been through hell-he fought a corrupt sheriff that he
helped to elect, and suffered the wrath of the law enforcement administration he
helped create; then his
son was sentenced to death for a murder that Tom
innocent of.Now an ordained minister, he's
building a church and a home for unwed mothers in Soldotna, and praying he
can help others to get to Heaven.
journey through hell began with the pink underwear.
Along the way, Bearup's
been many things.He was the mayor of Soldotna.He
was once right-hand man to the Arizona lawman who calls himself the toughest sheriff in America.He
was a whistleblower who eventually took on that same sheriff.He was a politician who ran against his former boss twice and lost, suffering the legendarily vindictive sheriff's wrath. He's
also the father of a skinhead convicted of murder who now sits on Arizona's death row.
And not least of all, Tom Bearup
is a man of God-who God called back to Soldotna
to build a church.He
wife of 32 years, Adele, sit at the dining room table in their modest house off the Sterling Highway, telling the story of how they ended up in Soldotna
for the second time.This is Tom Bearup's
home now.But the Valley of Death he
journeyed through on the way back to Soldotna
begins in Phoenix, with the pink underwear.
...Bearup was raised in Phoenix, and besides having been a police officer in and mayor of Soldotna, he was a longtime Republican operative.He
worked with the Reagan
administration, and was once nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to South Korea.
...After Arpaio was elected, Bearup became an executive officer in the new sheriff's office.
In the process, Bearup
helped forge Arpaio's mythic persona-that of "America's Toughest Sheriff," a title later made famous by a January 1996 profile in Penthouse magazine
(and also the title of Arpaio's 1996 book).
"I'm so embarrassed that I've ever had the relationship I had with Joe Arpaio, because I helped him get to where he's at," confesses Bearup
David Hendershott-who later replaced Bearup
most trusted aide and is still Arpaio's Chief Deputy-was entrusted with large amounts of cash from those pink underwear sales.
didn't know if money was missing, but the administration refused to investigate.
"I'm hearing that someone's stealing some money," Bearup
It was Bearup
who first informed Arpaio
about the death.
The sheriff's office quickly exonerated itself of any wrongdoing, but Bearup
The incident was pivotal for Tom Bearup
was losing his
faith in the integrity of his
own law enforcement office.
"I left the sheriff's office by my choice," Tom Bearup
job on September 8, 1997, and soon after gave a deposition for a lawsuit against the sheriff's office by Gary Josephson, a former employee suing over his
termination.In the deposition, given to Phoenix attorney Nick Hentoff, Bearup said that Arpaio was using his posses to raise funds for a campaign for governor (a campaign that never materialized), and that money from the sales of the novelty pink underwear wasn't accounted for.
"[Arpaio] was angry," Bearup
says in the deposition.
According to testimony from a former deputy in an unrelated lawsuit, not only was Bearup
family under surveillance but their phone was tapped as well. (The allegations led to an FBI investigation, which proved inconclusive.)In late April of 1999, Maricopa County detention officer David Cool sent a letter to then-county attorney Rick Romley, stating that David Hendershott had ordered him to produce a false memo stating that Tom Bearup was plotting to attack the sheriff's office with explosives.
"He wanted me to create a legal form, that would falsely accuse Tom Bearup
of illegal activity," Cool wrote, according to a Phoenix New Times story about Cool by Tony Ortega in May of 1999.
Cool had attended the Phoenix church where Tom Bearup
lived and preached, and Hendershott quizzed Cool extensively about the goings on of the congregation, according to Cool's letter.
went on to run unsuccessfully against Arpaio
in both 2000 and 2004, despite Arpaio's attempts to peg him as a criminal.
...Bearup's descriptions of Sheriff Arpaio's alleged abuses of power both in his administration and against Bearup himself sound like the rantings of a disgruntled employee, unless you know Arpaio.
...The Press tried to ask Arpaio about his relationship with Bearup, but his spokesperson, Lisa Allen MacPherson, said, "I know he won't talk to you about that.
doesn't have a lot of good things to say about Tom
Arpaio's harassment was only the beginning of Tom Bearup's
officiated Fiedler's wedding while he
was incarcerated.Tom Bearup
maintains that his
son wasn't involved with white supremacists until that stint in prison.
first wife had been Korean, and Patrick has two half-siblings that are half Korean.
says that, with his assurances that he'd stand behind his son, Patrick eventually did break away from the skinheads after his release from prison.
But this is where Tom
and Adele Bearup's version of events differs greatly from law enforcement and hate group investigators' accounts.
, Adele and Patrick Bearup all maintain Patrick's innocence, and all swear that Patrick was in his parents' home the night the murder occurred.
"My son is innocent," Tom Bearup
, a lawman for most of his
life, says emphatically at his
kitchen table in Soldotna
.We know because he
had to come into our house, he
had to turn the alarm off.You know what the prosecutor said about that?He
said, ‘that's a theory.' He
said, ‘these are his
parents, they basically would lie for him.' He
goes, ‘My theory is he
never came home at all.He
never spent the night in that bed.'"
a cop's kid," Tom
and Adele pray and believe that Patrick will be exonerated and join them in Soldotna
Patrick's sentence of death came on February 2, 2007, Tom Bearup's
In 1975, Tom Bearup
wanted to die.
Sitting in a restaurant named Gladys's with a firefighter buddy, Tom
saw a hot chick come in on the arm of another guy."I'm going to marry that girl some day," he
remembers telling his
friend laughed and said, "Yeah, everybody wants to marry her
married Adele within the year.
While a cop in Soldotna
applied to be chief of police, but didn't get the job.He
looked into running for the city council, but says he
never felt peaceful about that path.
...While Tom was still working in Arpaio's administration they were accepted into the Arizona College of the Bible and became ordained ministers.
The Bearups bought a church building in Phoenix and moved their family into the three small rooms, calling it Family Bible Fellowship.
In 2005, after the harassment at the hands of Joe Arpaio and the failed campaigns to replace him, Tom
decided to move himself, Adele, and whichever children of his he
could back up to Soldotna
"This man is vicious, he's evil, and I need to move," Adele told Tom
"We wanted to come back here a long time ago, but I didn't want to have that feeling of not standing up for what I believed," Tom
Patrick's tribulations gave Tom
and Adele Bearup an epiphany that would change the course of their lives.
..."Here Tom was a cop, we walk on this side, you arrest people, they're guilty, they go to jail, you don't associate with those kind of people," Adele says.
...Tom Bearup is on the board of the Kenai Peninsula Foundation, he's on Soldotna's cemetery committee, and he works with the Bridges Community Resource organization.
But that's not enough; he
wants to use the remainder of his
life helping others.
"I'm taking a perfectly good garage and making a church out of it," he
laughs.In the garage/church-still very much a work in progress-there is a pile of baby bassinets still unopened in