If A Coach Calls, Hang Up
On July 31 police from the small Arizona town of Parker caught the high school's football coach in a compromising phone conversation with a twelve-year-old Indian girl.
It was not the first such incident involving the highly successful coach.
After resigning from Parker High School, the football coach was hired almost immediately by the principal of Brophy Prep in Phoenix as an assistant to that school's varsity team.
Father Francis Stiegler, principal at a school renowned for its competitive gridiron teams, explained his latest hire by claiming there was "no evidence we should be judgmental."
On Friday, the Brophy Broncos were selected for post-season play.
While Brophy is an all-boys school, its campus is directly adjacent to the all-girls Xavier College Prep and fewer than 100 yards from the co-ed Central High. One block away is the Phoenix Indian School. In total, almost 2,000 teen-age girls attend class and mingle after school in the shadow of Brophy Prep.
Ironically, coach Robin Hondrum, 38, is back where his career began. He originally student-taught at Brophy. Moving on to the high school in Lake Havasu City, Hondrum married one of his ex-students shortly after she graduated. The couple was recently divorced when his once-teen bride discovered Hondrum involved with another former student.
Both of these ladies, though still teen-agers at the pertinent times in question, were at least eighteen and therefore, under Arizona law, consenting adults.
The same cannot be said for the young Indian girls in Parker.
Janet Dobbs said her daughters Marcia, fifteen, and Lorraine, twelve, received harassing phone calls for weeks before they worked up enough nerve to let their mother know what was going on.
"It was really awful, just horrible and painful on the children," said Janet. "At first, they were so embarrassed they wouldn't tell me about it."
According to the mother, the mysterious caller identified himself as "Bob" and sexually propositioned her fifteen-year-old, letting the girl know exactly what he envisioned.
"A couple of calls she got were so bad she stopped answering the phone. Then the twelve-year-old started picking up the phone. I was in the room when she put the phone down, terrified. He knew her activities, that she was on the swim team. So I knew he had been following my children and that's what drove them indoors . . . they didn't feel safe to go outside."
Dobbs said the caller talked to her twelve-year-old about the girl's body.
A woman who knew the sisters through their membership on the town's swim team, the Parker Piranhas, said she noticed a distinct change in the girls at the time of the calls. "They both reacted to it, but the older one was more visibly affected," said the woman, who requested anonymity.
"She became argumentative and developed a chip on her shoulder. Eventually both girls stopped coming to practice. They quit. Their mother said they'd received these off-color calls and didn't want to leave the house.
"After it all came out, I had several girls come through who said he [the coach] really watched them. It didn't surprise them."
When the parents went to the Parker police on July 17, the authorities had the phone company install a trace.
At 10:20 in the morning on July 31, Janet's youngest daughter called the Parker police from a neighbor's house to say that "Bob" had called her and was on her home phone at that very moment. The police operator advised the twelve-year-old not to hang up the phone at her home even if "Bob" terminated the call.
The police dispatcher then sent a patrolman to the Dobbs residence. At the same time the phone company traced the call, finding it originated at 609 Laguna Avenue.
Parker police officer Dennis Shrewsbury drove to 609 Laguna Avenue where he found Robin Hondrum.
"I told Mr. Hondrum that someone had made a phone call to a house in town that had been receiving harassing phone calls for over a month," wrote Officer Shrewsbury in his report. "I told Mr. Hondrum the call had been traced through the use of a phone tap to his address and asked if I could use his phone."
After denying making any calls, Coach Hondrum gave his phone to the police officer who discovered the line was still connected to the Dobbs residence. Officer Shrewsbury then questioned Coach Hondrum, who continued to deny making any calls.
At the end of the interview, Coach Hondrum was read his Miranda rights and issued a Class I misdemeanor criminal citation for use of a telephone to annoy/terrify/harass.
When contacted, Rourke refused to comment.
On August 15 the school board, in closed executive session, quietly accepted Coach Hondrum's resignation.
Although she wanted the coach prosecuted, the mother of the two girls also admits she was confused at the time, torn about what trial testimony would do to her already traumatized daughters. She recalled the prosecutor took her aside and said to her, "Would you be willing to ruin a professional man's life who needs help?"
Neither the prosecutor nor anyone else bothered to arrange for any counseling for Mrs. Dobbs' two girls.
According to the mother, Rourke explained the dismissal of charges by saying the coach would be okay, "he just doesn't need to be around high school girls."
Karen Wesley couldn't agree more. She says her daughters also received unwelcome calls at their home.
"He would just call. He'd tell the older one, `I missed your sister at the ballpark,' or `I didn't see her swimming,'" said Mrs. Wesley. "To this day they are afraid to answer the phone. My younger daughter, the one playing baseball, was nine. Sometimes she'd answer the phone and tell me, `Mom, it's that guy again.'"
Mrs. Wesley said complaints to the Parker police were rebuffed because she was Indian.
In July the harassment escalated.
Because of sewage problems in her home, Denise, the oldest daughter at sixteen, was outside washing dishes when a man began driving around the house.
"She got scared and came inside and called me," said the mother. "She told me, `It's this guy who worked at school.' I had told her to lock the door.
"Then he came and knocked on the door."
