PHOENIX (CN) - A legal aide for Maricopa County helped get a Mexican Mafia killer released on bail after she became romantically involved with his boss in jail, the slain man's family claims in court.
The widow, four children and parents of the late Steven Stair sued Maricopa County and the City of Phoenix in Maricopa County Court. They are the only defendants, other than XYZ Organizations and Enterprises and John and Jane Does.
The widow, Cheryl Lynn Stair, claims in the lawsuit that the Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender failed to supervise its mitigation specialist, Jessica Mukavetz, "who was in a position of high responsibility involving frequent contact with known members of what is without any doubt the most dangerous and constantly investigated criminal organization in the state, the Arizona Mexican Mafia."
The Mexican Mafia is a prison gang modeled after the Sicilian Mafia that began at the Arizona State Prison in Florence in 1974. The gang operates under an organizational structure that allows members to vote on issues, including leadership and membership.
The family claims that Mukavetz was assigned to perform capital mitigation tasks for Rene Durgin, aka "Lokon," who was in jail on first-degree murder charges involving the robbery of a Glendale car wash in 2010.
The family claims that Mukavetz "was completely compromised" by Durgin, and that her "activities as a compromised female are typical of the practices of members of the Mexican Mafia, well understood by the MCSO and PPD, who not only know the necessity of Mexican Mafia members utilizing females as information conduits essential to the conduct of gang business, but who actually knew of Jessica's personal involvement with Rene Durgin and who carefully monitored the incredible frequency and lengths of her visits to Durgin in the 4th Avenue jail no later than January of 2013."
Mukavetz visited Durgin in jail, talked to him on the phone, "operated social media sites with him and on his behalf, and was directly responsible for conducting illicit Mexican Mafia business on his behalf, including securing the release on bail in October of 2012 of Durgin's soldier Bobby Hoover at Durgin's behest," the Stair family claims in the lawsuit.
Mukavetz visited Durgin 14 times at the Fourth Avenue Jail between Jan. 1 and March 1, 2013, and Durgin called Mukavetz 69 times during that period, the complaint states.
On Feb. 11, 2013, while out on bail, Hoover killed Steven Stair at the Phoenician Palms, an apartment complex he managed with his wife, Cheryl, according to the complaint. Hoover, who was squatting in an unoccupied apartment after removing the electronic monitoring device he was placed on, shot Stair four times, "killing him almost instantly," according to the complaint. Cheryl learned of her husband's death at a hospital, from Phoenix police officers.
The lawsuit coldly damns Mukavetz's supervisors at the Office of the Legal Defender: "During the entire period of Jessica's assignment to Rene Durgin's case (Durgin was indicted for first-degree murder in September of 2010, for which a cash bond of one million dollars was set in October of 2010), nobody at OLD supervised her in any meaningful way; otherwise, OLD would have discovered her endless visits and telephone conversations with her paramour, and her direct involvement in activities assisting the Mexican Mafia in general and Hoover and Durgin in particular, and would have learned of her romance with Durgin long before her arrest at OLD and the execution of a search warrant there in March of 2013 which resulted in the seizure of Mexican Mafia symbols and drawings in plain view on her bulletin board in her office there.
"But for the acts, errors, and omissions of the County, City, and Jessica Mukavetz, plaintiffs' decedent would be alive today."
The widow claims the Sheriff's Office and Phoenix Police had "possession of a recorded jail telephone conversation which fully identified Jessica Mukavetz by name no later than October of 2012, and which describes Jessica's direct involvement with extortion and threats of violent crime to be undertaken by Durgin and Hoover," but failed to arrest Mukavetz or Hoover, or inform the Office of the Legal Defender.
Mukavetz was arrested in March 2013 and charged with promoting prison contraband and organizing or managing a street gang.
The family seeks damages for wrongful death. They are represented by Grant Woods.Follow @@jamierossCNS
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.