John Gillis, Veteran Victims' Advocate, Joins Maricopa County Attorney's Office; Former Justice Department Official's Daughter was Murdered in '79

John Gillis -- veteran Los Angeles cop, former U.S. Department of Justice official and champion for the rights of crime victims -- will be helping out Valley victims for a while.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has hired Gillis to serve as the chief of the agency's victim services division.

Picking Gillis, a notable figure who served for eight years as the DOJ's Office for the Victims of Crime director, may give Montgomery something to crow about. The former cop's credentials as a victims' advocate are impressive -- and tragic.

Gillis' 23-year-old daughter was murdered in 1979 by a gang member who wanted to impress his homies. 

Gillis gave chilling details of the crime to the University of Akron, Ohio, which conducted an extensive interview with him in 2003:

"In 1979, my daughter was murdered by a gang member who wanted to move up in the hierarchy of the gang. And this was his buy-in. He wanted to move up into the narcotics end of the gang and one of the quickest ways for them to do that was to either attack a policeman or do something where he would garner the favor of the gang. In addition to that, they would feel that there was no possibility that he was an informant for law enforcement.

"So he had known my daughter when they were in high school, didn't know her well, but she became the target. And.... he offered her a ride one rainy evening when she was on her way to class, drove her to an alley in the Los Angeles area and shot her to death. It happened to have been one of the alleys where the gang members did hang out and it was one of the areas where I had been on patrol. It was a part of my beat at one time. And so there were some very definite things that they were trying to get across."

Gillis later founded co-founded Justice for Homicide Victims in Los Angeles and California's Coalition on Victims' Equal Rights (COVER), the Akron site says.

Of course, the main concern for Maricopa residents is how Gillis will improve the quality of services for victims. His office will be a busy one: The department he'll oversee last year served more than 54,000 people.

We're not sure if that number includes those victimized by former County Attorney Andrew Thomas or Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.