The Case of the Jealous Lover Boy

Despite all the sex toys, Tim Contreraz and Shawn Drake weren't exactly living together in bliss

"Yeah, but man!"

"Okay," Femenia says, tongue in cheek for the moment. "Let's go ahead and consider the dildos dangerous weapons for purposes of this investigation."

Now it's time to get serious.

Shawn Drake, a few hours after his arrest on February 19, 2005
Shawn Drake, a few hours after his arrest on February 19, 2005
Murder victim Timothy Contreraz
Murder victim Timothy Contreraz

Nothing can be done at the crime scene until the cops get their search warrant, which will cover both the home and Tim Contreraz's SUV.

An examination of the mysterious backyard coffin, too, will have to wait until a judge signs the warrant.

The three dogs hover near a gate to the carport, as if they're trying to listen in. One of them, a miniature whippet, whimpers softly.

Detective Femenia wants to interview Shawn Drake at the police station as soon as possible. That sounds good to Sergeant Patrick Kotecki, who's been the C-32 squad's supervisor for just a few months.

"Go for it," Kotecki tells Femenia. "See you back here later."

On the short trip to the Phoenix police station, Detective Femenia previews how he plans to proceed.

"I don't treat my suspect like an adversary," he says. "You want them to like you. If I raise my voice and get coercive, I get nothing. I had the same philosophy as a young patrol officer. I talked my way into most of my arrests."

Femenia is certain that "his" suspect will plead self-defense. What Drake says and how that meshes with what the crime scene reveals is likely to have great bearing on his future.

"Even if I get an inch, a minuscule admission, I want it," the detective says, as he pulls up to the station. "It's a fine line sometimes between making a case and it going away."

That leads to another thought.

"Human things do happen on our end. Honest mistakes. Down the road at trial, things can get twisted around to make you look like the monkey, not the [suspect]. Defense lawyers always try to turn some minor nothing into something big. Don't want to go there."

Alejandro Femenia was born into a blue-collar New England family, the youngest of seven. Both of his parents worked at one of the big hat factories then operating in Danbury, Connecticut.

Femenia got by both with his wit (the guy will talk about anything to anyone) and his athletic prowess, which later won him a football scholarship to Bowling Green University.

Now 52, he's the man with a million uproarious stories, many of them about the "monkeys" with whom he has to contend. (Loosely defined, a monkey is someone who can't do anything without screwing it up.)

Femenia moved to Arizona after finishing college in 1976, not having a clue, he says, of what he wanted to do with his life. Over the next 18 months, he worked variously as a counselor at a private school and as a bouncer at a bar near Arizona State University.

A retired FBI agent teaching at the college befriended Femenia, and suggested that the young man might make a good police officer. That sounded ridiculous to Femenia, who told his older pal that the only cops he knew were jerks.

But just for the hell of it in 1978, Femenia applied for work with the Phoenix Police Department. Next thing he knew, he was accepted at the police academy. Soon after he began his training, the kid with the Fu Manchu mustache, wingtip shoes and a big head of hair thought he'd made a mistake.

He was at odds with the military atmosphere and personalities in his midst.

"I'm one of those guys who never wanted to be a Marine," he says.

But Femenia passed muster and hit the streets as a patrol officer in south Phoenix. He took to the job better than he'd expected, finding that it often reminded him of the athletic arena.

Back in his early days as a cop, before family responsibilities (he has two teenage children and a wife, Tracey) and a certain maturity took hold, Femenia was a certified party animal. After hours.

Femenia was a street cop for a time, worked the gang detail and later was a sharpshooter for what then was called the SWAT team -- though he never shot at anyone.

Then he was a detective with the Organized Crime Bureau for 13 years, working much of that time undercover. He often played the role of a Mafioso from "back East" out here seeking fresh action. He could look and act the part.

A popular sergeant named Carl Richardson recruited Femenia to the homicide unit in 1999, and he's been there ever since. He still loves the gig, even with its unrelenting grind and pressure.

He says he lives for the challenges in every investigation -- including the Tim Contreraz murder case, a domestic dispute that ended in a fatal stabbing.

About 9 a.m., Detective Femenia walks into the homicide unit on the third floor of the main police station on West Washington.

He spots Gary Sedlacek, the neighbor who called 911, sitting in the waiting room.

Jerry Laird is going to interview Sedlacek first, before Femenia takes his crack at Shawn Drake.

"They got the Rack back there?" Sedlacek asks the detective, referring to the medieval mode of torture. He's not smiling.

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