As the cops prepared to leave, they were met by Dick Elliget's father, Richard Sr.--a civilian employee of the police department. He said he and Tim Elliget had been in the house after the first search to remove Dick Elliget's rifles and pistols. Dick's father denied knowing anything about a secret compartment.

That's where this potentially critical issue sat for two weeks. On August 15, Kay Miller finally reinterviewed Tim Elliget, who denied that he or his dad had taken anything from the secret compartment.

Tim Elliget did say, however, that his father had taken a white metal filing box and a brown briefcase out of the house. Detective Miller apparently accepted Tim Elliget's explanation that those items contained nothing of value to the criminal investigation.

The evidence-tampering remains an unsolved mystery. And no drug charges were filed against the Elligets.

FOR SOME Mesa cops, the final blow in what they privately call "the big cover-up" came with the stories about Dick Elliget's plea bargain on October 15.

"I kind of realized the media was in on this because of what they didn't write," says one Mesa officer. "Then I saw what they did write about the plea and I told some of my buddies, `I don't think I'm paranoid, but what the hell is going on out there?'"

The stories concerning Dick Elliget's plea bargain focused on a decorated police officer's fall from grace with a teenager who was a willing participant.

Phoenix Gazette reporter Karen Fernau quoted only Dick Elliget's attorney Geoff Jones in her story: "These were consensual actions on the part of teenagers in this case. . . . These were teenagers, not children."

Susan Leonard of the Arizona Republic also dwelled on the "consent" angle, noting that Elliget's attorney "plans to ask [Judge] Sheldon to consider the minimum sentence because Elliget had no previous record and because the teenagers consented to the acts." Leonard did add, "A police report says the 16-year-old girl said she allowed Elliget to take her picture because she feared his violent temper."

The Mesa Tribune's Lynn DeBruin made the same point: "[Geoff] Jones noted that Elliget has no prior convictions, that the charges involve consensual actions and involve teens rather than young children."

Following newspaper policy in all three cases, none of the stories identified Stacie Elliget by name or described her as a victim of incest. More important, none of the reporters attempted any analysis of the powerful material left in the uncensored parts of the 374-page Elliget police report. Reporters have had access to that report since cops and prosecutors released it weeks ago. It would be "far-fetched, to put it mildly," says a Mesa cop who has studied the report, for anyone but a defense lawyer "to conclude the girl consented to anything, even if she legally could have."

Detective Kay Miller's first police report of the Elliget case backs that assessment on page after page. "[Stacie] describes Mr. Elliget as telling her to take off her clothes," says Miller's account of the lotion massage. "[Stacie] related that she did not want to do this, but that she felt that if she did not give in to what [her father] told her to, that he would not leave her alone."

In her first interview with the police, Stacie's aunt B.J. Elliget also depicts Stacie as an unwilling victim: "She's just scared of him. He tells her he will do whatever he wants." Dick Elliget, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced November 14. He is likely to serve three to seven years in prison. Before his plea bargain, Elliget faced a mandatory sentence of at least 12 years without the possibility of parole. One Mesa cop calls Elliget's plea bargain "a sweetheart of a deal." Adds the cop, "I guess it's just as outrageous as everything else in this mess."

Mesa Police Chief Guy Meeks announced two months ago that he had ordered an internal investigation into the Elliget affair. "Some people may be affected by this investigation, as some people will be affected by this story," says Mesa police spokesperson Mike Hayes. "That's the way it is. If clothes need to be washed and hung to dry at Mesa P.D., then we'll do it and move on."

But several Mesa cops tell New Times the investigation has been laughable.
"They sent a form with about ten very general questions to a bunch of officers," sniffs one cop, who says another officer showed him the document. "It's like, `Did you see nude photos of Laurie Elliget or her daughter? Yes or no.' Not exactly probing. No one wants to know the truth."

Veteran Mesa officers can recall no other internal investigation that relied upon a questionnaire.

Because of Dick Elliget's plea bargain, this case--like the Russ Staton case before it--may fade away without anyone finding out the full extent of the corruption within the Mesa Police Department.

Because of his plea bargain, Elliget cannot now be compelled to corroborate the events depicted in his diary, even if prosecutors eventually file charges against other officers in the sex ring.

And because of the plea bargain, many questions about the Mesa Police Department linger:

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