Anonymous tip leads to arrest in 2004 murder of casino winner

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
A man named Michael Hawkins is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland A man named Michael Hawkins is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland
Nina White was shot to death in her driveway in August 2004. By Catherine Holland Nina White was shot to death in her driveway in August 2004. By Catherine Holland
A man is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland A man is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland
A man is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland A man is behind bars in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway. By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- A man is behind bars this morning in connection with a nearly six-year-old murder in which a woman was shot to death in her own driveway.

Michael Eugene Hawkins, 28, is being held at Fourth Avenue Jail on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery. Police arrested him Tuesday afternoon.

This goes back to Aug. 26, 2004, when Hawkins was 22.

At about 4:30 a.m. that day, the victim, Nina White, pulled into the driveway of her home in the area 40th Street and Greenway Road. Before she could get out of her car, she was shot four times with a high-caliber handgun, reportedly through the driver's side window.

Neighbors reported hearing the gunshots, and White's body was discovered about an hour later, still in the car.

A man was seen running from White's home. In addition to the gunshots, neighbors also reported hearing a vehicle peel away. That vehicle was described as a gray four-door sedan. Police believe an accomplice might have been waiting in that car for the shooter, now identified as Hawkins.

Police said White, 53, had been at a casino the night before and had won about $5,000 at the slots. That money was taken. 

In addition, jewelry she was wearing -- a watch, a necklace and some rings -- were stolen, as was her purse. Nothing was taken from her car or house.

Investigators reportedly found blood at the crime scene that was not White's. At the time, however, they did not have anybody to whom to tie that blood.

According to Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department, investigators recently received an anonymous tip implicating Hawkins in White's murder.

Thomas said DNA evidence connected Hawkins to the victim's vehicle and the blood found at the crime scene. Police believe Hawkins cut his leg when he kicked in the window of White's car.

"That blood is a biological fingerprint," Thompson said.

In addition, Hawkins was seen on surveillance video from the Scottsdale casino where White won her money.

Investigators believe Hawkins followed White home from the casino with the intent of robbing her of her winnings.

"For homicide detectives, it almost obsesses them, these cases," Thompson said. "The case is truly not solved until we're able to find the suspect and arrest him."