Kenneth Clarke
Kenneth Clarke (Courtesy of San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

FARMINGTON — A San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy and his wife were arrested on suspicion of obstruction after the couple allegedly drove away from state police investigators who were trying to take custody of the deputy's stepson.

Kenneth Clarke, a 50-year-old Aztec resident, was charged with the misdemeanor on Wednesday. Joy Clarke, the deputy's wife, was charged with obstruction and making a false report to police, which is also a misdemeanor.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office Capt. Brice Current said Kenneth Clarke was put on paid administrative leave on Tuesday when the office learned of the state police investigation.

Joy Clarke
Joy Clarke (Courtesy of San Juan County Adult Detention Center)

Kenneth Clarke started working at the sheriff's office in March 2011. He will remain on paid leave until the sheriff's office completes an internal investigation into the incident, Current said.

New Mexico State Police started an investigation Dec. 30 after the Clarkes accused the father of Joy Clarke's 6-year-old son of sexually assaulting the boy, according to the affidavit for Kenneth Clarke's arrest.

Joy Clarke and the man, who has not been charged with a crime, have a child together. They share custody. The man told police Joy Clarke wanted full custody of the child, according to the affidavit.

In an interview with police, the man and his wife denied the sexual abuse allegation, according to the affidavit.

The 6-year-old boy was interviewed. He didn't mention any sexual assault and told investigators his mother told him what to say, according to court documents.

"There was no disclosure made by the child," said Emmanuel Gutierrez, a spokesman for state police. "The case has been turned over to the district attorney's office."

This marked the fourth time state police have investigated an allegation that the child had been physically or sexually abused. The San Juan County District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the three prior allegations, the affidavit states.

State police investigators told the Clarkes there was no evidence of sexual assault. Police said they were required to return the child to his father because of a court order.

Joy Clarke told police she would not allow them to take her child.

"I then advised Mr. Clarke that he is a law enforcement officer and he should step away from the situation and not allow himself to become involved in custodial interference and the fourth-degree felony that accompanies it," New Mexico State Police Agent Ray White wrote in the affidavit.

White said in the report that the Clarkes put the child in the car and locked the doors as state police investigators tried to get in and take the child.

Kenneth Clarke allegedly drove away from the investigators and New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, according to state police.

The Clarkes gave the child to the child's father and his wife four hours after they drove away from police, according to state police.

They were arrested Wednesday and released after posting bond.

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.