“I was lied to and treated with disrespect”

SanTanValley.com News
April 27, 2013
Tonya Hensley

My name is Tonya Hensley. I live in Mesa, Arizona.

I am the widow of Chris Hensley who went missing on Monday, April 15th and was found on Friday, April 19th at the bottom of a 200 foot cliff at Superstition Mountain.

At 10:00 PM last Monday, I called the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office to report my husband missing as of 5:27 PM that evening. I was assured by the deputy that he had “400 phone calls to make to get a search and rescue team and a helicopter out.” On Tuesday I was informed that no helicopter had gone out nor had a search team.

On Tuesday four members from PCSO Search and Rescue team went on a several hour hike to look for Chris. After coming back, they sat around for four hours and after I asked why they weren’t searching, they told me “I know there seems to be a lot of sitting around but this is the process.”

I told the PCSO crew leader that Chris hiked the area one time before and made it to the bottom of Flat Iron in 1 hour and 30 minutes. His goal was to get to the top. I had told the deputy which intersection Chris left from as he entered the park.

The search team assured me Chris wouldn’t have gone that far and that it was too dangerous to get their team that high up. For four days they were searching the WRONG area because they said they don’t have the insurance coverage to go to where I TOLD them Chris was going.

They said it was too windy to get a helicopter in the air. Why wouldn’t they go look?

I was lied to and treated with disrespect. The Sheriff’s Office personnel acted like Chris was a bad person because he had a rough past. I felt they didn’t care about my family.

The early press releases by the Sheriff’s Office were wrong. Not only was I lied to, the public was lied to in these releases. PCSO was wrong in saying it was Chris’ first time in the Superstitions. PCSO was wrong in saying he was not familiar with the area. PCSO was wrong to say he didn’t tell anyone where he was going. PCSO was untruthful with me and with the public throughout the week.

Those PCSO phrases were repeated verbatim in most media reports. PCSO press releases made false claims as to the amount of time they had been searching.

I called the Sheriff’s Office several times to get details and information. I rarely got a call back. I had to drive up to their search camp numerous times just to see what was going on.

If the Sheriff’s search team would have only listened to the information I was telling them, my husband wouldn’t have been lying at the bottom of a canyon for four days. The group that was in charge of this search didn’t know what they were doing and they didn’t care about the families that were waiting in agony to hear some answers and to get their loved one back.

All they had to do was go where I told them Chris was going. Chris told me EXACTLY where he was going and exactly what route he would take. The PCSO team didn’t care what I had to say because they knew better than I did. They said they have to follow a so called “system.” They were in the wrong. My husband’s case was different. He deserved a fair and thorough search and they should have listened to the details I was giving them.

On Wednesday I called Deputy Love and told him I didn’t trust his team because of all the misinformation. I can remember three times they told me there were helicopters out. Not one of those three times resulted in a helicopter going out.

I was also told there would be 50-60 people out on the field looking but I came to find out there were only three. They also said they would send dogs out. They didn’t when they told me they would.

Not every case deserves the same typical routine. Every case is different. There needs to be a different person in charge of Search and Rescue. The teams that looked for my husband didn’t do their job right. That resulting in him lying in a canyon. His body was so decomposed we couldn’t even say our last goodbyes.

On Thursday my family was told about Superstition Search and Rescue. We gave that group the same information that we had given to PCSO Search and Rescue earlier. Within a mere 2 1/2 hours in the field acting on our information, SSAR successfully located my husband’s body. This proves beyond a reasonable doubt that PCSO completely disregarded the reliable information that I had given them.                        

Body of missing hiker found in Superstitions

by Steve Stout – Apr. 19, 2013 01:47 PM


Searchers have found the body of a hiker missing in the Superstition Mountains since Monday.

Members of the Superstition Search and Rescue team of the Apache Junction Police Department found the body of Christopher Hensley in a canyon south of Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Wilderness Area of the Tonto National Forest shortly after noon and alerted the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

A search had been underway since Monday afternoon for the 34-year-old Hensley, who left a family member’s house in Apache Junction Monday afternoon to hike in the wilderness area.

