EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series about the investigation of Douglas Packer, the former Cochise County Jail chaplain who faces decades in prison if convicted of sexually assaulting several female inmates. Some readers may find certain details of the alleged acts graphic and upsetting.
BISBEE — While Douglas Packer sits in a cell awaiting trial on multiple sexual abuse charges, including nonconsensual intercourse, more details are coming to light about the criminal investigation conducted by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) of its own jail chaplain.
Packer, 64, was hired as the detention center chaplain in 2012 after serving as a jail ministry volunteer since 2008, according to CCSO spokeswoman Carol Capas. He stands accused of sexual misconduct with six women while they were in the custody of the sheriff’s office between October 2014 and January 2019.
On Jan. 5, Packer was arrested mere hours after a 21-year-old inmate said she was forced to perform oral sex on the chaplain in his office while another inmate was forced to watch. The CCSO’s official incident report lists those two inmates as the first of a dozen women interviewed as part of the investigation.
The detectives, led by CCSO Detective Todd Borquez, also spoke with a retired detention officer who claimed she was moved to the graveyard shift after she told a supervisor about red flags regarding the amount of time some inmates spent in Packer’s office. The sheriff’s office redacted the employee’s name before releasing the report.
“She said Packer would only take out young white females,” Borquez noted in his report. “He would spend hours in his office with them. She said this is all logged.”
The retired officer said her concerns came up in late 2014 to early 2015. She provided Borquez with names of two inmates and recalled Packer would go to one of the inmate’s court appearances “and come back angry at the prosecutor.”
The Herald/Review has confirmed both inmates were in the county jail at the time on murder charges. They are currently serving lengthy sentences.
Detectives responded to the jail within an hour of the oral sex report in early January. Both inmates were interviewed separately, after which physical evidence – facial tissues and clothing – was seized. A crime scene technician also used Luminol to document evidence of bodily fluids in Packer’s office and on the inmates and their clothing.
Another deputy was also pulled from patrol duty to assist with the execution of a search warrant at Packer’s home in Sierra Vista. The deputy seized the chaplain’s radio, badge, ID card, jail access card, office keys, county vehicle keys, and his Canyon Vista Medical Center access pass.
Packer was taken to the sheriff’s station in Sierra Vista, where detectives obtained a saliva sample in accordance with a court order.
The chaplain was then read the Miranda warning, after which he requested an attorney and was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault without answering any questions.
A few days into the investigation, Sierra Vista Police Department Detective Andrew Haldorson was assigned to work with Borquez and CCSO Detective Jesus Davidson as the number of possible victims quickly grew, both inside and outside the jail.
Other possible victims
One jail inmate named as a victim in the criminal case against Packer told detectives the chaplain did favors for her, such as allowing her to use the phone in his office to call a family member who was caring for her infant son. She also said Packer mailed letters to her co-defendant, who was already in prison. Such communications are ordinarily prohibited.
“She would give him the letter and he would mail it outside of jail,” Borquez noted. “If she needed a stamped envelope or a phone call, he would take care of it. She felt by his body language and the way he was, he wanted something more from her.”
In early January that “something” allegedly involved Packer touching the woman’s genitals after he complained about getting “nothing in return” for what he did for her. Borquez noted the inmate was asked during an interview why she didn’t report the chaplain’s actions.
“She believed him when he told her it would be her word against his word,” the detective wrote, adding that the chaplain had authority to order any inmate to his office. The inmate was not free to leave without his escort.
Detectives also traveled to the state women’s prison in Goodyear to interview several prisoners who had previously been in the Cochise County Jail. One prisoner described having sex with Packer in his office before she was transferred to prison in January 2015.
Prison phone records showed Packer’s cellphone accepted 49 calls made by the prisoner. She is one of the two inmates whose contact with Packer was a source of concern for the retired detention officer. During the same trip, detectives seized several letters Packer sent to another prisoner to whom he expressed a romantic interest. The last letter was received just days before the chaplain’s arrest.
Investigators received dozens of tips and appear to have reached out to every woman whose name came up. But it wasn’t only jail inmates or prisoners who provided information to the detectives.
