Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's 2009 Search-and-Rescue Leaders Praised for Kindness (Not Search Skills) by Wife of Deceased Hiker
But now, the wife of one missing hiker who was found in 2009 by the all-volunteer-no-charge-to-the-county Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR), is coming out in defense of ... Babeu.
SSAR worked alongside the Pinal County Sheriff's Office for more than two decades, but when Babeu took office in 2009, he snubbed the all-volunteer team to start his own.
Lori Tate fired off her thoughts in a letter to the editor of the Apache Junction-Gold Canyon News defending PCSO. It came a few weeks after the newspaper published an editorial critical of the PCSO for its failure to find Chris Hensley, another missing hiker who was also found dead in April by Superstition Search and Rescue. In the same edition, Hensley's wife, Tonya, also wrote a guest column questioning the PCSO for how it handled the search.
Tate writes that she felt "compelled to respond to both of these, both in defense of PCSO and to set a few facts straight."
She writes: "I am so sorry that Mrs. Hensley had (what she considers to be) a poor experience during her husband's search... I'm sorry her husband wasn't found sooner and I'm sorry I didn't follow my instincts and call PCSO to get her phone number so I could give her some aid with her bitterness and anger during this very difficult time."
Kelly Tate was reported missing after he went for a hike in the Superstition Mountains in September 2009. A PCSO-led search by air, on horseback, on foot went on for days. The hiker was later found dead just 150 yards away from where the Pinal County Sheriff's Office had set up their command post.
Member of the Superstition Search and Rescue located his body after PCSO combed the desert and then scaled back its search. When he was discovered, even PCSO officials acknowledged that they didn't mean to "do a half-assed search" and said they were "disappointed because they didn't search that area more."
In her letter, Lori Tate recalls how "deputies from PCSO came to my house that night" to ask questions to narrow down the search area, they detailed for her each step of the search and made her feel "their mission [was] to return my husband to our family, hopefully alive."
They answered questions for her "inside the command trailer," protected her from the media and made frequent visits to her home to keep her updated, she writes.
Tate praises them for just about everything except the actual search.
She writes that they were "well-organized, with everyone in constant communication with each other, everyone understanding their jobs, and everyone doing their best to find my husband."
Tate recalls they were patient and understanding, and defends them because although her late husband was only 150 yards away from the command post, he was in a desert wash.
Her full letter to the editor below: