packer chaplain of year

Douglas Packer, center, holds his Arizona Chaplain of the Year award. Packer, the now-former Cochise County Jail chaplain, was arrested on several charges related to the alleged sexual assault of inmates at the jail.

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.

Investigation starts

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.

Non-inmate contacts

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.