Joe Arpaio Confirms Wife Ava Is Ill, Does Not Deny Cancer Rumors

Please see updates below. Cancer diagnosis confirmed.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has confirmed through his top flack, Lisa Allen, that the sheriff's wife of 58 years, Ava, is sick.

He did not identify her illness, but sources say it is serious. Nor did he deny persistent rumors that she is suffering from some form of cancer.

"Sheriff Arpaio confirms that Ava has been ill, but as a private matter, neither talk about it," Allen stated via e-mail. "They’ve been married for going on 59 years and one thing he says he is certain about is that Ava is a fighter and she will be fine. In fact, Ava talks about looking forward to being right by his side as he runs for a seventh term as sheriff."

Since November, sources have informed New Times that Ava has been in and out of the hospital. But when New Times approached Arpaio during his contempt trial last year and asked him about his wife's health, he brushed aside the question.

Ava has been an unwavering and public presence in support of her husband. And some of Arpaio's toughest critics have been charmed by her.

In December, when the couple celebrated 58 years together, the man who promotes himself as "America's toughest sheriff," offered a fond tribute to his spouse, both in a YouTube video and a written message posted to his Facebook page.

"A lifetime in law enforcement is always a hard but rewarding career choice," he stated in the Facebook posting. "Ava, my beautiful wife, has been with my [sic] every step of the way during my 55 years in law enforcement. From my days as a cop in DC to my years as an appointed head of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Turkey, the Middle East, Mexico, Latin America and in the U.S., to my 23 years as Sheriff of the third largest Office in the nation . . . Ava has been my rock and my anchor.

"Without her, my success would not have been possible. I am not very good at heartfelt expression particularly in this medium, but here is my tribute to my wife. I hope that sharing it publicly makes it a little more meaningful."

Ava's illness is one more challenge for Arpaio in 2016 as he awaits the results of last year's civil contempt trial in federal court and the possibility that U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow will refer the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution. 

Arpaio's campaign guru Chad Willems recently announced that Arpaio has $3.2 million on hand for his upcoming re-election effort.

If Ava's illness persists, it certainly will take an emotional toll on the embattled 83-year-old sheriff.

However, considering the flood of good wishes he received when he fell and broke his shoulder in 2013, Arpaio can expect to receive the same sort of sympathy from the general public over Ava's illness.

But this time, in an election year.

Update 5:47 p.m.: ABC 15 is now reporting that Ava has been diagnosed with cancer

Update 5:59 p.m.: Channel 12 reporting same, quoting MCSO statement below:

In response to a number of media inquiries, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his wife Ava are confirming that Mrs. Arpaio has been diagnosed with cancer. Ava has already undergone traditional treatment and is at home resting comfortably and on the path to recovery. Both Sheriff Arpaio and Ava thank those who were aware of her illness for all their prayers and flowers and good wishes and both would like everyone to know that they are confident of an excellent outcome.
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons