Law and Disorder

In nine days, 51 creepy phone calls and death threats were made to Leon and Jeanette Woodward. U S West Communications determined that 43 of those calls originated within state police headquarters or from the home of Department of Public Safety Officer Van Jackson.

Subsequent events raise the possibility that the campaign of terror also included covert surveillance and illegal wiretapping.

On April 25, a shaken Leon Woodward dialed the Phoenix Police Department looking for protection. Patrolman Rick Wenrick was dispatched to the Woodward residence.

The couple told the Phoenix cop that twice that evening a man had called and threatened their lives.

"You're a dead man and your wife will die, too . . . ," recounts Wenrick's report, obtained under Arizona's public records law.

While the police officer was inside the Woodward home, more ominous calls occurred. Beginning what was to become a pattern of "silent" harassment, the phone rang; after Woodward picked up the receiver, the mysterious caller refused to speak.

Officer Wenrick listened in on a separate phone extension.
After finishing his interview and listening in on the two calls, Phoenix policeman Wenrick left the Woodward residence and proceeded to 16th Drive and Griswold, where he intended to write up his report.

Before he could finish the paperwork, Wenrick received a message in his squad car to meet a DPS unit at 19th Avenue and Northern.

When he arrived, Officer Wenrick found an old acquaintance, DPS Officer Van Jackson, in an unmarked car.

Jackson asked for and received a copy of Officer Wenrick's report.
Wenrick said Jackson told him that Leon Woodward was under surveillance by DPS, was the target of a DPS investigation, and "that they want to get him good."

These events of April 25 raise serious questions.
How did Van Jackson know that a Phoenix cop had been summoned to the Woodward residence?

If Van Jackson was parked across the street from the Woodward home, keeping Leon under surveillance, he would have seen the Phoenix police car arrive. But then he could not have been at DPS headquarters and made the two phone calls that Officer Wenrick overheard.

Who at DPS headquarters made those two phone calls?
Though it seems remote, it's possible Van Jackson picked up Woodward's call for help from a police scanner.

But Sheila Johns, a DPS employee who shared an office with Van Jackson, said the officer did not have a scanner at work. If DPS had tapped the Woodwards' phone, the state police would have picked up Leon's call summoning a Phoenix patrolman.

But in the follow-up investigation by Phoenix Police Detective Rick Hargus, the phone company said there had been no legal tap on the Woodward residence.

Was there an illegal wiretap on the Woodward phone?
If there was an illegal bug or covert surveillance, then this entire Woodward episode is much more involved than DPS has let on.

At this point, all the state police will acknowledge is that Leon and Jeanette Woodward were the victims of intimidating phone calls and death threats. And yet when Detective Hargus conducted his investigation, it wasn't long before a DPS worker gave a statement that suggested more was involved.

Sheila Johns, whose desk was next to Van Jackson's, stumbled across an index card that should have aroused suspicion.

"I had heard about the charges and decided to look up the statute," said Johns. "So on his [Van Jackson's] desk was a Title 13 and I picked it up. Inside the book was a five by seven lined white card and in Van's handwriting was Leon's home phone number and address and the words `tap' and `trace.'"

Van Jackson's office mate wasn't the only person who uncovered suspicious details.

Two weeks ago, David Rabern of International Counterintelligence Service examined the Woodward residence for evidence of surveillance.

Rabern discovered that the Woodwards' outside phone box had been "tampered with" in a pattern consistent with an illegal wiretap.

"There were scratches on the outside, wires were pulled out as if something had been attached to them with some device or someone had been testing it trying to find which pair of wires was the talk pair," said Rabern in an interview discussing his findings.

Explaining that someone could have put a tap on Woodwards' phone box, he added that an unknown party could also have attached a device known as a tone generator.

"Then they could identify the same wires a block or so down the street and tap in there."

If, in fact, this spook work was going on, is it possible that Van Jackson could have executed all of it by himself?

Is it conceivable that one man waged this entire covert war and that no one else at DPS was ever aware of what Van Jackson was up to?

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey