Genna Ayup case: a woman dies, and the gunman walks. Is this justice?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Marcelino Benito
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A man leaves a bar and goes home to his girlfriend. Neighbors report hearing loud, angry voices. Eventually a shot rings out. The girlfriend falls mortally wounded. If you think this scenario would end with someone going to jail, in this case, you'd be wrong. Why is that? It's a question the mother of Genna Ayup desperately wants answered.
"Police told me, and it's their words, 'she was murdered in a fit of rage'," said Genna's mother Toni Solheid.
It's been four months since 27-year-old Genna Ayup died from a gunshot to the face. There's never been any doubt about who did it. The man holding the gun was her boyfriend Ronald Corbin Jr. That night he told police it was an accident, that he was cleaning his Glock when it went off. Corbin pulled the trigger, but walked free.
"One bullet, she could have been standing anywhere in the house, and it ends up shooting her in the head and killing her," Solheid said. "I find it hard to believe that could be an accident."
According to the police report, several hours before the shooting, RJ showed up for happy hour at O'Malley's on 4th Avenue. After three to four 23-ounce beers, Dos Equis to be exact, he drove home, where Genna was waiting.
"I had always had feelings that he was reckless," Solheid said. "We knew he had a drinking problem, Genna told me that."
Solheid now feels that her maternal intuition about Corbin came true. Less than an hour after RJ returned home, Genna lay dying.
"I saw what was done to her," Solheid said. "It was her hands, her feet, her body, but it wasn't her face. She was gone."
The horror of that night captured in the shooter's voice on the 911 call. 9OYS also obtained never-before-seen crime scene photos.
When police arrived, they found Corbin covered in blood and a fist sized hole punched through the wall. The couple's toddler told police, 'Daddy made a hole in mommy's face. We have to get a new mommy.'
"She needs justice," Solheid said. "She's a 27-year-old mother whose life was cut short for no reason."
Genna would die alone at University Arizona Medical Center. It would be hours before her parents found out.
"That's the hardest part, knowing she was alone" Solheid said as she choked back tears. "Someone should have told us, we should have been there."
About two weeks after the shooting, Tucson Police arrested Corbin and charged him with manslaughter, but a few weeks later, the Pima County Attorney's office dropped all charges.
"If you don't put it before 12 people, you'll never know if they'll say not guilty," Solheid said.
9OYS wanted to know why. Reporter Marcelino Benito made numerous phone calls and sent several emails. The County Attorney's office said it would not answer any questions. They sent 9OYS a lengthy email that basically said there wasn't enough evidence.
County Attorney Barbara LaWall wrote, "It is ethically improper to consider filing a case based on public or media pressure to charge."
9OYS then went to TPD for answers. At first they said they would talk, but hours after the County Attorney's office said no to an interview, Tucson Police cancelled a pre-scheduled interview. A spokesman would say, "The investigation was thorough."
"There are a lot of unanswered questions," Solheid said.
Among them, questions about the sound of loud, angry voices neighbors heard coming from inside the house shortly before the shooting. And questions about bruising found on the victim's right cheek. Now the official silence has turned a mother's heartache into anger, frustration and a quest for justice.
"There are so many of us they just can't push under the rug," Solheid said. "They'd like to, but I just don't think they can."
A Justice for Genna Facebook page has almost 2,500 followers. The case has caught the attention of stars like Susan Sarandon who tweeted about Genna. It's a case that has baffled some and wounded others -- but no one more than Genna's mother.
"Every Tuesday it's another week," she said. "And I keep thinking: when am I going to feel better?"
Solheid tells 9OYS the only thing that will do that is justice.
9OYS reached out to the boyfriend Ronald Corbin Jr. He declined to be interviewed for this story.
Editor's note: Not satisfied with the answers provided by the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall, KGUN9 wrote LaWall a detailed follow-up letter. The letter challenged her implication that KGUN9's goal was to pressure her into prosecuting, and asked her to reconsider her decision to turn down an interview. LaWall replied in detail. She pointed out that the case can be re-filed if sufficient evidence surfaces in the future. But she said it's the practice of her office not to explain its legal reasoning to the public. She said an interview would not benefit the public and would serve only to sensationalize KGUN9's story. KGUN9 wrote her again, disagreeing with that assessment and asking her to reconsider. The full exchange of four emails can be found in the "Related Documents" section on the upper left side of this page.