A Secretary's Revenge

Deborah Vasquez, a secretary in the Attorney General's Office, overstepped her authority to help a kidnaped child. After being upbraided, she spread fantasy and half-truth that have been used to discredit the attorney general's top assistant, Rob Carey.

"I'm on the phone with this doctor, and I'm ready to just break. I'm in tears; he's saying to me, 'Your daughter does have Turner's syndrome.'"

Before she could absorb, or even completely understand, the significance of this severe chromosome disorder, Vasquez's anguish was interrupted.

"I could hear Rob Carey in his office just screaming his head off for me to get in there, to get him something. And it was like, please, just leave me alone for five minutes, okay?

"And I'm in tears. I'm going to have to go home and tell [Marisa]."
Even with a scientific diagnosis, Marisa's mother was still unable to face the truth.

"The doctors gave me information," said Vasquez recently. "It would make any parent hysterical to look at all that. I could only take a little bit at a time, because that was all I could handle. I couldn't look at the possibilities at that point. ... It was so horrifying, I couldn't handle it at the time. Even today, I don't know that I could look at that and face the possibility of what this could all be costing her."

And so Anna Ott's rescue meant even more to Vasquez than it might have. Where Anna was concerned, Vasquez was not so helpless. In fact, maybe Anna Ott's kidnaping and rescue were God's own proof that Vasquez could make a difference--if not for her own daughter, at least for another child who desperately needed her.

"I was devastated, and I was sick to my stomach," she said, recalling her emotions when she first set eyes upon Anna Ott in the hospital.

"I saw this police officer bringing the child in, and she was clinging to him. So I just stopped, and I said, 'Anna, your grandma has been real worried about you. I just wanted you to know that everything is going to be okay.' She was pretty upset and scared. She was terrified. I told her I would stay for a little while."

She did, and by the time Vasquez left, she was smitten.
"She was one of the sweetest, most intelligent little girls I have ever met in my life. ... Everyone [the children in the hospital] stared at her like she was a sort of freak. She had been through such an ordeal, she didn't care [about the gawking]. So I just stayed with her, and we played makeup and did things like that and talked about going home to grandma."

The day after the rescue of Anna Ott, Vasquez returned to the Attorney General's Office.

Instead of a bouquet of gratitude, however, Vasquez got a handful of dead flowers and a vivid lecture.

Upon hearing of the enormous responsibility his secretary had undertaken alone, Carey was displeased. By the time Vasquez saw him that morning, in fact, he was hang-your-head-in-your-hands-and-massage-your-temples stumped. Why would his secretary simply take a case--any case, but particularly this case--and run it to ground without ever once talking to him or another supervisor?

This was a life-and-death matter that should have been handled by a criminal attorney or one of the attorney general's licensed investigators. That was standard procedure in the Attorney General's Office.

Stunned that she had been upbraided, Vasquez quickly became convinced that therebuke masked anger--anger that Woods and Carey had not made the six o'clock news as Anna's saviors. Vasquez fled the office. She returned only to resign.

Rob Carey would live to rue the day.

The rescue of a 5-year-old quad amputee from heavily armed drug abusers would fulfill anyone's spiritual vision; for Deborah Vasquez, the stakes were even higher.

Anna Ott's safe return was the emotional rapture promised by the new direction Vasquez set for her own life when she quit the private sector and joined the Attorney General's Office in December 1993.

After 11 years at a big downtown law firm, Vasquez went to work for Carey. He had no idea that he'd hired a secretary who was at a crossroads in her life.

Vasquez wanted to make an impact on people, and she imagined that leaving O'Connor Cavanagh and joining the Attorney General's Office would provide the forum she needed.

"I was having this opportunity to help make a difference, to help make things better for the people of the state of Arizona, particularly children," Vasquez recalled to explain why she went to work for Carey. "I have a passion for children. And when I see what's happening, especially in neighborhoods like mine, you start feeling like somebody's got to start doing something to make it better for these kids."

Had Carey told her that children would somehow be the focus of her job or his work? Did he discuss children, at all, with Vasquez?

"No, not really," said the secretary.
But even when you are deluding yourself, you can reach a point where you just have to struggle through a change; it's the movement that's important, not the direction.

And Vasquez was a woman used to making an effort. She'd labored all her life to overcome first one obstacle, then another. The victim of a sexual assault in her own home while employed by O'Connor Cavanagh, Vasquez had continued to work in the immediate aftermath of the nightmare. She had responsibilities.

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