The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases over a two-year period, including dozens in El Mirage, a newspaper reported Saturday.
Poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott’s desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity led to delays for victims of serious crimes who waited years for the attackers to be brought to justice, if they were ever caught, according to The Arizona Republic.
The newspaper said that documents pertaining to a recent internal investigation released by the Sheriff’s Office show that more than 50 El Mirage sex-crime cases went uninvestigated after police took an initial report. Most of the cases involved young children reportedly victimized by friends or family, the Republic reported.
The Sheriff’s Office provided commanders and about a dozen deputies, who were initially greeted as a stop-gap measure to help El Mirage establish a more seasoned police force.
Concern about the handling of the cases dates back several years. However, a recently concluded investigation by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu revealed that an internal probe to get to the root of the problem was blocked by Hendershott two years ago because it would have reflected poorly on an investigator he considered crucial to a separate case.
The Sheriff’s Office said it won’t comment on the mishandled investigations because it’s part of an ongoing internal probe. Hendershott was placed on administrative leave last fall and was fired from his job last month.
But the Republic said the Sheriff’s Office confirmed that detectives reactivated 432 sex-crimes cases from throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area after concerns were raised, making 19 arrests. Of the remainder, 115 were determined to be unfounded, 67 were classified as “cold cases” and 221 were “exceptionally” cleared without arrest.