Mrs. Wesley said Denise identified the visitor as Coach Hondrum. The daughter was positive about the man's identity because two years earlier, when she was fourteen, Denise had Hondrum as a teacher in a physical education class and he'd made her uncomfortable even then.
"He called her into his office several times and he had put his hand on her shoulder and tried to talk to her," claimed Mrs. Wesley.
A couple of weeks after the knock on the Wesley door, Denise walked over to a Parker beauty salon to have her hair cut.
After leaving her home, she realized she was being followed.
It was Coach Hondrum.
At the salon, panicked, she telephoned her mother.
"`I'm scared, momma,' was the first thing she said. I told her not to leave, to stay put and I'd call the police."
Michael Thomas owns the His and Her Salon and remembers vividly the visit by Denise Wesley.
"When I asked her what the matter was, she said this guy had followed her and that he kept trying to pick her up . . . ," says Thomas.
When the owner looked out his window, he recognized Coach Hondrum.
"He kept looking into my shop. He'd drive past, turn around, come back, look in again. I saw him plain as day."
As Coach Hondrum finally drove away, Mike Thomas went out the door of his salon.
"I got into my truck and followed him."
According to Thomas, Coach Hondrum drove straight to Denise Wesley's home and parked outside it.
Mrs. Wesley said the Parker police advised her that as an Indian, her problem had to be handled by the local tribal police.
Unfortunately, she is of a different Indian nation than the ones over which the Colorado River Tribal Police has jurisdiction.
Mrs. Wesley and her daughters had nowhere to turn.
Prosecutor Rourke did not talk to Mrs. Wesley and was unaware of her problems before he asked for dismissal of the charge against Coach Hondrum.
Mrs. Dobbs also ran into the same jurisdictional problem when she first complained to the Parker police. And like Mrs. Wesley, Dobbs is an Indian from a tribe that is not within the jurisdiction of the Colorado River Tribal Police.
With both mothers falling between the cracks of law enforcement, Coach Robin Hondrum might never have been apprehended except for the fact that Mrs. Dobbs married a white man.
The Dobbs family filed their July 17 complaint in the name of the white stepfather. This allowed the police to act and to request a phone trace.
Upon the advice of his attorney, Coach Robin Hondrum has refused to comment on these matters.
When the charges were dismissed, no one--not the prosecutor, not the judge, not the police, not the coach and not the defense attorney--would comment.
The school board accepted the coach's resignation in executive session so that there was no public record. Again, these elected officials refused comment.
Coach Robin Hondrum left Parker with his teaching credentials intact.
Father Stiegler apparently was less interested in the details of this affair than he was in the success of his Bronco football team.
Initially, the Jesuit principal claimed that he'd talked to all of the relevant parties involved in the case before deciding to give Coach Hondrum yet one more chance.
Did he talk to the parents of the victims? No.
Did he talk to the prosecutor or the police? No.
Well, whom exactly did he talk to?
Other than the coach's attorney, Father Stiegler said that he, personally, only talked to one person, someone on the school board or someone at the school. He just couldn't remember whom.
"The way that it was explained to me was that it was all circumstantial evidence," said Father Stiegler.
Did Father Stiegler know there was more than one young girl involved?
"I can't remember if there was more than one girl. The details are kind of sketchy . . . The coach said it was untrue."
The principal of Brophy went on to explain that he had the athletic director of his school look into the matter and that after careful reflection they were satisfied.
And what did the athletic director find out?
According to Father Stiegler, what they learned was that before the police apprehended Robin Hondrum, he had been elected to the presidency of the Arizona Coaches Association. It was the priest's opinion that such an honor from one's peers was worth something.
A religious man can believe in the power of forgiveness and redemption, but what precautions did Father Stiegler take to ensure that the young co-eds that literally surround his campus would not become victims?
For example, did Father Stiegler notify the Mother Superior at Xavier that Coach Hondrum was nearby? Catholic parents send their daughters to Xavier to protect them from the uglier realities of the public school system and pay $3,500 a year for the luxury of that innocence. Surely the Mother Superior should have been told. Did Father Stiegler alert the principal at Central High that if any of that school's girls began getting untoward calls from an older man that Father Stiegler wanted to know about it? Was the director of the Phoenix Indian School, one major intersection south from Brophy, let in on the secret? The evidence suggests that Coach Hondrum has more than a passing interest in Native American women. The Indian facility boards girls from tribes scattered across America, and these young ladies come to the Phoenix campus lacking the after-class support of family and friends.
Father Stiegler had not told any of these administrators about Coach Hondrum because these schools are not part of the Brophy community.
"They're not involved with Brophy," he explained.
Even if he had cautioned the other principals about the extraordinary lengths he'd gone to in order to improve his football team, what would Father Stiegler have said to Mrs. Wesley, whose daughter had already been phoned and followed by the coach?
The question is more than rhetorical.
Mrs. Wesley, at the end of her interview, said things were better now. Her daughter was no longer in Parker where there were so many painful memories. Mrs. Wesley said she'd gotten sixteen-year-old Denise away from the Colorado River and sent her to Phoenix. Her daughter now boarded at the Phoenix Indian School.
Mrs. Wesley was unaware that Hondrum was the new coach at Brophy, just one city block from where her daughter now lived.
No one had bothered to tell her.
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