1 suspect dead, 2 arrested after drug plot goes south

Stephanie Conley and Jesse Gillen

Stephanie Conley and Jesse Gillen

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on August 7, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 7 at 11:30 AM

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Two people are facing charges in connection with an alleged plot to steal marijuana. That plan turned deadly for one suspect and left a Surprise man in critical condition. A fourth suspect is still on the loose.

It started with a 911 call at about 1:20 a.m. Monday. A neighbor reported hearing sounds of a fight followed by gunshots.

When police arrived on the scene in the neighborhood southwest of Bell and El Mirage roads, they found one man dead and a second badly wounded.

The dead man is believed to be a suspect in the case, but has yet to be identified.

Court paperwork identifies the wounded man as Martin Ridgeway.

According to Ridgeway, the dead man, along with two other men, presented him with fake medical marijuana cards in an attempt to buy pot from him. He said the suspect pulled a gun and shot at him when he refused to sell.

Ridgeway, claiming self defense, pulled a knife and got into a fight with the man. Both suffered several stab wounds.

Ridgeway was air-lifted to a local hospital and was in critical condition at last check.

The unidentified man was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other two men fled the home with the help of a woman waiting outside in a car. Officers were following that car when it crashed into a fence.

While police were able to arrest one of the men and the woman, the second man got away and remains on the loose. Police have not released any information about that man.

Police have identified the suspects they arrested as Jesse Gillen and Stephanie Conley. Both are now facing a variety of charges, including first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

According to court paperwork, Conley put up quite a fight when officers arrested her, so much so that she "had to be Tased multiple times."

She initially told them she had been kidnapped and forced to drive three men to Ridgeway's Surprise home.

Investigators said Conley changed her story as they continued to question her, but she still stated that she didn't know the specifics of the plan to rob Ridgeway. Police, however, noted in court paperwork that Conley was in possession of both a fraudulent medical marijuana card and an expired one. Those are believed to be the cards Ridgeway said he was shown.

Investigators say a witness identified Conley as the woman in the car parked outside Ridgeway's house. That witness said he heard Conley urging Gillen and the man who escaped to hurry because the police had been called.

Gillen also told police that he and Conley had been kidnapped and ordered to drive the suspects to Surprise. Gillen went on to tell officers the suspects forced him to go into Ridgeway's home with them and take part in the robbery.

When officers found an empty knife sheath on Gillen, he told them the suspects took it from him and used it to make him cooperate.

Bond for Conley and Gillen was set at $500,000 each. Status conferences for the pair have been set for Aug. 13. Preliminary hearings will take place on Aug. 16.

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