Friday, October 8, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
If you read this blog, odds are that you know that the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) crime lab found no gun powder residue on the bloody t-shirt worn by Pinal County sheriff's deputy Louie Puroll on the afternoon last April 30.
Sheriff Paul Babeu announced the finding at a heavily attended press conference late yesterday afternoon down in Florence.
The sheriff then pronounced the controversial case "closed" yet again, and concluded that the findings should clear his deputy from suspicion once and for all.
Not so fast.
We published a story on the case after a four-month investigation a few weeks ago entitled "Pinalcchio,"
As noted in the story and in follow-ups, the T-shirt was but one piece of an evidentiary puzzle that has brought Puroll's account into serious question.
The absence of "gun powder residue" at this point in time (and with the chain of custody issues that we touched on in a recent follow-up story) is proof positive of nothing, other than exactly what the lab wrote in its three-sentence report.
Louie Puroll himself spoke at length to the media, angrily denying any wrongdoing out in the Vekol Valley on that crazy afternoon and chiding anyone and everyone (especially us) who would have dared question his bona fides.
We introduced ourselves to the deputy after the formal part of the press conference ended.
"You're the guy who's calling me a liar," he told us. "I hope you sold a lot of newspapers with that B.S."
After that gentle start (we explained that the paper is free), the two of us actually settled into an intense, but cordial chat of about 45 minutes that covered just about every aspect of the case.
That included the lack of shell casings at the crime scene, the business with the backpack, the timing of everything, the escape of the smuggler/shooters and disappearance of the marijuana, and so on (you'll have to read the original story to get caught up to speed on all this, but it is critical).
We explained that we hadn't been "expert shopping," as his boss Babeu has suggested, when we sent the photos of his grazing wound to nationally renowned forensic pathologists for analysis. (Two of the pathologists said it looked like a "contact" or "near-contact" wound to them.)
"I don't have any problem with you doing your homework," Puroll replied. "But you weren't there. I was. And I'm not making anything up. Take it or leave it."
We found ourselves really enjoying the give-and-take with the 14-year veteran of the sheriff's office, and we are quite sure he did too.
But we still have big questions about his account.
"If this was 20 years ago or whatever, I might have been knocking you on the seat of your pants instead of talking to you right now," Puroll told us, to which we replied, "You might have. But it wouldn't have ended there."
We both chuckled at that point, and agreed to subdue our testosterone levels for the duration of our chat.
We told the deputy--who is very fast on his feet--that our issues with his account didn't spring up overnight, and it took months of legwork to sort out what we could.
"You like to fish, I know you do," Puroll said. "I fish, too. I fish for humans out in the desert. You fish for stories. But you shouldn't tell tall tales, fiction."
We told him that, while some folks might not agree, facts are where we roll.
"Yeah, but it's what you do with those facts," the deputy countered.
Ain't that the truth?
More to come on this in the coming weeks.