Al Sitter, Longtime Investigative Reporter and Don Bolles Contemporary, Dies
Soon after I moved to Phoenix to work for this paper a generation or two ago, I asked a colleague named Andy Zipser about the competition down the street at the Republic and its then-sister paper, the afternoon Gazette. Zipser was a kick-ass reporter who recently had won the state's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Reporting (that's Bolles pictured, a few years before he was assassinated in 1976).
I remember him mentioning a few names: Chuck Kelly, Sam Stanton, and Andy Hall immediately come to mind. Zipser -- who had been a star at the Gazette before Mike Lacey recruited him for what became a very successful, if mercurial stint here -- also mentioned Al Sitter, whom I had been reading for years.
Sitter was but a few years from retirement then (okay, this was the mid-1980s), but, quite accurately, Zipser described him as an old-school curmudgeon who still could fixate (for better or worse) on a target like nobody's business.
Over time, he had done yeoman's work on such classic Arizona topics as land fraud, government waste, and dirty politicians and their minions.
I became aware that just about everyone inside the Republic newsroom on June 2, 1976, originally had believed that Sitter, not his colleague Bolles, was the victim of the infamous car bombing in the parking lot of the Hotel Clarendon.
That was because Sitter was the paper's top investigative reporter at the time -- by most accounts, Bolles had burned out on the grind by then and was handling the usually more-benign Arizona Legislature. In fact, Sitter had won the Arizona Journalist of the Year award a few years earlier.
I often saw Sitter at the county courthouse in downtown Phoenix after he retired in 1987 after almost a quarter-century at the Republic., Usually, he was down in the basement of the central court building, peering into a blurry microfiche machine at some ancient records.
He usually seemed vaguely troubled by something, his brow furrowed, eyes squinting into the screen. One day, I decided to introduce myself. It had been a few years since I'd done a bunch of writing and reporting for a 36-page section about the Bolles case -- we printed it on the 10th anniversary of the cold-blooded murder.
Sitter jotted something quickly into a notebook, and then said he knew who I was. "You doing anything more on the Bolles case?" he asked me. "Hopefully not in this lifetime," I replied (or something akin to that).
Sitter looked at me like I was the loser of all time.
I can't remember exactly what he said, though this isn't too far off: "Oh, so there's a better story out there?"
Al Sitter died last Sunday morning at the age of 85. This is what a writer for his longtime employer had to say about him -- Paul Rubin