El Mirage councilman speaks out about ABC15 investigation into ignored MCSO sex crimes cases

EL MIRAGE, AZ - For the first time, leadership in El Mirage spoke on camera Monday night about the dozens of sex crime cases the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office did not investigate during the two-year period when MCSO handled those cases for the city.

El Mirage Councilman James McPhetres is a Department of Defense employee and reservist for the Air Force.

He said what he has learned has both disturbed him and worried him.

"Well, it's heartbreaking to now know that victims had come forward and were left unprotected."

Most of the cases involved young children and teens and most had workable leads.

McPhetres tells ABC15 he is concerned for the victims, but also for the community.

Dozens of accused rapists and child molesters were never arrested and so could be reoffending.

In October of 2007 El Mirage ended its contract with MCSO and began to rebuild its own police department.

It was when detectives began to review the cases that they discovered many had not been worked by MCSO's Special Victims Unit.

When they tried to follow-up, they discovered that many families had already moved away and so they couldn't find the victims.

In other cases, the victims had decided they no longer wanted to prosecute.

McPhetres said, "I am personally asking the victims and witnesses to come forward, trust our police department and let's put these criminals behind bars."

On Monday, MCSO gave us new numbers. An MCSO Internal Affairs investigation that began after El Mirage complained about the sex crimes cases led to more than 500 cases being reopened by MCSO.

The initial investigation was shut down by former Chief Deputy David Hendershott. Documents state Hendershott was worried the investigation would find that the person in charge of the unit at the time, Sgt. Kim Seagraves, was incompetent which would negatively affect other cases and he needed her testimony.

When Jerry Sheridan replaced Hendershott as Chief Deputy he reopened that Internal Affairs investigation. Below is the statement Sgt. Jesse Spurgin sent to me on Monday.

Sex Crime Case Information:

From approximately 2005 to 2007 the Sheriff's Office investigated 532 sex crime cases county wide. Sheriff's Detectives discovered a problem with these cases through an audit conducted by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office itself.

The following was determined from this audit:

100 cases had been properly worked.

432 cases were reactivated and reworked.

Of these 432 reactivated cases:

19 were cleared by arrest

221 were exceptionally cleared using FBI guidelines for reasons such as, they can not be prosecuted, a technicality existed in the case, the County Attorney declined to prosecute, or there was no cooperation from the victim.

67 cases were placed into the Cold Case file and are awaiting further information or evidence.

115 were said to be unfounded, that is, determined that no crime occurred.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has retained 10 cases which they are currently working at this time.

Additionally 2 Detectives assigned to the Sex Crime Unit during this time have left employment with the Sheriff's Office after being confronted regarding the poor investigations.

See more reaction to the original ABC15 investigation .

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