Former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, who recently resigned amid controversy over her performance in office, died Saturday of unspecified health complications, her family announced. She was 45.
Adel’s husband, David DeNitto, said in a statement released on behalf of the family that they were “utterly heartbroken by this unimaginable loss.”
The family’s statement did not elaborate on the cause of death but said that relatives requested that the “the press and the public honor her, her legacy and our family by respecting our privacy at this difficult time.”
Adel, a Republican and the first woman elected as Maricopa County attorney, had been criticized over issues that included dismissal of 180 misdemeanor cases because charges were not filed before the statute of limitations expired.
She also faced scrutiny over whether an acknowledged alcohol abuse problem had affected her ability to do the job.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called Adel’s death tragic.
“The hearts and prayers of Arizonans are with Allister’s family, colleagues and close friends. May she rest In peace,” Ducey said on Twitter.
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, Adel’s interim successor, said Adel’s “many years of service to our community leaves a legacy that impacted crime victims, first responders, and animals, just to name a few.”
Adel was appointed to the office in October 2019 to fill a vacancy and she was elected to the office in November 2020.
She resigned in March, saying in a statement that winning the office had been an honor.
Adel underwent emergency surgery on election night in 2020 for a brain bleed. She was back on the job full-time by the following spring.
In August 2021, she went into rehabilitation for alcohol abuse, an eating disorder and other issues. In September, she confirmed she was working remotely from an out-of-state treatment facility.
Mitchell was among five criminal division chiefs in Adel’s office who in February called into question Adel’s ability to do her job, saying she rarely was in the office, showed signs of being inebriated during phone calls and had not provided leadership.
Adel responded that she was not planning to resign and that she vehemently disagreed with their characterization of her.
Adel then faced tough criticism for the dismissal of the 180 misdemeanor cases that included people who had been charged with drunken driving, domestic violence, assaults and criminal damage.
Asked about the dismissals, Ducey had said leaders should take accountability for their actions and not blame their employees. Adel then apologized to the victims in those cases and said she took responsibility for what had happened in her office.
Adel’s office and the Phoenix Police Department also were criticized for a later-dismissed gang case brought against demonstrators at an October 2020 protest against police brutality.
Lawyers hired by the city to investigate said authorities didn’t have credible evidence to support the claim that protesters were members of an anti-police gang. Adel acknowledged that her office made mistakes in the case.
Adel is survived by her husband and two children.
Funeral arrangements will be released later, the family statement said.