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Motel has three homicides in a year

What the Minsk Motel, and TPD are doing about it
Posted at 7:27 PM, Jun 14, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — On Benson Highway, near an I-10 exit, the Minsk extended stay comes with low rates but an unwelcome distinction: the motel has been the scene of three homicides in the space of a year.

Tucson Police say on June 8th a motel employee found 54 year old Xavier Morales and 35 year old Sonia Zaragosa, dead. Police say there were signs of trauma.

On June 4th, 2022 people found 44 year old Jesse Van Hernandez, just outside a room at the Minsk. He’d been shot. Bystanders and police tried to save him, but couldn’t. One man is charged in the death.

The Minsk is in a zone of low rent motels. Mike Welch has operated his business Gopher Bearing nearby for about 18 years.

He says, “In the last two or three years it's just gone considerably downhill, you know? The homeless populations increased by ridiculous amounts—the amount of drug problems, I constantly have people in front of my office sleeping and you find tinfoil everywhere around the doors. It's just gotten bad.”

Tucson Police Lieutenant Deanne Zeis says, “We've deployed a lot of our resources, our more specific units to go and address some of those issues that we're seeing in these targeted hotspot areas.”

Lieutenant Zeis oversees TPD’s Operation Division South which includes the Minsk. She says it’s not just the Minsk, a lot of low rent hotels have serious crime problems.

The counterattack against crime hotspots includes what TPD calls a Place Network Investigation. It calls for cooperation across the area with police, neighborhood groups, tips from the public, and involving city departments beyond police, like code enforcement to make sure buildings meet requirements for proper security.

Lieutenant Zeis says, “So some of the things that we see is the lighting if there's not a sufficient amount of lighting in the area, or if things aren't zoned properly, then there's the possibility that perhaps there are people living in those places that aren't that pleased, isn't zoned for necessarily.”

At the Minsk a manager told us the motel is installing better lighting along with 72 security cameras with a fiber optic network to connect them. We were told better gates are going in, along with stronger ID requirements for guests, and a rule that guests may not bring in any visitors.