Superstition Search and Rescue news articles


"I was lied to and treated with disrespect"

SanTanValley.com News
April 27, 2013
by 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.
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