Decision on benefits of Sgt. Sean Drenth's widow delayed again

PHOENIX - The City of Phoenix Police Pension Board has again postponed a decision on whether to give line-of-duty death benefits to the widow of a police officer who was shot to death in 2010.

Members of the board voted to wait until their May 2013 meeting to make any decisions in the case of Colleen Drenth, the widow of Sgt. Sean Drenth.

The last time the board discussed the case was December 2012. 

"It's disappointing," said Colleen Drenth, whose husband was in full police uniform and on-duty when he suffered a shotgun wound to the head.  "There's a lot of stress going into it," she said of her expectation for a decision.

THE BENEFITS

Line-of-duty death benefits are given to a surviving spouse when "the decedent's death was the direct and proximate result of the performance of the decedent's public safety duties and does not include suicide," according to a memo filed by Dale Norris, an attorney representing Colleen Drenth.

FRIDAY'S MEETING

During Friday's meeting, the board said they wanted to consult again with the Chief Medical Examiner , Dr. Mark Fischione, in Maricopa County. Board members said he was on an extended vacation when they tried to reach him recently for input on the case.

In 2011, a Maricopa County forensic pathologist who worked for Fischione, Dr. Robert Lyon, ruled Sean Drenth's death a suicide. The Phoenix Police Department, meanwhile,  continues to classify the case as a "death unknown." Other experts hired by the Phoenix Police Department also classified the case in a similar manner.

Lyon no longer works for the county, so Fischione said he would reconsider the suicide ruling if he was presented with new evidence from a police agency. 

The ruling has never changed since 2011.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently scrutinizing the case and has yet release its findings.

While the pension board made plans to contact Fischione again, Colleen Drenth said she hopes board members consider more than just one forensic pathologist's opinion in the case. 

She and her attorneys have submitted video, reports from private investigators, and opinions from outside experts for the board to review as well.

"You can't just rely on one piece of information," she said. "You have to rely on everything that was submitted."

BOARD DECISIONS

One board member suggested hiring another independent investigator to help with the board's decision.  Meanwhile, the Phoenix Police Department, the lead investigator on the case, has never closed the investigation.

The ABC15 Investigators attempted to ask board members how much time they had spent reviewing the information that had been supplied to them.

"We've talked about it in December and now," said Toni Maccarone, the board chair. 

When she was asked whether she had spent more than a few minutes reading the information she said, "We get a board packet every month, and we review all of the records."

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