Sheriff Arpaio’s Willie Horton moment

If you’re old enough, you may remember this infamous Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential election between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis.

Many people credited this ad for helping Bush turn the conversation in the campaign and win the presidency. And as attack ads go, this one was definitely one of the best.

The ad came back to me this morning after reading this article in the Phoenix New Times, “Tough” Sheriff Joe Arpaio Let a Murderer Go to Kill Again.

The story details the deaths of two young women by the same man. The first woman, Rachel Rodriguez, was shot in the head in 2005, not long before MCSO took over the El Mirage Police Department.

The case was open when the Sheriff’s Department came in, but according to accounts by former El Mirage Asst. Police Chief Bill Louis, the investigation was not worked and the lead suspect, Arturo Hernandez, Jr., walked free.

A few years later, Hernandez was convicted of manslaughter after a reckless drunk driving incident killed his female passenger.

When MCSO left El Mirage and a new police department was formed, investigators came across the Rodriguez case and decided they had enough evidence to arrest Hernandez. That’s when they discovered that he was already serving a 13-year sentence for manslaughter.

Hernandez was eventually convicted in the death of Rodriguez, but the family of the second victim is left with the knowledge that their daughter would be alive had Hernandez been arrested and prosecuted for the first crime of murder.

This leads me back to the Willie Horton ad, and the ad I envision Penzone could run against Arpaio. It goes something like this:

Arpaio and Penzone on crime.

Penzone supports focusing MCSO resources on murderers and rapists and led a unit responsible for capturing two serial murderers.

Arpaio supports funding anti-corruption and conspiracy squads that cost taxpayers millions of dollars while turning his back on hundreds of rapists, child molesters and murderers.

One of them was Arturo Hernandez, Jr. Hernandez shot his girlfriend in the head and stuffed her body in a closet. The case was left open and Hernandez was free to kill again. And he did, just two years later. 

Millions wasted. Murderers walk free. Arpaio on crime.

Of course this ad will never be made, but it’s not the ad that matters. What matters is that people know Joe Arpaio has wasted resources – our resources – on investigations that netted zero convictions while ignoring investigations that were critical to the safety of our community.

His neglect didn’t just cost us millions in taxpayer dollars; it also cost lives. And no ad can ever do justice to that travesty.


  1. Ken Martin

    Great statement, Julie. And well written.

    I wonder if there are more of these situations that have not surfaced yet.

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