The hills have eyes - Tucson News Now

The hills have eyes

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By J.D. Wallace - bio | email

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – In the western Pinal County desert, Pat and Pennee Murphree live within sight of the Sawtooth Mountains.

"It's just so directly behind us, and it's up there," Pennee Murphree said about the nearby peaks.

The same water trough and night-vision camera that they use to capture wildlife got pictures of another, more disturbing activity after dark.

"There was five or six people getting a drink out of it or washing or whatever. And then, two weeks after that, we counted nine people," Pat Murphree said about the pictures from late Summer.

When they looked at a nearby peak through a telescope, they found that the small mountain was home to someone.

"I kind of think illegal is illegal," Pennee Murphree said about the people in the pictures.

"They say basically, the coast is clear, there's no border patrol, there's no sheriff's deputies around, come on through," said Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. 

Babeu said that scouts live on the mountain tops and communicate with coyotes and drug runners. Three have been arrested. He says that crime familiar to those on the border is moving farther into the state.

"We've had people that are killed in this exact area with night vision with some type of scoping device in the middle of the night," Babeu said.

"I'm frustrated that we don't have enough law enforcement. They're stretched to the limit, they try, but they're stretched to the limit," Pennee Murphree said.

That could change. A new four deputy unit, along with two SWAT teams on overtime, will target 23 places where the scouts stay.

"That would have no other purpose than take the eyes out. To basically blind the cartels by removing these spotters or guides from these hilltops," Babeu said.

"I never dreamed we would have a situation like this," Pennee Murphree said.

Pinal County is working on hiring the four deputies for the unit, and could have the overtime for the SWAT teams within a week or two.

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