PD: No prints on body of gun that killed Phx Officer; benefits still undecided for widow

PHOENIX - Homicide detectives have confirmed to the ABC15 Investigators they found no fingerprints on the body of the shotgun that killed a Phoenix police sergeant in October 2010.

The only print on the gun that killed Sgt. Sean Drenth was on a flashlight attached to the shotgun.  That print belonged to Drenth, according to Det. Warren Brewer, the lead detective in the death investigation.

A medical examiner ruled the case a suicide in December 2011, but the Phoenix Police Department still considers Drenth's death as a "death unknown."  

The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, VA started reviewing the case a few weeks ago.

LINE OF DUTY DEATH BENEFITS

Friday, Drenth's widow, Colleen Drenth, and her attorneys asked the City of Phoenix Pension Board to grant her full line-of-duty death benefits.  The annual benefits would be equivalent to an average of Drenth's salary during the last three years of his police service.

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.

Norris had previously supplied the board with supplements, showing why the Drenth family is certain Sean Drenth was murdered despite a medical examiner's suicide ruling.

"Colleen Drenth is not required to solve the murder of her husband to be eligible for line-of-duty death benefits.  Rather, she must merely present sufficient evidence to draw the connection between her husband's death and his law enforcement duties.  She has carried this burden," wrote Dale Norris in memo supporting Colleen Drenth's application for benefits.

The pension board also received video clips created by Jonathan Colvin, a private investigator working on the case.

Colvin said, he created a reenactment of the deadly shooting that leads him to believe Drenth was murdered while he was standing. 

Colleen Drenth said it is difficult to repeatedly hear the details of her husband's death, but she will do what it takes to have her husband be recognized for dying in the line of duty.

"It takes a toll, but if that's what I have to do forever, that's what I'll do forever," she said.

THE BOARD'S DECISION

During Friday's meeting, the pension board did not vote whether or not to pay the benefits to Colleen Drenth.

Instead, they voted to draft a letter to the Maricopa County's Chief Medical Examiner.  They said they wanted to ask him whether he would reconsider the suicide ruling in the case.  They also wanted to know whether he would consider the information presented by the Drenth family and their attorneys, and whether he would consult further with the police department.

Dr. Robert Lyon, a forensic pathologist who has since resigned from the Maricopa County's Office of the Medical Examiner, made the initial suicide ruling.

Even though this delays the process, said Will Buividas, a pension board member, we want to "make sure we have a full and complete record," before making a recommendation.

The pension board agreed to give the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Mark Fischione, until their January meeting date to respond.

Earlier this week, Fischione told Colleen and Diane Drenth he would reconsider the ruling if he was presented with in evidence from a police agency, according to Cari Gerchick a spokeswoman for the County.

 

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