miss Jim, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Mount Monadnock will miss him as well.”
Coleman, 50, was a 20-year veteran. He is survived by a wife and two young children, ages 4 and 7, Arpaio said. He also has grown children in another state. He was assigned as a patrol deputy but had previously worked the sheriff’s lake patrol unit.
Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.