America’s toughest sheriff is seeking retirees, ex-police officers, Realtors, and lawyers for his cold case posse. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he’d like journalists for the posse because “they’re great investigators.”
“I’ll even take a psychic,” he added. “People will laugh at that, but I don’t care.”
For those few of you who aren’t familiar with Arpaio’s posses, his office has more than 55 posses that include about 3,000 people who track down the likes of deadbeat parents, prostitutes and illegal immigrants.
About 40 people, including new recruits and some current posse members, will be on the cold case group that will focus on 225 unsolved murders dating back to 1963, Arpaio has announced.
There don’t seem to be any specific qualifications for the unpaid post. The men and women are needed to offer a fresh set of eyes and some unique experience to the investigations as they work under the supervision of the sheriff’s office, Arpaio said.
Currently, the sheriff ’s office has 130 detectives who work all homicide cases. Detectives recently arrested a suspect in a 22-year-old cold case. Mark Stephen Merila, 41, has been accused in the slayings of two Mesa girls, Kelly Cooper, 16, and Ermalinda Iannuzzi, 14. Arpaio said his office, armed with DNA evidence, is still looking for a second suspect.
The oldest unsolved murder in the sheriff’s files dates back to March 21, 1963, when Jane Langdon’s body was found in the area of Interstate 17 and Happy Valley Road, sheriff’s Lt. Paul Chagolla said.
The 21-year-old socialite was a college coed and daughter of a Texas judge, according to archived news articles.
She was sexually assaulted before she was shot to death and abandoned in a prospector’s tunnel five miles north of Phoenix. One bullet was fired into her head, another into her back, and a third caused a superficial wound.
Across the East Valley, police detectives handle cold cases for their individual jurisdictions. At the Mesa Police Department, for example, two detectives scour the old homicide and sex crimes files.
Since the sex crimes detective started the job in October 2002, there have been three convictions, with one case pending in the court system, Mesa police spokesman Sgt. Chuck Trapani said. The homicide detective has cleared one case in two years, Trapani said.
In Scottsdale and Tempe, cold cases are never dropped but handed from current detectives to future ones, police in those cities said.
Scottsdale police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said his city’s prominent cold case dates to April 2001 and involves tracking down Robert William Fisher, 45, a suspect in the slayings of his wife and two children at their Scottsdale home, which later exploded.
Anyone interested in joining Arpaio’s cold case posse should call Maricopa County Sheriff’s Capt. Tom Tyo at (602) 876-1895.