On July 9, 1994, Elaine Canalia and Jack Court were selling items from their paint distribution business at a swap meet in Prescott Valley, Arizona. They struck up a conversation with a contractor named John Famalaro, a man they had met before at similar events. Famalaro, who claimed to be selling excess paint from his contracting business, offered to sell Canalia and Court a large amount of colorant at a good price. Canalia and Court agreed and, accompanied by Court's 10-year-old grandson, followed Famalaro to his Cochise Drive home in Dewey, Arizona, to pick up the product.
Although the home stood in a prosperous neighborhood, Famalaro's backyard contained hundreds of paint cans. A tarpaulin obscured a Ryder rental truck next to a pickup in the driveway. Famalaro hurriedly helped Canalia and Court load the materials into their truck. At one point, Court's grandson asked to use the bathroom and Famalaro refused, claiming the water was shut off. Later, when the boy started playing with a cap pistol, Famalaro testily remonstrated him.
After completing the transaction, the couple said goodbye. Once back in their vehicle, Canalia and Court commented on Famalaro's behavior and the oddity of the rental truck, surrounded by debris, which had clearly been parked in the driveway for a long period of time. They also noticed the license plate was from the state of Maine and Canalia, convinced the truck was stolen, surreptitiously wrote down the plate number and visible Ryder serial number, even as Famalaro intently watched them leave his property.
However, Canalia quickly forgot the number and it wasn't until three days later that a friend and Phoenix police detective named Steve Gregory arrived at their warehouse to buy some paint. Reminded of the strange encounter, Canalia gave the policeman the information. After the detective contacted the Ryder company, he quickly determined the truck was stolen from Southern California six months prior. Gregory passed the information on to the Yavapai County Sheriff's department, the unit with police jurisdiction in Dewey, Arizona.