Leslie Wolf, the child abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence prosecutor for 21 years for Wasco County, has left the district attorney’s office.
“After many years in the Wasco County District Attorney’s office I felt it was time for a change, and it seemed like the ideal time to move on,” she said. Her last day was in early October.
“In seventh grade, I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor and spent the next decade achieving just that,” Wolf said. When Wasco County DA Eric Nisley “asked if I wanted to work for Wasco County as a prosecutor, I was thrilled. “
She began as a deputy district attorney in 1999, where she had over 26 jury trials her first year. She prosecuted misdemeanor crimes, including DUIIs, thefts, dog cases, and fish and wildlife crimes. She had never shot a gun, nor ever hunted, and she was quickly educated by Oregon State Police troopers including Fred Patton, Mike Caldwell, and Craig Gunderson, about Wasco County’s vast and beautiful wildlife. Her highlights were the prosecution of a bear poacher and a big horn sheep poacher.
In 2003, Wolf had her first domestic violence case. “I met a victim who had been tortured, beaten, and treated like an animal time and time again. Her resilience and bravery were both admirable and inspiring. I knew then that supporting survivors and helping families and children was where I really wanted to make a difference.”
That is when her caseload changed to handling all domestic violence, child abuse and sex assault cases. “From homicide to dependency cases, my goal was to protect the citizens of Wasco County, to educate the public about abuse and neglect, and to hold offenders accountable while making sure they got the best and effective treatment and help.”
Wolf regularly began to speak at schools, gyms, churches and community events about what we as a community can do to stop abuse and violence. She became active in the Wasco County’s Child Abuse Team, Domestic Violence Council, Sexual Abuse Response Team, HAVEN, and the Columbia Gorge Children’s Advocacy Center.
“We have such wonderful community partners willing to advocate, teach and make changes to end abuse,” she said. “Every day I was inspired by the survivors and victims of abuse. This job doesn’t end at 5 p.m. You take their stories home. Their strength made me work harder.”
Wolf credits her success to the teamwork between her office and law enforcement in this community. “Their dedication and commitment to Wasco citizens cannot be undermined. It is because of our teamwork that serial sex offenders Dr. Frederick Field, Michael Stephens, and William Osborne were convicted.” All had several victims, including children.
The Dalles Police Detective Sergeant Austin Ell said Wolf is “fiercely protective of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. When you take a case to her you know she was going to do everything to make sure it played out for justice.”
Wasco County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Scott Williams worked with Wolf for 16 years. “She cares about families and she cares about prosecutions and she cares about doing it right. She’s very victim-centered.”
The nature of her work meant she had to build a rapport with victims and their families “because a lot of them don’t want to talk.” A lot of domestic violence victims are “scared to talk,” Williams said.
“In domestic violence cases you have a female who is supported by the male and they get abused and then they realize that if this person goes to prison and they get a no-contact order they can’t be around that person, and they have no money. A lot of times they go back to those people and they recant their stories and you need to be a very passionate person they trust to get out of that relationship,” Williams said.
Williams said a lot of prosecutors don’t have time to spend with victims and families “before a trial, or even after a trial, and she did that.”
He added, “It’s going to be a huge loss to our community, a huge, huge loss.”
He said Wolf was on the boards of several advocacy groups in the Gorge, “and she’s doing these things in her off time when she isn’t prosecuting because she’s so passionate about these things.”
Judy Urness, a former victims advocate for the prosecutor’s office, said, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Leslie the last 22 years. I’ve sat in so many meetings with victims and have witnessed how she empowers them to face their offender. She gives her all to fight for victims. She has taught me so much and I’m certain she will take her passion for fighting for victims on to her next adventure.”
Wolf’s work did not go unnoticed on the state level. She was recognized as Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Child Abuse Prosecutor of the Year in 2010 because of her work and dedication.
Ell recounted making many late-night calls to Wolf, and she was always available to advise and guide his work.
Wolf rarely took any time off, including during her cancer treatments in 2010. She said it is hard now having so much free time on her hands.
“Leaving this job is the hardest thing I have had to do, but 2020 has been a challenging year,” she said. “I am so grateful for my coworkers and friends in the DA’s office and for my boss and great friend Eric Nisley. A DA’s job is neither glamorous nor easy. I have had death threats, hate mail, and I have had to wear a bulletproof vest at times. One lady tried to put a curse on me and my office during a trial. I have seen tremendous trauma, pain, and cruelty, but my personal mantra is ‘Evil exists when the good do nothing’ so I have fought hard to protect the community that has supported me and my family. Our office has been committed to serving its citizens and seeking justice, and I hope that continues.”
Wolf plans to spend her time enjoying family, friends and exploring fresh beginnings. She would like to thank Wasco County for making her dreams come true and allowing her to protect and serve its citizens.