Does gender bias in Coos County affect law enforcement’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes against women ultimately deny justice? Before we dig into this topic, it should be noted that Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier does not plan to run for reelection. This past November, citing an especially heavy workload, Frasier secured a $7K annual salary increase approved by the county commission to make his compensation comparable to more populated counties in Oregon and presumably to entice quality candidates to the office.
A salary increase is not likely to improve crime victims’ chances of achieving justice if gender bias permeates the culture of the involved agencies.
As documented in earlier stories about the Coquille Police Department, gender bias may manifest in different ways. When Jessica Makinson tried to report her then husband Officer Clayton Makinson for an assault that resulted in damage to her shoulder requiring surgery the department rallied around the officer. Members of the department and even the city’s selfie loving mayor, Sam Flaherty testified on his behalf at one of their divorced proceedings. On October 4, 2023, after being on administrative leave since February 1, Makinson was finally fired from the department for lying on a death investigation and illegally searching police databases on himself and others without cause.
Previously, I inquired of Frasier why Makinson wasn’t on a Brady List after allegations from fellow law enforcement officers were made questioning his integrity. Frasier said he relied on CQPD Chief Scott Sanders to conduct an internal investigation. Sanders and Makinson were good friends and recreated together so unsurprisingly he was cleared, and Frasier felt free to accept his testimony in criminal proceedings. Nonetheless, lawyers in civil proceedings were able to impeach Makinson’s credibility as a witness using evidence provided on this site. These recent findings regarding the officer’s lack of integrity could call into question any convictions relying upon his testimony.
One of the most egregious examples of gender bias in the county arises out of the criminally negligent handling by the Coquille Police Department into the disappearance and murder of fifteen-year-old Leah Freeman. Treating Freeman as nothing more than a delinquent teenager and then even after finding her remains refusing to move the investigation forward denied the family justice and opened the county to civil litigation.
Questions have been raised by the family and on this blog about the investigation into the death of seventeen-year-old Shayleen Schaffer in 2006. Immediately dismissed by Coos County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Slater as an alcohol related single car accident the scene was cleaned up within two hours eliminating any evidence to the contrary. Amongst the oddities in the crash scene is why she isn’t driving her own vehicle and how the 5’3” Schaffer was driving a manual shift vehicle with the driver’s seat in the fully extended position.
Slater appears to have dropped the ball on a more recent rape allegation. The alleged victim, Valarie Smith, has become so frustrated with the lack of action by the sheriff’s office and the district attorney that she has taken to social media. Smith filed a complaint against Jason Snelgrove on July 11, 2023. She underwent SANE ( Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) testing at the hospital and provided all her other digital and physical evidence. To date, Snelgrove has never even by questioned by law enforcement and Deputy District Attorney John Blanc snapped at the victim telling her calling every day to enquire about her case won’t help.
Slater’s report is practically empty, and according to the victim, inaccurate. There is no evidence that this crime is being taken seriously by the sheriff’s office or the district attorney. In the upcoming stories we will explore how and why victims like Smith and the family of Shayleen Schaffer are forced to use their own resources to solve crimes when law enforcement is unwilling or unable to do their jobs.
Stay tuned for some deep dives into the Shayleen Schaffer case and the allegations of Valarie Smith. Is there a killer running loose? Is there a sexual predator running loose all because of careless policing and gender bias?
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