Preston Lord’s stepmother delivers impassioned speech to Chandler City Council

Jan 15, 2024, 12:00 PM | Updated: Mar 12, 2024, 10:14 am

PHOENIX — The stepmother of Preston Lord, the 16-year-old Combs High School student who was beaten at a Halloween party and died two days later, delivered an emotional plea for action to the Chandler City Council on Thursday.

While the Lord case has gone unresolved now two-and-a-half months into the investigation, there have been several arrests this month from cases with similar origins where teenagers were mugged – seemingly unprovoked – by a larger group of people.

“We should not be afraid in our own communities,” Melissa Ciconte, Lord’s stepmother, said.

“Preston’s death has impacted not only the Chandler community but the entire East Valley.”

A group of East Valley teens and young adults tabbed the “Gilbert Goons” have been linked to several attacks and instances of bullying.

An attack outside of an In-N-Out Burger near Williams Field Road and Market Street in Gilbert led Rick Kuehner, the father of the victim, to make the decision to send his son overseas to live with his mother in order to avoid harassment from the group.

“These kids, these goons or whoever, they literally will tell you ‘if you say something, we’ll kill you,’” Kuehner told the Gaydos & Chad Show on Friday.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has arrested two men stemming from an attack on Nov. 18 in San Tan Valley. One of those men allegedly admitted to being a member of the Gilbert Goons.

Four others were arrested on Jan. 11 by the Gilbert Police Department for an attack that took place on Aug. 18.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested on Jan. 11 by the Mesa Police Department for an attack that took place on May 29.

The length of time from when the attacks occurred to the time of the arrests has drawn heavy scrutiny.

“Many residents, including myself, were concerned about safety and the presence of teen violence and bullying in our community,” Ciconte told the council.

Gilbert police announced they were investigating eight teen violence cases on Jan. 8 and asked for the public’s help in identifying suspects from five of them. The Gilbert Town Council also voted to create a three-member subcommittee to address the growing issue.

Queen Creek police announced they had submitted charges against seven suspects in the Lord case, but for Ciconte further prevention is on her mind.

“Our goal is to keep our children safe,” she said. “The devastating loss of Preston’s life was due to unnecessary violence. Our child will never be coming home and we need to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell has also expressed interest in the case saying the charges stemming from Lord’s death will take awhile to review.

She said prosecutors have to sift through an 1,800 page police report and 2,000 pieces of evidence, include more than 600 videos.

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Preston Lord’s stepmother delivers impassioned speech to Chandler City Council