By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
In October 1990--nine months and at least three new victims later--Detective Sechez followed up the original tip about McCord with a visit to South Mountain.
"I had been really, really bogged down with 50 or 60 cases in which I had a victim for sure," the detective says by way of explanation. "When the school year started, I went down there to see if I could close the case down--see if McCord was a good guy with a bad rumor on him or whatever."
Co-principal Rene Diaz told Sechez that a Ricky Deuel was attending Metro Tech. The pair met with Ricky, who denied the allegations. The investigation seemed to end with the boy's denial.
A month later, in November 1990, Ricky wrote Diaz requesting a second meeting. Diaz and Sechez met with Ricky at South Mountain. Ricky said he wanted to tell the truth now.
Detective Sechez turned the case over to fellow detective Mariano Albano, who questioned other possible McCord victims that Ricky had named.
One student recalls McCord would always say he was "the god of A's and F's," a clear implication of sex-for-grades. Three other boys admitted to being seduced by the teacher. Others said they had resisted his advances. None had told their parents or school officials until after Ricky Deuel broke the case open.
Ricky went home on Christmas Eve 1990 and told his folks the truth about McCord. It was the first they had heard of it.
The police didn't try to interview McCord yet. On January 7, 1991--the first day back to school after Christmas break--Rene Diaz asked him to come to the front office. There, Detective Albano arrested McCord on 49 counts of sexual conduct with minors.
McCord denied everything--he maintains his innocence to this day--and asked to see a lawyer.
@body:Despite a withering cross-examination, Ricky Deuel held up well as the state's main witness at McCord's trial. The defense didn't present much of a case--McCord didn't testify--deciding instead to try to create "reasonable doubt" in the jury's collective mind.
Prosecutor Vince Imbordino wrapped up his closing argument with these words: "If Richard Deuel does nothing else in his life, he at least has turned the light on in this case."
The jury convicted McCord of sex crimes last January 23.
But this story has few happy endings.
Ricky's girlfriend, Missy, had become pregnant with his child during McCord's trial. But the pressures on Ricky had damaged their once-tight relationship, Missy wrote Judge Norman Hall before McCord was sentenced.
"Ricky withdrew emotionally and sexually from me only because of the many times David McCord raped him," she wrote. "As far as I'm concerned, our relationship may get better, but it will never be the same."
Ricky and Missy were living with the Deuels after the trial ended earlier this year. Though McCord was locked up, Ricky remained tight as a drum. And his health was slipping.
Doctors tested him in early March and indicated he would have to undergo heart surgery. A few days before the operation, Ricky recorded his "last will." He went to church for the first time in years and received Communion after a priest heard his confession. Later, he told his mom he was ready to die.
But he pulled through the surgery and went home to recover. Despite their troubles, Ricky and Missy started to talk marriage. Ricky's parents opposed the union--but not for the usual reasons.
"I told him he'd lose his medical insurance if they got married," Chick Deuel says. "I said to go in the backyard and say a prayer together and we'd consider them married."
Still, the young couple started to make plans to go to Vegas. Chick Deuel was laid up at home with a back injury and he and Ricky spent many hours chatting together.
"Rick said he realized he didn't have to explode at us anymore," his father says. "We really enjoyed each other finally for who we were."
Then, last April 13, Ricky Deuel died of heart failure.
The Deuels buried their son three days before Judge Hall sentenced 45-year-old McCord to life in prison. Ricky was buried with his pacemaker still running inside him. The machine had kept him alive, he'd said during his "last will" tape. This was a way of saying thank you.
Missy gave birth to a healthy daughter, Ariana Lanice, last July 8.
@body:South Mountain principal Art Lebowitz noticed something cruelly ironic after Redbook named his school one of the nation's 50 best high schools last year.
"Another story in the magazine caught my eye," he says. "It was about how to detect child molesters. I just had to shake my head."
The Phoenix Union High School District quietly made sweeping changes in its teacher-hiring policies in the aftermath of the McCord fiasco.
"We have shored up its hiring policies considerably," Lebowitz says. "We are obligated now to contact a previous employer and get positive recommendations. There are no loopholes. Obviously, we don't want a McCord situation to happen here again."
That heartfelt sentiment, of course, was of little solace to Ricky Deuel. Shortly before he died, he wrote a letter to Judge Hall.
"I'm 18 and have my whole future ahead of me, all of which will be tainted by him," Ricky wrote. "I have a child on the way. How will I react when it comes time to place him or her in school, especially knowing what can happen there?