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Former Philly officer charged with more than 200 counts of sexual crimes pleads guilty ahead of trial

Investigators found that the incidents spanned years of Patrick Heron’s service and were often committed in uniform and inside his cruiser

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Patrick Heron, 54, agreed to a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office.

Photo/WPVI

By Robert Moran
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A former Philadelphia police officer was sentenced to 15 to 40 years in state prison after he pleaded guilty Friday to sexually assaulting vulnerable women and girls — often in the back of his police vehicle and while in uniform.

Patrick Heron, 54, of Northeast Philadelphia, agreed to a plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office to avoid a fast-approaching trial on more than 200 counts that included child sex assault, child pornography, kidnapping, and related offenses.

Jane Roh, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said the guilty plea was welcomed by victims who are now spared the trauma of a trial.

Heron’s defense lawyer, Anthony List, said he hoped the plea would allow the victims to avoid the anguish of having to testify, and added: “hopefully, everyone can move on.”

Heron, who retired from the force in 2019, was initially arrested last year and accused of posing as an active officer to lure girls, including some of his daughter’s friends.

Investigators later uncovered dozens of photos and videos showing that Heron’s predatory behavior spanned years and included dozens of young women and girls — often targeting victims who had run away, been arrested, or struggled with addiction.

At a hearing last month, prosecutors shared a video that they said showed Heron encouraging a young woman to use heroin in the back of his cruiser. He then videotaped himself assaulting her while she lay unconscious in the back of his car, said Lyandra Retacco, chief of the Special Investigations Unit of the District Attorney’s Office.

Before forcing one girl to perform sex acts on him, Heron told her that “It would help you in court to have a police officer on your side,” testified Sgt. Gerald Rocks, the investigator on the case.

Heron met many of his victims while on the force, Retacco said, and prosecutors say his crimes occurred over a roughly 17-year span, from 2005 through 2022.

Investigators have identified 48 victims, though many of their identities remain unknown, Retacco said. There are likely more who haven’t come forward, she said.

Once detectives searched his phone and other devices, they found numerous videos taken in 2016 and 2017, which showed Heron assaulting girls, some who appeared semiconscious, in his cruiser.

Some victims contacted the District Attorney’s Office after seeing his photo in the news.

Staff writer Chris Palmer contributed to this article.

©2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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