Ray Smith awoke to a scuffle from across his sleepy Delray Beach, Florida, street.
It was 1 a.m. on Jan. 18, 1991, and the front door of his neighbor’s home was ajar. Ray and his wife Evelyn watched as Charlene Hoeffer’s husband was “manhandling” her, Ray told cops according to a police report. The man refused to leave and “continued to search through her effects,” according to a Delray Beach Police Department Internal Affairs investigation report. Charlene was trying unsuccessfully to make her estranged husband leave with “clothing that he had given to her,” the report said.
The Smiths told police the Hoeffers often put their “marriage problems” on full display, but this time was different for Ray—he refused to silently watch and stomped outside to threaten to call the authorities.
“He is the police!” Charlene screamed.
“You’re a cop,” Ray shouted. “You should know better than to behave that way. What’s your name?”
Charles Hoeffer was his name and he was a Delray Beach policeman with a history of documented domestic abuse claims. Beginning in 1983, Hoeffer has been accused of abusing his three wives, including the first who killed herself, propositioning and groping women (fondling one woman while she was detained), and sexually assaulting two women, including one who is blind—twice.
Through it all, Hoeffer remained a police officer, jumping from one department to the next until he recently retired. Hoeffer has never been arrested for these incidents or been subject to a finding of official wrongdoing.
“He’s been a cop for 30 years. Three agencies. It’s a brotherhood. You can’t take people down like that,” one Hoeffer family member, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, told The Daily Beast. “You are fighting with fire.”
Another relative refused to talk about Hoeffer, convinced that the ex-cop hired me in order to see how much information I could glean.
“Something is going on with him again and I think you’re fishing to see which family member is out to get him,” the relative said.
Out of the three police departments who hired Hoeffer, two have tried and failed to terminate him.
In February, two women—including the blind rape accuser—filed separate civil lawsuits against Hoeffer and the Town of Palm Beach Shores.
Their federal cases are still pending. In an two separate answers to the separate complaints filed in federal court in Florida’s Southern District on this week, Hoeffer’s attorneys denied the allegations made by both women who are referred to by their initials as: J.V.M. and K.S. They said the claims “are frivolous and wholly without merit” and that Hoeffer “at all times he acted in good faith, relying upon existing statutes and policies and procedures as authority for his actions and otherwise.” Hoeffer’s attorneys added in the documents that the cop never committed “any act in derogation” of K.S.’s or J.V.M.’s “civil rights.”
Those lawsuits arose after Hoeffer became the focus of a series of stories published over two years ago by The Palm Beach Post’s Lawrence Mower.
Just weeks after the Jan. 18, 1991, “manhandling” incident with his wife where Ray Smith intervened, Hoeffer claims he inadvertently broke his wife’s nose by throwing her suede boot at her face, according to the internal investigation report that found Hoeffer lied and acted in a manner unbecoming of an officer. The report said Hoeffer’s wife refused to press charges.