Pasco sheriff's Deputy Jose Valenzuela met the woman through their sons. The boys went to high school together. Valenzuela said he went on two, maybe three, dinner dates with her in April 2011. During that time, Valenzuela's 16-year-old son, Abel, met the woman's 14-year-old daughter. They started dating, too. But after the respective parents stopped seeing each other, reports state, Abel and the girl stayed together.
All parties involved were fine with the relationship, Valenzuela said. He would later testify that he knew the relationship had become sexual. Abel turned 18 in February of this year and the relationship continued.
But all that changed in September, Valenzuela said, when a call from the girl's grandmother to the Sheriff's Office set off an investigation and a chain of reports that would lead to Valenzuela being drummed out of the agency.
After Valenzuela stopped seeing the woman, she and her daughter moved to Homosassa in July 2011, an internal affairs investigation shows. But they agreed to let the children keep dating. The woman would drive her daughter to Valenzuela's Hudson home on Friday evenings and let her stay until Sunday while he wasn't working.
There were rules, he said. The children weren't allowed behind closed doors together. They slept in separate rooms. Usually they would just watch TV or movies on the couch.
Valenzuela remembers coming home a couple times to find the girl had already been dropped off at his house. About a year and a half ago, while both were still minors, Valenzuela suspected they were having sex.
"There's only so much I can do when I'm not home," Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela says he never saw the children being intimate. He'd been finding empty condom wrappers on Abel's bedroom floor, something that had been happening since the boy was 14, before he met the girl, Valenzuela said. The Sheriff's Office investigated him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor for buying condoms for the boy. Deputies were also pursuing a lewd and lascivious battery charge on Abel.
Valenzuela says buying the condoms wasn't to condone the sex. He was being realistic about it. "I'd rather them be safe than anything else," he said.
On his son's 17th birthday last year, though, Valenzuela issued a warning. "Be very careful," he told Abel. But his boy was about to become a man. "I'm not going to run his life for him."
The weekend visits continued.
Detectives initiated an investigation on Sept. 19. According to the report, they talked to the girl, her mother, Valenzuela and Abel. All said in testimony that the relationship became sexual after Abel's 17th birthday and continued through Sept. 15. Deputies began pursuing charges against Abel.
Then, in neat, curvy handwriting on a sheet of college-rule notebook paper, the girl, now 16, backpedaled.
"Dear to whom it may concern," it began. She wrote that she made everything up, made false reports about having sex with Abel. She referred to Valenzuela as "a perfect cop." She wrote she secretly called Abel and instructed him to lie, too, and he did so because he loved her.
"Abel has much potential and I will not have Abel work at Walmart at fifty years old because I was upset and created a lie," she wrote. And later, to detectives: "If you have no victim, then you have no case."
She apologized "for wasting everyone's time" and signed off.
The case was referred to the State Attorney's Office, which was filed as having "no information." Abel was never charged. Neither were the parents.
The internal affairs investigation, however, was sustained. Valenzuela was given the option to resign — his only option, he says — before the investigation was finished. The official allegations are for "conduct unbecoming a member of the Sheriff's Office." He resigned Nov. 15 after a decade of work with the agency.
Valenzuela was born 44 years ago. He came to the Pasco Sheriff's Office in January 2003. His tenure there includes 24 commendations, citing courtesy and compassion on the job. He was investigated in 2009 after breaking his squad car's headlight on a sign.
He was cleared for use of force after he shot and killed Brian Naab on Christmas Day 2011, after Naab pointed a gun at him. A complaint of inaccurate statements was sustained against him in 2012, finding that he lied to a detective about calling the victim of a battery complaint he investigated and asking her on a date.
Abel and the girl still talk on the phone as friends, Valenzuela said. As for now, he's planning to go back home to Texas, where he has a few siblings, to see if he can find work.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.