After 3-plus years drive-by murder case wraps up
Judge Silvia Arellano listened as defendant Deon Powell apologized to his family and the family of Michael Jencsok who he killed during a 2006 shooting before, being sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

It’s been more than three years since Michael Jencsok was gunned down while standing in his driveway.

Next week the last two of the four teens involved in the August 2006 drive-by shooting will be sentenced.

It’s a case that involved old-fashioned police work but which was almost derailed when the lead detective was arrested and convicted of two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.


Drive-by shooting

Police say that a car full of teens was cruising in the 5000 block of Paseo Way in August 2006 when they saw Jencsok, 47, and on the spur of the moment decided to rob him. But Jencsok was on the phone with an old friend in Colorado and the teens feared he was speaking with the police, so one of them, Deon Powell, now 20, shot Jencsok once in the back, where the bullet cut a major artery, officials said.

The first that his wife Deborah knew something was amiss was when Jencsok staggered into their home, bleeding from the gunshot wound. Her 9-1-1 call to police records show how she frantically tried to perform CPR as her husband slowly died in the couple’s kitchen.

With no motive and little evidence, the case might have remained unsolved, except for a .22 shell casing found at the scene.


Ballistic match

A month later, in Tempe, teens in a car were reported to be harassing motorists and waving guns. When Tempe police pulled the vehicle over, a .22 Smith and Wesson handgun, plus two other guns were found and passengers Powell, Andree Mckee, now 19, and driver Jessica Zambrano, now 21, were detained and later released.

But police kept the weapon and did a test fire and entered the ballistic information and the shell casing extraction marks into the data base.

It took several months for the test results to get entered into the data base and make the match, but with a solid lead police quickly began a search for Powell, the owner of the .22.

Once arrested he quickly implicated the others in the car that night — KcKee, Zambrano and Michael Morton, now 19.



Powell agreed to a plea agreement in 2008, just hours before jury selection was to begin.

In March, just before he was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years, he apologized to Jencsok’s wife and family.

“I know I made a bad choice. I take responsibility for everything I’ve done,” he said. “If I could, I’d take that back a million times before I’d do anything for myself.”

Zambrano also entered a plea agreement, admitting to manslaughter, in return for testifying against others. He was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.

Morton also agreed to a plea agreement in 2008, but that was sealed, awaiting his testifying against the last of the passengers, McKee.

Court records show Powell, Morton and Zambrano were all scheduled to testify against McKee in February, but that he entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder.

The sentencing of McKee and Morton are scheduled for Tuesday, March 23.


Almost derailed

The case was almost derailed in 2008 when the lead detective, Richard Mike Polk, was charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor when police said they discovered numerous child pornography videos at his home.

The 26-year veteran of the force was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in 2009.

Deputy County Attorney Zach Murphy managed the case, convincing defendants to testify against each other if needed, so that the prospects of a conviction resulted in plea agreements.

Court orders for Powell, Zambrano and Morton, who were already serving time behind bars, to testify had already been signed when McKee agreed to a plea bargain, admitting to second-degree murder which carries 10- 22-year sentence.

McKee is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Warren Granville and Morton before judge Paul McMurdie at the same time.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.