MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — Editor's note: The above video aired in a previous broadcast.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel has passed away at age 45, her family confirmed Saturday afternoon.
Adel died due to health complications, a statement read. She is survived by her husband and two children.
"This May we would have celebrated 20 years of marriage. My family and I are utterly heartbroken by this unimaginable loss. We are so very proud to call Allister wife and mom,” said her husband, David DeNitto. “We are asking that the press and the public honor her, her legacy and our family by respecting our privacy at this difficult time."
Funeral arrangements will be released at a later date.
Adel resigned from the County Attorney's Office in March after controversies and repeated calls for her resignation.
Adel made history when she became the first woman elected to the job in 2020, but her victory was quickly overshadowed by her health struggles.
She underwent emergency surgery in November 2020 for a blood clot in her brain and spent the next few weeks recovering on medical leave from her office.
Adel's problems continued into 2021 after she disclosed she had been undergoing treatment for mental health problems. Her delay in notifying the public about her treatment was questioned by other county leaders, yet Adel claimed her agency's business was continuing uninterrupted.
Adel previously served as deputy county attorney from 2004-2011. She was also a judge in the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Executive Hearing Office and served as general counsel for the Arizona Department of Child Safety; and as executive director for the Maricopa County Bar Association.
High-ranking officials within Adel's office called for her to resign, claiming Adel's drinking problems had been affecting her work.
Adel initially pushed back on the allegations and insisted she was fit to continue leading one of the nation's largest prosecutorial agencies. However, her office admitted it failed to file criminal charges in at least 180 cases before the statute of limitations expired.
The error resulted in criticisms from multiple state leaders and an investigation from the State Bar of Arizona.
MCAO has additionally been scrutinized for its prosecution of Black Lives Matter protestors. Adel chose to dismiss several criminal cases against protestors who had been labeled as gang members after facing questions from the media.
“It happens when you have an office that is drastically low in staff and just overwhelmed by the numbers,” Rachel Mitchell, a top prosecutor at MCAO told Team 12’s, Brahm Resnik.
Mitchell was recently appointed to replace Adel. Mitchell was also among the deputy chiefs at MCAO who called for Adel to resign in February.
Mitchell confirms there’s also a large backlog of felony cases that haven’t been reviewed by prosecutors.
“There needs to be a plan put into place to say, ‘We’ve got to address these shortages.’ You cannot continue to have more and more crime in a larger and larger county with fewer and fewer people and expect the work to get done,” Mitchell said
12 News is updating this developing story.
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