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Sheriff Denies Threatening Reporter Who Vanished Lawsuit Over Internal Dispute Raises New Questions In 12-Year-Old Case

Acting Pierce County Sheriff Mark French denies he threatened a missing Tacoma newspaper reporter but is asking King County Police to investigate her disappearance 12 years ago.

The allegations of the threat surfaced in a lawsuit involving the Tacoma Sheriff’s Department in a long-standing internal dispute.

French allegedly threatened the reporter for The News Tribune, Jody Roberts, over a story about cocaine usage by French.

“I don’t have anything to hide, and I’m more than willing to farm it (the disappearance investigation) out to some outside agency that can take an independent look,” French said Thursday.

French said he talked to Roberts but never threatened or hurt her.

The assertion that he threatened Roberts surfaced in a civil lawsuit filed by former sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Crockett against those who he says forced him out of the department.

The lawsuit followed a series of long-standing disputes between Crockett, his supporters and many of the Sheriff’s Department’s top officers.

The assertion about French was in a signed declaration filed in Crockett’s case by former deputy Mike Golder. In it, Golder claimed he heard French threaten Roberts on March 4, 1985. On that day, French, Golder and Roberts attended a Pierce County Civil Service Commission hearing on Golder’s termination from the department.

Golder had been fired from the department for mistreatment of prostitutes. During that hearing, Golder told the commission French had been out to get him since 1981 when he and two other deputies passed along to the department’s narcotics unit a tip about French.

According to the statement, the deputies said a waitress at a Lakewood restaurant told them she and French used cocaine together on French’s boat. French denied he ever used cocaine. County officials say investigations under three different sheriffs have all cleared French.

Golder, whose termination was upheld by the commission, said he gave Roberts and another area reporter additional information about French’s alleged cocaine use. After the commission hearing, Golder said, French approached him and the two reporters.

“French threatened Jody Roberts because of her intent to publish the story. The story about Mark French was never published, and Jody Roberts disappeared,” Golder said in the declaration, filed in U.S. District Court.

French, who was a captain at the time, said this week he didn’t threaten Roberts. He said he asked her not to write about the allegations in The News Tribune, and if she did, to interview him before publication. He said he also discussed the allegations with the paper’s night editor.

A story published the next day about the hearing mentioned allegations about a deputy using cocaine. It didn’t mention the officer’s name. Roberts, 27, failed to appear for an assignment at Pacific Lutheran University on May 20, 1985. No one has seen or heard from her since.



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