By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
As buffoonish as some of Tryon's high-jinks might sound, there were weightier allegations against him, including returning evidence to witnesses and suspects in two major investigations. These involved a 2008 home invasion and an alleged sexual assault in 2007.
Jarris Varnrobinson and Walt Hunter each complained to the town on separate occasions about the incidents — effectively blowing the whistle on Tryon.
In the home-invasion case, investigated by Varnrobinson, residents of a Florence house reported that two white men wearing ski masks kicked in a side door, one armed with a handgun and the other with a rifle.
After entering, the men ordered a male resident to kneel at gunpoint, demanding money from him. Another resident entered the room before fleeing, which led to the suspects also fleeing — but not before firing off a round.
The most significant piece of evidence recovered was a single .223-caliber shell casing on the living room floor.
Two weeks later, Varnrobinson and another officer responded to a call involving a suicidal woman whose boyfriend kept a number of firearms at home. The cops agreed to take custody of the weapons and hold them for safekeeping.
Among the guns under the woman's bed was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Her home was near the scene of the recent home invasion, and her boyfriend was white. Varnrobinson believed he had probable cause to hold the weapon and obtain a search warrant to test it. He and Hunter wanted to determine whether the shell casing found at the scene of the home invasion had come from the weapon.
The weapon's owner was not happy about the cops' plans and called Tryon, whom he knew, to complain. Tryon ordered the AR-15 released before Varnrobinson applied for the search warrant.
Hunter tells New Times that when he objected, Tryon stated, "Varn can't go around taking guns from every white boy in town."
This pattern was similar to what transpired in 2007 when Tryon intervened in Hunter's investigation of an alleged rape at a late-night desert party attended by about 40 teens. The victim was a 16-year-old Florence High cheerleader, and the alleged assailant was a member the high school football team.
The girl, five feet tall and 102 pounds, had become highly inebriated after drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana. Witnesses described her as unable to walk or talk, yet she ended up nude in the cab of a truck having sex with at least one member of the team.
Other teens watched and some took photos, audio, and video of the intercourse. Afterward, friends of the girl, including Tryon's son — also on the football team — delivered her to FPD headquarters.
From there, she was taken to a hospital, where her blood-alcohol level was measured at .288. She had blacked out and had no memory of a sexual assault.
Though two cell phones had been confiscated by the responding detective, a crime technician noted in his supplementary report that he had to work quickly to download images on the phones because Tryon wanted them returned to their owners.
When the case was assigned to Hunter, he tried to retrieve the cell phones from the police department's evidence room. He planned to get a warrant so that anything downloaded from the devices could be used as evidence. But Hunter discovered that the phones already had been returned to their owners.
Later, Tryon accompanied Hunter to the high school to meet with a football player who had taken video with his phone. The student let Hunter and Tryon see the video. Hunter wanted to keep the phone and obtain a search warrant to download the video properly.
According to Hunter, before he could confiscate the phone, Tryon left the room to call a Pinal County prosecutor for advice on how to handle the situation.
A police report of the incident said Tryon told Hunter that then-county prosecutor Jeff Sandler advised him that police could download the video, with the permission of the student, and return the cell phone to its owner. Hunter followed these instructions.
During an investigation of the incident in 2012 by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Sandler remembered speaking with Tryon at the time about cell phones but could not recall details.
However, DPS investigator Ron Baroldy wrote in his report: "Sandler said he would not have told Tryon it was OK to download" the video and then give back the cell phone.
In an attempt to salvage the investigation, Hunter later obtained warrants to legally retrieve the phones and their contents, but by then usable evidence no longer existed.
Regarding the photos and videos downloaded without warrants, none of it could be used as evidence, according to Hunter. In the police report of the alleged rape, the video is described as grainy and dark.
Ultimately, then-County Attorney Jim Walsh declined to pursue charges. Hunter blames Tryon for the botched investigation.
"I don't care if you are my friend or my enemy," Hunter tells New Times. "I will not look the other way when someone is being victimized."
Walt Hunter filed a complaint against Terry Tryon in 2010 that covered several issues, including the returning of the cell phones and the AR-15 to their owners. Hunter also accused Tryon of creating a hostile work environment.