Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 6, 2013

Drug busts were common for slain W.Va. sheriff

Prosecutor: No evidence killing was drug-related

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — It’s a frigid morning in early February, and a police task force is on the hunt to make good on Sheriff Eugene Crum’s campaign promise to clean up Mingo County’s pervasive drug problem.

Spurred by grand jury indictments, five separate teams fanned out before dawn, kicking down doors in search of dozens of suspects.

The list of prescription drugs and other substances included in the indictment were as varied as the ages and backgrounds of the suspects themselves.

The initial wave nets 18 arrests, with more to follow.

“Here in Mingo County, if you’re dealing drugs, we’re gonna be knocking on your door,” Crum said that day. “Enough is enough.”

Two months later, Crum is killed, leaving a void in a county with an ongoing drug problem that he doggedly worked to eradicate.

His funeral is Sunday, four days after the 59-year-old sheriff was shot to death in a downtown Williamson parking lot where he ate his lunch each day.

Crum spent a de-cade as a magistrate before resigning in January 2012 to focus on his campaign for sheriff. Last August, he was hired by prosecutor Michael Sparks’ office as a special investigator.

He wanted residents to live without fear that illegal drugs were being sold in their neighborhoods.

He wanted to cut off the flow of drugs that he said often were coming from prescriptions from out-of-state doctors.

A month into that assignment, nine suspects had been arrested, including the third generation of a Dingess family to get in trouble with the law for drug trafficking.

The fight against prescription drugs has been a high-profile one joined by federal authorities who say they have prosecuted 200 pill dealers in the past two years. The epicenter has been the southern coalfields, including Crum’s Mingo County.

The county’s anti-drug efforts, dubbed Operation Zero Tolerance, included members of the sheriff’s department, the Mingo County Drug Task Force, Williamson police and often officers from other community police departments.

Crum took over as sheriff in January, and one of the biggest drug busts occurred on Feb. 1, when Crum’s team made that early morning roundup. Along with many arrests often came the confiscation of guns and plenty of cash.

Friends said when Crum was shot, he was keeping an eye on a place that had been shut down for illegally dispensing prescription drugs to be sure it didn’t reopen.

The suspect, 37-year-old Tennis Melvin Maynard of Ragland, was shot and wounded by a sheriff’s deputy in a chase following the attack on Crum. Maynard remains hospitalized in Huntington.

However, Sparks said in a statement Saturday that there’s no substantial evidence at this time that Crum’s death was drug-related and asked the public not to speculate on the motive.

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