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Media Watch

A cable channel looks at a local murder with the help of some local reporters




Every murder trial carries a degree of tragedy with it. Very few are as bizarre as the Dr. Brian Stidham trials that led to the convictions of fellow eye doctor Bradley Schwartz and the man he hired to carry out the murder, Ronald Bruce Bigger.

In addition to the unique nature of one doctor setting out to kill another, include the soap opera that surrounded former prosecutor Lourdes Lopez and a slew of other unusual occurrences, and it's no wonder the case got national attention.

A program airing on cable network Investigation Discovery is revisiting the case, and spent time with A.J. Flick and Lupita Murillo to assist with setting the scene.

"They wanted reaction from the community," said Flick, who reported on the trial for the Tucson Citizen. "They wanted to know who Dr. Stidham, Dr. Schwartz and Bruce Bigger were, and tell the story as it unfolded and the community's reaction to the murder at that time. I ended up spending about two hours with the host of the show, the producer, and the camera people, who had a room set up at the Lodge on the Desert."

The program also interviewed investigating officers and other key players in the convoluted cases. Murillo, the longtime reporter for KVOA TV 4, declined to speak with the Weekly about her experiences with the program at the request of station management.

Flick may have as much knowledge about the Stidham murder case as anyone, and appeared poised to parlay that into a writing opportunity in 2009.

"In between the Dr. Schwartz and Bruce Bigger trials, I was contacted by a publisher who said the magic words: 'How would you like to write a book,'" Flick said. "Of course we had to wait until after the Bigger trial, but once that was over I signed a contract and wrote a book."

That was the easy part. Then the bizarre nature of the murder trials drifted into Flick's writing endeavor.

"A week before going to the printer, (Dr. Stidham's wife) Daphne Stidham called and wanted to know what we said about her in the book," said Flick. "I told her she'd have to read the book. Her lawyers then called and they wanted to know specifically about the medications she was taking the night of the murder, and whether I said what it was, which I did. It's public record. The prosecution said she was taking sleeping pills, but it turns out they were very strong anti-anxiety drugs.

"They wanted us to take it out. I said, 'I can't, it's part of the story.' It's why she didn't answer the door, and why she was basically the first suspect. She wouldn't answer the door, but when she saw deputies in the house she asked how her husband was killed. 'Why do you know your husband was killed?' A lot of that wasn't reported at the time. My editors ... didn't think that was important. In my book I tell everything. I tell what happened in court, behind the scenes, and that's the whole point of the book. There are a lot of things in the book that didn't get reported either because they were minor or the editors just didn't want it. She threatened to sue. No court in the land would have let her win."

But according to Flick, the publisher, not experienced in the true crime genre, had lawyers go over the manuscript to search for anything else that could lead to lawsuits.

"Of course, (the lawyer) came up with a whole litany of things," said Flick, "and my answer to each one: It's public record. Much of it was even broadcast on Court TV. So he wanted me to take out everything involving Daphne and all these other things. I don't want to put my name on a sanitized version of this case. We ended our contract, and the book has been sitting on the shelf since then."

Fortunately, at the most recent Tucson Festival of Books, Flick made contact with a literary agent who specializes in true crime and has an interest in the project.

"I'm at the point where I'm getting a proposal together for her so she can show it to other publishers," Flick said. "In addition, where are they now and what happened after the trial. She's fairly certain she can get it published, and she isn't concerned about Daphne Stidham nixing the project."

The Investigation Discovery production is tentatively scheduled to air in September.

"This case has been on 20/20, 48 Hours, there was another Investigation Discovery segment. You can't beat the characters in this case," Flick said. "It goes to show there's interest in this case beyond Tucson."


UA Wildcat football and men's basketball games will be broadcast on KGME AM 910 in Phoenix. The Fox Sports affiliate and Clear Channel-owned station will also carry the Rich Rodriguez and Sean Miller coach shows.

The deal moves Wildcat broadcasts in the Phoenix area from a news/talk stick, KFNX AM 1100, to one of the four AM sports stations in the Valley.

"We have been focused on continuing to grow our presence in Maricopa County, and this is a significant agreement that once again shows the tremendous passion and pride that all UA fans have throughout our great state," said UA Athletic Director Greg Byrne in a press release announcing the move.

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