Probation Officer Deborah Syphurs contacted Borquez about contact Packer had with two probationers. One of the women received phone calls while the other received messages via social media, Syphurs said. Investigators were able to capture records of some of those communications.
Syphurs also reported Packer arranged for another probationer to live in his mother-in-law’s home. Detectives learned Packer exchanged cards and letters with some women who were on probation and in some instances suggested his interest in pursuing a personal relationship.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the seizure of Packer’s personal cellphone and computer, and another for records of a P.O. box address which he provided to prisoners and former inmates.
The chaplain, who had been placed on administrative leave upon his January arrest, pending the resolution of his case, officially resigned from his position March 19. He is being held at the Santa Cruz County Jail in lieu of $550,000 bail, pending a June 4 hearing to set his trial date. He has been indicted on sexual misconduct charges involving six women.
The final installment of this three-part series will appear later this week with a report on a $2.2 million notice of claim filed against Cochise County on behalf of two of the inmates allegedly assaulted by Packer. The article will also look at new policies Sheriff Mark Dannels and his detention staff have implemented since Packer’s arrest.
FORT HUACHUCA — Fort Huachuca held its annual Holocaust Day of Remembrance Observance Friday morning, giving soldiers a chance to hear from several survivors of one of the darkest events in human history.
Fort Huachuca has invited Holocaust survivors to come to the installation and share their stories for the last 16 years, and during that time they have spoken not only to American troops, but those from the German military as well.
Three survivors from the Tucson area, along with Chaplain Gail Wallen, the founder and director of the military Holocaust educational program, answered questions from the audience about their experiences during a panel at Murr Community Center.
The annual event, hosted this year by the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, served as a way to educate soldiers about that history, and the importance of ensuring it is not repeated, Wallen said.
“We’re also here with you because you are the citizen soldiers,” she said. “Your allegiance, ultimately, is to the Constitution of the United States. You’re the gatekeepers of democracy. We count on you to make sure that ‘never again’ means, ‘never again.’”
The three survivors — Annique Dveirin, who was born in 1936 in Poland, Wolfgang Hellpap, who was born in Germany in 1931, and Pawel Lichter, who was born in Poland in 1931 — had all visited the installation many times before, in order to educate the nation’s defenders about the importance of fighting against hatred and oppression.
“Wherever I’m invited to go, that’s where I go, to speak out against the hate,” said Dveirin, who as a child was hidden in the home of a Catholic woman in Poland during World War II.
Audience questions ranged from asking the survivors about their personal experiences during the Holocaust, to requesting that they share their opinions on recent violent and extremist events, such as the synagogue shootings in California and Pennsylvania.
Although Dveirin, a former teacher, said she believes in the power of education, she said she is concerned that an event like the Holocaust could happen again.
“We do have a Constitution that guarantees religious freedom, and we can challenge hatred with the Constitution; however, I do worry about it,” she said. “We’ve had the Constitution, but we’ve also mistreated other races so we do have a way to go, and yes, I worry about it.”
Hellpap, who was placed in a Jewish children’s camp in Berlin during the war, is hopeful that humanity will learn not to repeat history, he said.
“We’ll always carry the history and the shadows with us,” he said. “But I’m optimistic that the world will never tolerate that again.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not so optimistic,” said Lichter, when the mic came to him. Lichter immigrated to Mexico after the war and lived there for a time before arriving in Arizona. People should be aware not only of the Holocaust, but of the cruelty that continues to affect humanity, he said. “It’s happening over and over — the human race, we don’t belong to a human race. It’s happening all over the world.”
Those in the audience, although some of them had heard the survivors speak before, were visibly moved by their stories and experiences.
Rudiger Scholz, a military chaplain from Germany who had heard the Arizona Holocaust survivors speak three times now, said that the younger soldiers would have a better understanding of the events after having met the people who lived them.
“It’s our task to remember and to educate, in order that those things will never happen again, not only in Germany, but everywhere,” he said.
Rabbi Bonnie Koppell, the first woman rabbi to serve in the U.S. military, was also in the audience. “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it,’” she quoted.
“My deepest hope that (the soldiers) will become emissaries to ensure that the next generation understands precisely what occurred,” Koppell said. “We have to honor the memory of those who were murdered by keeping their memory alive.”