Police: MCSO faces a $30 million claim from the family of developmentally disabled victim of sexual abuse and assault Multnomah County, Arizona – The family of a girl has filed a $30 million notice of claim against the county and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s agency asserting gross negligence in the handling of the sexual crime case. According to reports, the abuser was allowed to walk free for nearly five years while the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ignored physical evidence from the assault.
Patrick Morrison pleaded guilty earlier this month to three counts of child molestation against his niece, Sabrina, who is developmentally disabled.
Typically, the Arizona Republic does not identify sexual-assault victims, with a degree of anonymity maintained to protect the victims. However, the family stepped forward last spring and agreed to disclose Sabrina’s identity in the hope that their case would call attention to the widespread nature of the sheriff’s neglected and mismanaged sex-crime cases.
Sabrina Morrison reported to her middle-school counselor in March 2007 that her uncle had sexually assaulted her one day earlier on the Mesa property he shared with Sabrina’s family. Sheriff’s deputies followed up immediately with investigators, accompanying the family to a center in Mesa for an examination, according to the claim.
During the investigation, a nurse noted that there were no obvious signs of an assault, but investigators still collected samples that were later provided to the Arizona Department of Public Safety laboratory for testing, according to the claim.
It was not until two months later, the lab reported that semen was detected on some of the items, leading the DPS to direct the Sheriff’s Office that investigators would need to collect a sample from a suspect for comparison.
However, the sheriff’s investigators closed the case as “inactive” in early 2008 instead of collecting a sample from Patrick Morrison.
Morrison’s case is not among the 432 cases the Sheriff’s Office was forced to re-examine after problems with the agency’s handling of sex-crime cases came to light in El Mirage in 2007.It wasn’t until June 2011 that the case was reopened and a DNA sample was obtained from Morrison, according to the claim.
The County administrators declined to comment on the claim owing to the fact that it was still under evaluation.
According to court documents, the Sheriff’s officials have also not yet reviewed the claim, but Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan said he was disheartened by the claim, a necessary antecedent for a lawsuit, because of the work the Sheriff’s Office has done to improve these types of investigations.
“We’ve made a lot of progress since we first detected these cases,” Sheridan said.
Unfortunately, by then Morrison had repeatedly abused and molested his niece, according to the claim. He was arrested earlier this year.
Sabrina’s family relied on the nurse’s report that said there was no evidence of an assault for years. They allowed Morrison to remain in and around the home and paid no heed to their daughter’s claims.
“Hence, when Patrick Morrison denied the incident as ever happening, the lack of further action by the Sheriff’s Office cemented in the Morrisons’ minds the initial finding that there was no evidence of rape and correspondingly eroded any credibility they might have accorded their daughter’s story–a young girl beset by significant mental limitations,” the claim notes. “The level of psychic pain this child was forced to endure is both unconscionable and unforgivable.”
Morrison is set to be sentenced for his crimes next month.