Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's 2009 Search-and-Rescue Leaders Praised for Kindness (Not Search Skills) by Wife of Deceased Hiker

Categories: Wild, Wild West

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Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who booted the Superstition Search and Rescue team to start his own search crew, has faced criticism over how his office has conducted searches.

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.

See also:
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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:

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When you are lied to, and I can go down a list of lies and being misled, there is absolutely nothing wrong with sharing your personal experience with others, in the hopes that it wont happen to anyone else. If your educational background in psychiatry leads you to interpret bitterness and anger, then so be it. Though there is nothing wrong with being angry when you are lied to and misled. Considering the circumstances, there would be something wrong with you if your weren't (angry). It is a natural human emotion when you have been betrayed by those you should be able to trust. I am glad that you had a better experience than we did, but that is obviously not always the case and the public has a right to be aware that there are additional resources if you are missing a loved one on the mountain, unlike what we were told (everybody available was already out). I would not want to say anything that would hinder just one person being found, as just one day can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, our experience was different than yours. I recall only one trip to our house by PCSO to gather an (useless) article of clothing for the search dogs. (failed to tell us that it had to be used by Chris within the last 30 days and no one else could of touched it. By the time we found that out, the 36 hr time period had passed, unbelievable) No trips to ask questions or match tracks and gather additional information. To many careless mistakes that I will not take the time to get into. It is just so sad that after 4 days of PCSO searching, while ignoring where and how we told them Chris was going, that  SSAR found him in 2 hours, but by then it was to late for Tonya "to even hold his hand" by the time we got him back. (You would cringe to hear the description from the mortician) We will have the rest of lives  knowing that if SSAR was called first, we at least could of said goodbye to our loved one. PCSO CANNOT be defended in regards to "our" personal experience and it would be respectful to let a grieving widow be able to share her unfortunate experience and share the FACTS, in hopes of helping someone else, who may be in the same situation at some future time. (This is the purpose in sharing her story and nothing you say can change that) She does not need distractions or insinuations, when she is the one going through this now, especially defending  anyone whose tactics delayed a timely recovery of her husband. Seriously.


In Monica's previous attempt to mar PCSO regarding this story, she made it sound like PCSO searched for days without luck and SAR came out and found the body of the missing hiker in a matter of hours, using the same information PCSO had from the beginning.

It's obvious none of this was true, yet Monica makes no retraction nor attempts to remedy her false inferrences in this story.  Ms. Tate states specifically that SAR was out searching with PCSO from the beginning and neither group, whether working in tandem or separately, were successful in locating Tate's body until news from another hiker was received days later regarding Tate coming off the mountain.

Monica has proven she is has no integrity.

eric.nelson745 topcommenter

According to Ms Tate, there's no success like failure. Especially when you're so nice.


BTW, SSAR was not in contact with PCSO and did not gather any information from them. Each group had completely identical information that Tonya shared with them both. Each had different procedures, that led to different results. And that is a fact.

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