Community rocked by suicide of sheriff's investigator under criminal investigation

10:00 PM PST on Monday, January 26, 2009

Special to The Press-Enterprise

Law enforcement officials and San Jacinto Valley residents are grappling with conflicting emotions following the death of a well-known Riverside County sheriff's investigator who committed suicide Sunday at a Hemet motel.

Kevin Duffy, 51, was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 15 and was the focus of a criminal investigation by the Sheriff's Department, according to a department news release. He had not been arrested or charged with any crime.

Sheriff's officials would not describe the nature of the allegations, citing the ongoing investigation, nor would they say whether the results of the investigation be disclosed.

Duffy had been with the Sheriff's Department since 1982 and was most recently assigned to the Hemet station in Valle Vista.

David Hall remembers the first time he met Duffy through the Police Activities League in Hemet.
"He was a good guy," said Hall, 20, a Hemet resident. "He made a difference in my life. He made a difference in a lot of peoples' lives."
Hall said he had heard about the criminal investigation but believes Duffy is innocent until he learns otherwise.

Jim Foreman, a former Hemet police officer who knew Duffy for more than a decade, said it is hard for him to believe the veteran investigator would commit any crime, but leaves open the possibility.

Foreman, now a Hemet City Council member, said he and other officers were stunned by the suicide and are trying to reconcile the investigator they knew with the news of his death and the allegations against him.
Foreman said he has no specific information about the case against Duffy, but indicated the suicide may give some insight into the allegations.
"I don't believe an innocent man would kill himself," Foreman said. "An innocent man fights to prove that he is innocent."

Duffy's body was found by a maid who went to clean up a room in the Motel 6 on Florida Avenue about 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Hemet police Lt. Jeff Pinney said Duffy had a single bullet wound to the head and died sometime within 24 hours of his body being discovered. He declined to say whether Duffy left a suicide note.

The death has stunned many residents of the San Jacinto Valley who knew Duffy through his work as a detective -- he worked on a variety of crimes and focused for years on child abuse cases -- as well as his volunteer activities with local youth sports programs.

In one case, Duffy and others spent hours building a motocross track on a Hemet campus.
In 2007, Duffy received the Excellence in Community Service Award from the Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee.
Hall said he fondly remembers the many camping trips, days at the beach and paintball excursions involving Duffy through the police league.
"He seemed to really enjoy being there," Hall said.

The death also has law-enforcement officials scrambling to see what effect, if any, it will have on the criminal cases in which Duffy was a key witness or investigator. Assistant District Attorney Charles Hughes said his office will review those cases involving Duffy and see how to proceed.
Sam Goepp, former general manager of the Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, first met Duffy more than two decades ago when Goepp went to work for the district.

"This was a man who gave to the community 24 hours a day," said Goepp, who now lives in Chico and received news of the suicide Sunday night. "He lived for the community. He would do whatever was needed to help. I am simply stunned."

Goepp said he is aware of the criminal probe but cannot believe Duffy is guilty of any wrongdoing.
"If he did something, it would be contrary to everything I know about him," Goepp said. "This was not the person I knew."

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