Slain Mingo sheriff honored during funeral
TAYLORVILLE, W.Va. -- Hundreds poured into the gymnasium at Mingo Central High School to pay their respects to a lawman who always wanted to be the sheriff, and held the title for only 93 days before he was shot dead while on duty.
Mingo Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury said he'd spoken to Sheriff Eugene Crum, 59, nearly every day for the last 30 years and that in every conversation the topic of his wife Rosie and family came up without fail.
More than 800 friends, family members and county residents listened as they fanned themselves Sunday afternoon in the school gymnasium. About 300 of those gathered were law enforcement officers from around the state and neighboring states.
His last conversation with him, minutes before Crum was gunned down in his cruiser last Wednesday afternoon in downtown Williamson, touched on the threats the sheriff had been receiving but also his intentions to keep fighting against the drugs that had been invading his community.
"His last conversation with me, just a few minutes before he died, and he talked about the circumstances and the alternatives of life," Thornsbury told those that gathered at the school. "He looked at me and said 'I'm fighting back. I'm fighting the good fight.'
"Heroes -- their memory never dies and he's mine so he'll never die in my eyes."
Crum was shot and killed in his cruiser Wednesday afternoon. He commonly took his lunch and sat in the vehicle, parked on Third Avenue to watch over a building where a pill mill had been operating at one point, fearing that the illegal operation would pick back up.
The suspect, Tennis Maynard, 37, fled after the sheriff was shot. After a short pursuit with a Mingo deputy, the suspect crashed into a bridge. State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous said Maynard got out of the vehicle with a Glock .40 caliber handgun and pointed it at the deputy, who fired, wounding the man.
No motive behind the shooting has been released but Maynard's father said his son was mentally unstable and likely did not target the sheriff. Tennis Maynard was injured an accident at an Alabama coal mine, where he also was exposed to harmful chemicals.
Serving as a lieutenant with the Matewan police and then chief of police in Delbarton, Crum switched gears and ran for county magistrate, a position he held for more than a decade. Thornsbury appointed him chief magistrate and swore him into service in a bowling alley, the judge recalled.
Thornsbury said Crum always dreamed about being the sheriff. Crum's passion, other than his family, was for the law.
"It was his lifelong dream," Thornsbury said. "It was his dream; his destiny. When you think about it, many of us never get the chance to live our dreams. He did."
Crum stepped down last year and put everything his family had on the line to run for sheriff, Thornsbury said. He won the election and was sworn into office in January, in the pouring rain, the judge said. He said it also rained Thursday night when he swore Rosie Crum, the sheriff's wife of 37 years, into office. She will serve as interim sheriff.
The words "serve" and "protect" were added when the sheriff took office, and those same words were spoken when Rosie Crum took the oath. Those who spoke during said the sheriff had been planning to add, "To serve and protect" to the sheriff's cruisers.
"His dream was to improve drug enforcement and he did it," Thornsbury said. "His work resulted in 57 felony convictions in 93 days. He wanted those addicted people healed ... He wanted the number one social problem we have to be corrected. And he worked tirelessly."
John Mark Hubbard, president of the Mingo County Commission, said the county mourned the sheriff who was called to make a difference.
"Shame on anyone in this room within the sound of my voice who will not make sure that the change that this man laid his life down for does not continue," Hubbard said, earning a standing ovation from the crowd and the law enforcement officers present. "Shame on us again if this county goes back to what this man was willing to die for."
Josh Adair, who sang for Crum's campaign, sang "Amazing Grace" during the service, the soft whisper of the crowd singing along accompanying him. He sang Vince Gill's "Go Rest High on That Mountain" while Rosie Crum leaned over her husband's open casket, a uniformed officer at her side.
Deputies, from departments around the state, carried the flag draped coffin to the waiting hearse, past uniformed officers with their arms raised in salute.
A graveside service was held for Crum at Lenore Memorial Gardens in Lenore. Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.