Unlike those who mindlessly drift through high school, Joe Seibold was a young man with a plan.
The tattoo he got when he turned 17 said it all:
“DREAM PLAN CONQUER.”
He was a junior at Desert Ridge High School, just north of Eastmark, then took classes online to get his GED and fast-track to college and bigger things.
His family says he was a hustler, always keeping busy with productive activities. Even though he already worked at the Apache Junction Safeway and was promoting his “vehicle detailing and headlight restoration” business on Instagram, he picked up another job knocking on doors to pitch residents about getting solar energy.
“He was working for a guy we bought solar with right after we moved here from Milwaukee,” said Jeff Seibold, Joe’s father.
“He was working on his schtick to get it down,” the father added, with a chuckle.
The night of Feb. 17, Joe sent his father a text with a map of the homes he “cold called” a few hours before.
Two minutes after he sent the text, the vibrant life of Joe Seibold was pouring out of his body.
Someone shot Joe twice in the back of his head.
Joe was sitting in the Jeep Cherokee
he recently bought near South Chestnut and East Third Drive, around the corner from South Gilbert and Broadway in central Mesa.
A friend that was with Joe at first gave investigators the run-around, say Joe’s parents.
The friend that the Seibolds wish Joe never met “lied to the cops for two weeks after Joe was killed,” said Marie Seibold, Joe’s mother.
At first, the friend told police he and Joe were driving to a skate park and got lost; when they pulled over to ask directions, they were rushed by young men with shotguns who demanded money before shooting Joe.
“Then he changed his story two weeks later,” Marie Seibold said.
According to the Seibolds, Joe’s friend admitted to police he set up a marijuana buy on Snapchat and got Joe to drive him to the location.
“As far as I’m concerned, he led our son to his death,” the mother said, her voice choked with anger.
Details are murky, but apparently Joe pulled over at the location the friend had established to meet the drug sellers. The friend got out of the car to buy the weed – but something went wrong.
“(The friend) comes back in the car and tells Joe, ‘Go! Go!,’” Joe’s father said. “But it’s not a fast car, and this guy shot him in the back of his head twice.”
Mesa Police refuse to confirm or deny the Seibolds’ version of the murder.
“It’s an ongoing investigation,” said Det. Brandi George, a Mesa police spokeswoman. “We can’t discuss details of the investigation.”
Mesa Police did acknowledge they arrested one of three suspects involved in the shooting.
Police refuse to give that suspect’s name, noting he is a juvenile.
The Seibolds say the 15-year-old boy who was arrested was convicted in juvenile court. They are enraged that he will serve a sentence at a juvenile detention center, then be released when he becomes an adult.
“All I got to say is ‘God help us all,’” Marie Seibold said, bouncing between tears of grief and screams of rage.
“If you kill someone, you go to juvie for three years and get out at 18.”
Search for two suspects
According to a Mesa Police Department press release, “Three suspects were seen fleeing the area of the shooting. One juvenile suspect was identified and charged, but the other two have not been identified and are still outstanding.”
Police released a sketch of one of the suspects, using a description provided by a witness (likely Joe’s friend).
“This suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his late teens with brown eyes,” the release stated.
On May 14, the department released the suspect sketch on social media and via the press.
No sketch of the other suspect was available.
According to George, the publicity push produced “no updates as of yet.”
Police ask anyone with information on who killed Joseph Seibold to call the Mesa Police Department at 480-644-2211 or Silent Witness at 480-W-I-T-N-E-S-S, 480-948-6377, or 480-T-E-S-T-I-G-O for Spanish speaking.
The last text
Jeff Seibold was driving out of town for a business trip the night his son was shot.
“At 10:37 (p.m.), Joe sent me his last text; he was shot at 10:39,” Jeff Seibold said.
The casual tone of the text sticks with the father:
“If he was worried about something, he wouldn’t be texting me about his day. We think (Joe’s friend) was a bad influence and got Joe into a bad situation,” the father said.
By giving his friend a ride, “Joe was just trying to be a good friend,” Jeff Seibold said, stressing his son was never in trouble.
“All he did was work all the time and go out and sell solar. Or he was gaming.
“The rest was all family.”
The Seibolds also have a 15-year-old son and two adult daughters.
The family moved to east Mesa from Wisconsin three years ago.
“Joe was a good kid,” his father said. “The day he was shot, I told him we could go to Target and pick up a new pair of glasses. Then I had to go up to Nevada for business.”
Eight hours after he last saw his son, Jeff Seibold was walking into a hotel room when his cell phone rang.
It was a social worker at a hospital, telling him Joe was shot and in critical condition.
Jeff Seibold called his wife and got back into his car.
“I got to the hospital at 6 a.m.,” he said. “It was devastating, to look at Joe in his condition. I saw the images where the bullet ricocheted around his brain. The second bullet went in the same hole and lodged in the middle of his head.”
“It’s unbelievably monstrous what that kid did,” Marie Seibold said.
“Nobody knows what this is like – to lose a person this way,” the mother said, gasping for breath through tears. “It wasn’t an act of God – it was an act of a violent person.”
Though one of the killers is in custody, the parents feel the justice system is horribly flawed.
“Nothing’s going to bring my son back. He’s with God. And I’ve had to come to reality every single day,” Marie Seibold said.
“But what message has been sent out to the public to protect their children?”
“The message being sent,” Jeff Seibold answered, “is if you kill someone you can do three years and then get out.”
“There’s nothing good about this story,” Marie Seibold said, the bitterness coating her voice.
“He was a sharp go-getter,” the mother said of a son she will never again see and hear.
“We need a lot more Joe’s than what’s walking around the streets.” ′