Incomplete Court File Could End Lawsuit Involving Cochise Jail Chaplain

Doug Packer [Photo courtesy the Arizona Department of Corrections]

A lawsuit filed by two women who exposed far-ranging sexual misconduct by the-Cochise County jail chaplain Douglas Parker is set to be dismissed later this month, apparently because documents went missing when the case from transferred to Pima County.

In January 2019, Devan Kingery and Elizabeth Durazo reported being sexually assaulted by Packer in his office at the jail. Packer’s job required him to provide religious support and counseling to inmates, and he also counseled county employees.

DNA evidence as well as descriptions of Packer’s body and clothing led to his arrest. He was sentenced in January 2020 to 15 years in prison for felony sexual misconduct against six female inmates dating back to 2014.

Kingery and Durazo sued Cochise County and Sheriff Mark Dannels, as well as Packer and his wife in October 2019.  The women allege negligent supervision, negligent retention, batter, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress stemming from their experiences.

In January, a Cochise County judge ordered the lawsuit to be transferred to Pima County. But a matching file was not opened by the Clerk of the Pima County Superior Court until May 8, the Arizona Daily Independent has learned.

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Recently a Pima County court official notified the parties that Kingery and Durazo’s lawsuit will be dismissed Sept. 21 due to the absence of key documents in the file. The documents are notices of service which confirm all named defendants have been served a copy of the lawsuit.

Those notices, however, were filed with Cochise County Superior Court long before the case was transferred to Pima County. Adding to the confusion is that Dannels filed his formal answer to the lawsuit in November at the same time Cochise County filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Such filings by the defendants would not be possible if they had not been served with the lawsuit.

Cochise County contends the board of supervisors “had no right of control” over Dannels or individual employees of the sheriff’s office, and “thus cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions alleged.” No hearings have been held on the dismissal motion even though it has been pending for 10 months.

Meanwhile, Dannels’ answer to the lawsuit contains rigorous denials of Kingery and Durazo’s suggestion that the sheriff knew of Packer’s inappropriate sexual acts with inmates or that other employees were aware of Packer’s “propensity” to engage in such conduct.

The Arizona Department of Corrections shows Packer is slated to be released from prison in November 2031. He will then be on lifetime probation and must register as a sex offender.