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Unexpected Discovery and Disclosure in the Stidham Murder

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BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL

Laurie Espinoza was the office manager for Arizona Specialty Eye Care, notable only because that was the shop of Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz and where Dr. David Brian Stidham worked until he could no longer take the chaos.

Brick Storts is the court-appointed lawyer for Schwartz, awaiting trial on charges that he ordered the Oct. 5 hit on Stidham. Ronald Bruce Bigger is the man accused of brutally stabbing Stidham.

Schwartz and Bigger say they are innocent and Storts wants to use Espinoza on offense and defense.

To keep out any talk of the 2002 drug bust that nailed Schwartz, Espinoza and Schwartz's then-squeeze, Lourdes Lopez, Storts says that Espinoza is unreliable.

"Ms. Espinoza has a significant motive to falsify statements and testimony concerning Dr. Schwartz," Storts said in a recent motion that is aimed at getting to Stidham's widow, Daphne. "She also embezzled money from Dr. Schwartz."

Espinoza has asserted that Schwartz, while in court-ordered rehab, phoned in partly to implore Stidham to hold down the fort. That is sharp contrast to other theories that Schwartz blamed Stidham for his federal drug bust.

"So if you believe Ms. Espinoza, Dr. Schwartz wanted Dr. Stidham, the person he suspected of reporting him to the DEA, to run his practice while he was in rehab and became angry when Stidham would not agree to do so. This is ridiculous and blatantly false."

That's not to say that Storts thinks Espinoza has no utility. In his oft-rejected attempt to question Daphne Stidham about whether Dr. Stidham was having an affair, Storts has latched onto a few things Espinoza told Sheriff's Det. Jill Murphy on Aug. 6.

The Stidhams once visited Espinoza at her home when Stidham was considering opening his own practice. Espinoza told them they would be better off if he relocated.

"She went on to tell him that if he stayed here and opened a practice, Dr. Schwartz would come after him and kill him," Murphy recounts in her synopsis. "According to Ms. Espinoza, Daphne became very upset upon hearing this and begged Dr. Stidham to move out of Tucson."

Espinoza told Murphy she had no facts or proof about a Stidham affair, but noted that Stidham planned on bringing a woman named Mary from Texas to work at his office. Espinoza said he paid for Mary's room at Westward Look, but that the job fell through and Mary stayed in Texas.

Daphne Stidham has been off limits to Storts. And she has hired Dan Cooper, a noted criminal lawyer, to keep it that way.

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