Former Maricopa County Sheriff Tom Agnos was found dead Monday afternoon from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his West Valley back yard, authorities said.
Landscapers found Agnos, 68, about 1 p.m. behind his home in Sun City West after he apparently committed suicide by shooting himself, said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Agnos’ wife, Shirley, told authorities her husband had been battling terminal cancer, Arpaio said
She was at a neighbor’s home at the time of the shooting.
Arpaio said Shirley Agnos asked his office to release the following statement: "The physical pain Tom experienced only comes close to the pain he felt watching me suffer. We had a 43-year long, wonderful, loving marriage. He did not want to put me through additional pain."
No note was found at the scene, Arpaio said.
Agnos, a former assistant police chief for Phoenix, was elected sheriff in 1988.
He lost his bid for a second term to Arpaio after the highly publicized killings of six Buddhist monks and three others at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist Temple in Avondale.
Sheriff ’s deputies during Agnos’ administration arrested four Tucson men in connection with the slayings, but it was later discovered the men had been coerced into confessing. Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley ordered the men to be released and two other men were later convicted in connection with the slayings.
"This is a sad day for law enforcement," Romley said Monday night. "I always liked and respected Tom. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family."
Arpaio said Agnos was a gentleman and a dedicated and professional law enforcement officer.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made. The Agnos family requests donations be sent to any cancer research or support organization in lieu of flowers.