Sergeant Sean Drenth Death Investigation: "Significant Evidence Someone Was at the Scene"

The Phoenix Police Department held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the findings of the soon-to-be-released report on the investigation into the death of Sergeant Sean Drenth, who was found shot to death near the State Capitol last October.

The report, as Phoenix police officials explain, offers a lot of questions, but few answers as to who shot Drenth -- and it's still unclear whether his death was a suicide or murder.

One thing, however, seems clear: Drenth wasn't the only person at the scene in the 29-minute window from when he got there to when his body was discovered by a State Capitol Police officer.

Detectives were able to track Drenth's movements for the two hours prior to when his body was discovered via-a GPS device in his squad car. According to Lieutenant Joe Knott, head of the P.P.D.'s homicide unit, Drenth was doing routine patrol in the areas between 7th Avenue to the I-17, and Buckeye Road and Jefferson Street during the two hours before his death.

About 10:26 p.m., Drenth's vehicle pulled into a parking lot near railroad tracks across from the state capitol. The spot is popular amongst cops who often park there to do paperwork. Drenth activated a computer device in his cruiser that indicates when he's stopped someone, which suggests he'd encountered someone near the parking lot.

About 30 minutes later, his body was discovered next to the open passenger door of his squad car with a shotgun wound under his chin and his shotgun resting on his chest as he lay on his back.

"The biggest question is the position of the shotgun," Knott says. He notes, it's very possible someone staged the crime scene and placed the shotgun on Drenth's dead body, so finding the gun on his chest isn't the smoking gun (pardon the pun) that he killed himself.

Adding to the mystery is that Drenth's service weapon was found on the other side of a fence on the west side of the parking lot where his body was found. Another of Drenth's weapons was found next to his body. One bullet had been fired in the direction of where the other gun was found.

If Drenth killed himself, it seems he made the scene as confusing as possible for investigators -- unless someone found his body in the 29 minutes between when he got to the parking lot and when his body was discovered and moved evidence around; a scenario police aren't ruling out.

"We have significant evidence to suggest someone was at the scene," Knott says. Finding out who that person was is the problem investigators continue to face.

Based on police interviews with friends and family, it doesn't seem as though Drenth was the kind of guy who wanted to kill himself.

"Absolutely nobody thinks Sean Drenth would have killed himself for any reason," Knott says of those close to the dead sergeant.

In his own opinion of whether Drenth was murdered or committed suicide, Knott doesn't know what to think.

"I started at 50/50 [in terms of whether it was murder or suicide]," he says. "Throughout the investigation, that's shifted in both's extremely frustrating."

Knott says we may never know exactly what happened to Drenth, but the case remains open and the department will continue to investigate.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King

Latest Stories