Officer's mysterious death casts shadow on off-duty court case

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PHOENIX – The unsolved death of a Phoenix police officer is casting a shadow over the case of a former patrolman and three officers he worked with.

They're in trouble for allegedly lying about off-duty work they did not perform. The dead officer was under investigation for the same charges and questions about how and why he died have haunted the officers for months.

You can hear it in the line of questioning detectives use while interviewing those who were close to Sgt. Sean Drenth.

On recordings released by police, you can hear detectives inquire about the off-duty work investigation and Drenth's state of mind.

Former police Officer George Contreras appeared in court along with three other Phoenix police officers accused in the off-duty work scheme.

Drenth was also under investigation in the same case. He was found dead last year, a month before the indictments were handed up.

It's a fact that routinely comes up in interviews conducted by detectives investigating his death.

“He worked off-duty for me on a lot of jobs so I got to know him for 12 years,” Contreras said.

Contreras coordinated off-duty security assignments and refers to Drenth as a loyal friend. He had just seen him at his guitar shop two days before his death and is one of many who have been interviewed regarding it.

"Sean didn't have any enemies that I knew," Contreras said. "I don't know why this happened. I don't know why.”

Although Drenth was aware of the ongoing attorney general's investigation, Contreras said, “Nothing, nothing ever came between Sean and I.”

Drenth's wife, Colleen, was also interviewed by police.

“He was kind of mad at George for getting him all into this,” she said.

She said Drenth met with the union regarding the off-duty work investigation.

“He went back, re-evaluated all the off-duty work. He had to pull up like all if his off-duty records and stuff that he had turned in,” she said.

Colleen said it had been a very long time since they discussed any of that and said Sean "loved being a cop. He loved to wear the uniform."

Drenth was found dead in his uniform, killed with his own shotgun while on-duty. Police and the medical examiner have yet to determine whether his death was a murder or a suicide.

As for the day before his death, his wife said everything was normal.

"Yeah, just our typical normal Sunday, just hung out and cuddled up on the couch and that's what we normally did on our Sundays," she said.

Also interviewed by police was Drenth's friend, Officer Aaron Lentz, a co-defendant in the off-duty work case and one of the last to see him alive.

Detectives asked him, "Did anything appear out of the usual?" "Not at all," Lentz said.

"Talk about anything personal going on in his personal life?" asked the detective. "Nothing," Lentz answered.

So far, Drenth's death remains an unsolved mystery. As for those accused in the off-duty work scam, they will be back in court next month as the defense has filed a motion to dismiss.