Storied Detective Quits Phoenix Police Department

By Paul Rubin

Alex Femenia, the Phoenix police detective whose exploits were a big part of this paper's "Murder City" series in 2006, retired last Friday after three decades on the force.

Movie star Meg Ryan once played with Detective Alex Femenia's (basket)balls.

Femenia is going to work as an investigator with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, a gig with regular hours and most weekends off. Compared with the crazy hours that are the norm for homicide dicks, the job at MCAO promises to be far-cushier for the 55-year-old Gilbert resident.

Femenia probably is best-known for being the lead detective on the Baseline Killer case. He and his team of sleuths were relentless in trying to corral the serial killer, who terrorized the Valley (at the same time as the so-called Serial Killers also were roaming the streets) for a few years until the September 2006 arrest of Mark Goudeau.

Goudeau is awaiting trial on nine counts of murder and numerous other charges.

But Femenia's distinguished career included long stints in the Organized Crime Bureau (he worked the infamous AzScam case in the early 1990s, in which several state Legislators were busted for taking bribes) and other high-pressure, often high-profile details.

Last Friday morning, a few hundred of Femenia's friends, family and longtime colleagues paid tribute to the detecrive with the thick moustache at the Burton Barr Central Library.

Police Chief Jack Harris spoke glowingly of Femenia's achievements, as did his final commander, Joe Klima, and his longtime partner at the PD, Jack Ballentine.

Femenia's last sergeant, Patrick Kotecki, put together a slide show of Femenia's life and career that included a photo of the onetime football and basketball star back in his native Danbury, Connecticut. One old photo showed a young Meg Ryan (the high-school basketball team's ball girl) in the dressing room as the coach went over strategy at a blackboard before a game.

Though Femenia is a famously funny guy, his former lieutenant, Benny Pina, probably had the best line of the warm and fuzzy send-off.

Pina, who now is commander of a precinct in west Phoenix, stepped to the podium in a crisply pressed uniform, and explained his attire.

"I decided to get dressed out just in case the Sheriff's Office decides to sweep our public library looking for you know what," said Pina, a Valley native of Latino descent. "Maybe if they see the uniform, they'll know who I am."

Everyone present, including the chief and the guest of honor, had a big chuckle over that one.