20 years ago, Mingo sheriff was alleged killer's boxing coach
DELBARTON, W.Va. -- More than 20 years ago, when he was police chief of a small Mingo County town, Eugene Crum taught a dozen boys how to fight.
The Delbarton Boxing Club was formed in the early 1990s as a way for local politicians to get involved in a youth program and campaign at sporting events.
Crum gained a reputation as a tough coach bent on training his fighters to be the best in the state. Those fighters included his own 8-year-old son, "Bub."
They also included 15-year-old Tennis Melvin Maynard -- the man now accused of shooting Crum in the head as the Mingo County sheriff sat in his police cruiser earlier this month.
The teenaged Maynard boxed in several competitions under Crum's guidance before dropping out of the sport during high school.
Crum continued coaching kids, in boxing and other sports, and held a dream of being elected sheriff one day. He realized that goal last fall, and took office in January.
Ninety-three days later, on April 3, Maynard drove into Williamson early in the morning and parked his Ford Ranger pickup along Third Avenue, where Crum ate lunch in his car nearly every day.
After Crum parked, police believe, Maynard walked behind his cruiser and fired two shots from a .40-caliber Glock handgun into Crum's open window. Maynard was later shot and wounded by a Mingo County sheriff's deputy after a chase that ended in Delbarton.
Crum's slaying has rocked Mingo County, where people praise his hard stance against an epidemic of prescription pill abuse. Officials had speculated that Crum's killing was related to dozens of pill-related arrests he made before his death, but investigators quickly ruled out drugs as a motive. Maynard is talking to West Virginia State Police troopers in the hospital but detectives aren't ready to publicly reveal what he's said.
'Eugene didn't think a thing about rolling down that window'
Tommy Diamond used to live in Delbarton and formed the Delbarton Boxing Club after leaving the Marines in the 1970s.
When the sport took off in the late '80s and early '90s, Diamond turned to Crum, a former amateur boxer, to help train a group of young fighters like never before.
Diamond said his boxers became the biggest and most revered in the state.
"Eugene Crum put the boys in there with him and they were sparring with him," said Diamond, now 64 and living in Strawberry Plains, Tenn. "We had some pretty good brutes, and I mean real heavyweights."
Tennis Maynard's father first drove his son to boxing practice in the winter of 1991, because he believed learning a sport would be good for his son, Diamond said.
Maynard officially joined the club shortly before winning a few bouts in an amateur Golden Gloves event in Charleston.
Crum trained closely with Maynard, just like he did with the other boys, Diamond said.
He doesn't remember Crum and Maynard getting into any arguments. Neither can he remember any red flags at all that would show Maynard resented Crum.
Shane Belcher was 9 when he joined the Delbarton Boxing Club in 1991, the same year as Maynard.
"I remember [Crum] used to run us to death and make us do suicide drills up and down the Burch High School gym," said Belcher, now 33. "He used to run us to death."
Belcher said Crum often would show up to practice in his Delbarton police chief's uniform.
"He was actually the first person to work with me on the focus mitts and he taught me this real good combination," Belcher said. "I got it down pat, and the first thing I did when I went home was showed my mom what he taught me."
Melvin Blair joined the boxing club in 1988 and was 13 years old in 1991. He was near Maynard's weight class, but doesn't recall ever sparring with him or rooming with him on tournament trips.
"I do remember he was real into religion and real into the Bible," Blair, now 35, said of Maynard. "When I worked at Advance Auto, he would always come by and talk to me about God. I seen him on and off my whole life."
Diamond said he's close to Maynard's father and had kept in contact with the family until the last couple of years. He said he hasn't spoken to any Maynard family members since the shooting.
"I'm sure, when that old boy pecked on [Crum's] window, Eugene didn't think a thing about rolling down that window," Diamond said. "There ain't a doubt in my mind that [Crum] didn't recognize him."
'We won't know it until he tells us'
Leslie Maynard was born 18 months after his older brother, Tennis. They were close, but Leslie said that changed when Tennis moved to Alabama in 2004, looking for work.
Tennis got married, but it was later annulled, Leslie said. In June 2007, Tennis suffered a life-changing accident at Drummond Co.'s Shoal Creek Mine, near Nauvoo, Ala.
"When he got blowed up in Alabama and then he got into them chemicals, he was just a different person," Leslie Maynard said, standing on his front lawn in Delbarton last week. "He would stop and talk . . . and then go three or four days and not even acknowledge you. He went like that for three years probably."
Leslie Maynard said his brother came back to Mingo County after the accident but struggled to recover. He sued more than two dozen people and mining companies in 2009, citing "extreme, severe, prolonged emotional and mental pain and suffering, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident."
Maynard's lawsuit was put on hold to allow time for mediation of a possible settlement, the Associated Press reported. An August hearing is scheduled.
"The blast messed up his hearing, too, and he went three or four months and never slept," Leslie Maynard said. He said his brother sought psychiatric help and was prescribed drugs to help him sleep.
Tennis Maynard never talked about Eugene Crum, Leslie Maynard said. Since the shooting, he hasn't been able to speak to his brother to ask him why he allegedly did it.
He said he's sorry for the sheriff's death, but doesn't want his family persecuted for his brother's alleged actions.
"My family, they're taking it rough. How would your family be?" he said. "I can't speak for my brother, not unless he speaks to me."
Maynard was still recovering at Cabell Huntington Hospital on Saturday and has not been arraigned. He's been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. The case was moved from Mingo County to Cabell County, where Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell appointed Huntington public defender Richard Weston to represent Maynard. Weston has not returned several phone calls from the Sunday Gazette-Mail.
Leslie Maynard said he doesn't believe his brother shot Crum at random. He believes Tennis Maynard left the house that morning intending to kill the sheriff.
"He wouldn't do it just for no reason," Leslie Maynard said. "No, he had a reason. We won't know it until he tells us."
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.