Tamra Ingersoll of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said Hensley had recently moved to Arizona and was not familiar with the area and did not tell his family where in the park he planned to hike.

The body was found in a rugged area that prevented a helicopter from landing, so members of the Pinal County Search and Rescue team were hiking into the canyon area to retrieve the body, according to Tim Gaffney of the sheriff’s office.

No cause of death had been determined.                        

Body of Missing Lost Dutchman Hiker Possibly Found by Superstition Search and Rescue

by Monica Alonzo Fri., Apr. 19, 2013 01:07 PM

Members of the Superstition Search and Rescue have discovered what they suspect is the body of a hiker missing since Monday.

Crews from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded to Lost Dutchman State Park on Monday night — four days ago — after receiving a call of an overdue hiker, PCSO spokeswoman Tamra Ingersoll told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday.

Ingersoll told the Republic that Christopher Hensley, 34, was last seen Monday afternoon when he set out for a hike through the state park. She also said on Wednesday that the sheriff’s search crews had been searching for more than 45 hours but found no sign of Hensley.

SSAR members are just now coming down the mountain after making their discovery and reporting it to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.

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New Times spoke with Robert Cooper, head of the SSAR, as he sat on a rock in the canyon waiting for law enforcement officials to arrive and debrief him about his team’s find.

Cooper tells us the body fits the description of the missing man, but no positive identification has been made by law enforcement officials.

Cooper says he received a call last night from the wife of the missing man, asking for his team’s assistance. He went to her home and got a print from her husband’s shoe.

The team’s success would depend on tried-and-true tracking.

Last night, after Cooper left the wife’s home, he went to the park’s fence line, searched the footprints on the ground and says he was able to determine where the hiker apparently entered the park.

About 8:30 a.m. today, 11 SSAR members hiked into the canyon and ascended the steep cliffs.

They found a body in less than three hours.

“We can’t just come out unless we’re asked,” Cooper explains about his team’s involvement. “Our team is no longer part of the PCSO search-and-rescue team. We’re a private nonprofit organization.”

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu started his own search-and-rescue team, effectively booting SSAR for not wanting to disband and work under the sheriff’s command.

“We figured out where he entered and followed his prints into the canyon,” Cooper says.

Crews from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Pima County had also been assisting in the search.

Cooper says the body of the man is at the base of a 200-foot cliff, and while it appears that he fell, it’s unclear from what point on the face of the Flat Iron cliff the man fell.

Hiker’s Body Found In Mtns.

4-day PCSO search ends – SSAR finds body in 2 hrs.

by Bill Van Nimwegen, The News

The body of 34-year-old Christopher Hensley was found Friday, April 19, near a canyon south of Siphon Draw in the Superstition Mountains. Authorities have confirmed that the body is that of the novice hiker missing since Monday, April 15.

The volunteer Superstition Search and Rescue (SSAR) team began looking for Hensley on Friday morning after a request by his wife the night before. The Apache Junction based volunteer team found the body after only a two-hour search.

Hensley was last seen Monday afternoon when he set out for a hike at Lost Dutchman State Park. “He was racing the sun,” said Robert Cooper, Director of Urban Search and Rescue at SSAR, “It looks like he may have slipped and fallen 200 feet into a steep canyon.”

SSAR began it’s search from the house where Hensley was staying with relatives in East Apache Junction. “We just tracked him,” said Cooper, “We track and then we use our nose.”

According to an April 17 story in the Arizona Republic by Jennifer Thomas, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Search and Rescue unit and volunteer Search and Rescue Posse members had been searching the rough terrain of the mountains for 2 1/2 days, since about 10 p.m. April 16.

Although wind conditions limited a search by helicopter, the search continued and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Search and Rescue team joined in the search. There were injuries sustained by both PCSO and MCSO searchers on Tuesday.

According to a press release from PCSO, “The body will be removed from the mountainous area and will be turned over to the medical examiner’s office for further evaluation and to rule on the cause of death.”

“We have been very busy this year,” said Cooper, “and we are always looking for volunteers.”

You can learn more about SSAR and volunteering at www.superstition-sar.org.