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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is under increasing criticism for failing to properly investigate more than 400 sex crimes cases.
An internal affairs investigation has been under way for four years, but the sheriff's office refuses to release any of its findings.
Among the victims that appear to have fallen through the cracks is Sabrina Morrison. She was 13 years old when she says her uncle, Patrick Morrison, snuck into her bedroom and raped her.
"He threatened me. He said not to tell anybody or he would hurt me," said Sabrina in her first media interview.
She and her mother sat down with CBS 5 Investigates to talk about what they went through, while the sheriff's office sat on their case for more than four years.
Despite the warning from her uncle, Sabrina told a teacher at school the following day. The teacher called the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
After a rape exam, Sabrina said the detective told her there was no evidence of a crime.
"They said I wasn't molested. They said nothing came back," said Sabrina.
"I was told to my face that there was no evidence of any trauma. No sexual assault. So I thought she was lying the whole time," said Vikki Morrison, Sabrina's mother.
What followed was a nightmare for Sabrina. She was already dealing a mental disability. Now, neither the investigators nor her family believed her.
Her uncle repeatedly raped her. She became pregnant. Sabrina told her family the father was another boy. Because of physical complications, she had an abortion. Her family said she was acting out so badly, they had to send her away to live in a group home.
"It was scary. We didn't know what was going on with her," said Vikki Morrison.
What the family did not know was the sheriff's detective sent the rape kit to the state crime lab. Two weeks later, the crime lab sent a notice to the MCSO Special Victim's Unit confirming the sample contained semen, and asking for a blood sample from the suspect, Patrick Morrison.
Instead of making an arrest, a detective filed the crime lab note and closed the case for four years. It was five years before they arrested Patrick Morrison.
Patrick Morrison would eventually admit to his crime and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
"An eighth-grader could have solved this case," said Sabrina's attorney, Charles Surrano. "They sat on the evidence, closed the case and never obtained the sample necessary to have the DNA testing done."
"How do you feel when you find out your daughter's been telling you the truth and you didn't know it the whole time?" Vikki Morrison asked.
This was one of hundreds of sex crimes the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office failed to properly investigate.
MCSO officials admit they dropped the ball on more than 400 sex crimes between 2005 and 2008, many of them involving children. They began an internal affairs investigation in 2008, but four years later refuse to release the results.
CBS 5 Investigates asked the sheriff about it just last week.
"I'm not going to answer that," Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. He refused to say when the internal affairs investigation would be released.
An internal memo written by one of the detectives assigned to the Morrison case may shed some light on what went wrong.
It blames a high case load, says the special victims unit had gone from five detectives to just three, and the detectives left were often called off their cases to investigate special assignments. They included a credit card fraud case involving the Arizona Diamondbacks and a mortgage fraud case in Arpaio's home city of Fountain Hills.
The Morrisons have filed a $30 million claim against the county, alleging the delay in making an arrest amounted to gross negligence.
You can read the Morrison's notice of claim against the county here.
A spokesperson for Paul Penzone, who is Arpaio's Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, told CBS 5 they believe the sheriff is deliberately withholding the results of the internal affairs investigation until after the election.
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