Family of murdered Maricopa couple speaks out

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(Source: 3TV) (Source: 3TV)

The past two weeks have felt like an eternity for the family and friends of Mike and Tina Careccia. Pinal County sheriff’s deputies believe two bodies recovered in a backyard grave at a home in the town of Maricopa are those of the missing couple.

Michael Perry is Tina’s older brother. He said it’s been an emotional roller coaster not knowing what happened to the couple. While this is the last outcome anyone wanted, he believes the arrest of Jose Valenzuela and the recovery of the couple's bodies will be the start of the healing process.

"Not knowing was tearing our family up," he said. "One person would take the approach they may not come back. Somebody else would take the approach, you know, why aren’t we more positive? And it was very difficult on our family. So at this point now we can move forward with the grieving process and draw together to work to take care of Tina and Michael’s children.  I think this is the beginning of the grieving process."

The Careccias were high-school sweethearts. They went their separate ways, married others and had kids. But about a year ago they reunited and married in a beach wedding. They had five children between the two of them.

"We can never replace Tina, but we want to spend as much time … I feel that it's not just one big event or taking them somewhere specific, but just spending time with them and taking a real interest in their day-to-day life is going to be important for their future and hopefully their emotional balance," Perry said.

Mike Careccia’s side of the family, who live in Maricopa where Tina and Mike lived, had been at the forefront of the two-week long, exhaustive volunteer search effort to find the couple.

Thursday, after learning the news, they asked for privacy. A family friend released the following statement on their behalf.

"At this point the family would like to thank everyone for their help. We are in too much pain to even think of what is happening or what is said. Our main worry now is to take care of the children and, well to start processing in our minds what is the next step."

Perry said he found the strength to speak out because he wanted to thank the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, especially Lt. Tami Villar, who headed up the investigation.

"We couldn’t have asked for a better investigation from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department," he said. "That they could get all of this done in that short of a time is wonderful. That they were able to get this individual and I understand that he had a confession through the news conference so, that's quite an accomplishment in this short a period of time."

Tina and Mike had been building a home on a lot they purchased in Maricopa right next door to Mike’s sister and her husband, Lisa and Geoff Dugan.  According to Perry, he was under the impression that Valenzuela was the electrical contractor the couple hired to do work on their build.

"I spoke with Tina the Thursday before she disappeared. And we were going over some construction concerns she had that Jose was doing the electrical work," he explained. "So, the only thing I knew about Jose is he was Geoff Dugan’s guest at their Father’s Day gathering barbecue and that he was Tina’s electrician."

Valenzuela reportedly told investigators he supplied methamphetamine to Mike and Tina when he attended the barbecue on Father’s Day. He also said when he went back home, just a few blocks away, Mike and Tina showed up and wanted more of the drug. That’s when Valenzuela said a fight broke out, and he shot and killed them both.

PCSO warned that the toxicology report from the medical examiner will either confirm or refute Valenzuela’s story. Perry said he is skeptical of what Valenzuela told authorities. 

"I have never come across that in Tina or Michael and looking at them … I have been around other people and they didn't appear that they were involved in that type of thing," Perry said. "I am skeptical about that especially, Tina. She was very, very, dedicated to her children, and she seemed focused on that."

He remembers his younger sister, the baby of five kids, as a woman who had a unique sense of humor. He said he will miss her laugh and her smile. 

"They would knock you out," he said.

Perry said he is glad that Valenzuela reportedly confessed to the crime. If guilty, Perry said he will follow the teachings of the Bible and show mercy on Valenzuela.

"Not that I ever want him to walk on the street or harm someone again, but my personal opinion is that’s what we’re encouraged to have, is mercy on people," he said. "Not that justice is going to let somebody off for doing a terrible thing like this because he will pay, and I have full confidence in that."

As a surviving victim of a horrible crime, Perry said this event has changed his life forever.

"My life will never be the same, and I wish it could be," he said. "As much as I didn’t think so, I had a carefree outlook on the world around me. I really did. And with this happening, it just changes how your outlook is, and I’m really experiencing that."

On the flip side, the experience has also reaffirmed Perry’s belief in humankind. He said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support shown by the hundreds of volunteers who spent hours, even days, combing the desert for the pair in triple-digit temperatures.

"Our family, even in our darkest moments here right now with the outcome of this, has had some comfort in knowing there's still good people out there, even during this terrible time," Perry said. "So, we want to thank every single person who helped out, and our condolences go to Michael Careccia’s mother, sister and her family. It’s just been a terrible thing."

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