Mingo sheriff killing suspect denied bail
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia man accused of gunning down Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum unsuccessfully sought pretrial release Monday, with defense lawyers arguing he is not a threat to the public because evidence suggests the killing was not random.
"One thing that I think is well-known at this point is that there is some history between the two,'' Richard Weston, a court-appointed lawyer for defendant Tennis Melvin Maynard, said during a brief bail hearing.
Weston did not elaborate while addressing Circuit Judge Paul Farrell. He declined to offer any details afterward, but did cite media reports that Crum had coached Maynard at a local boxing program in the early 1990s when Maynard was a teen.
"It wasn't just a random act,'' Weston told The Associated Press, referring to available evidence. "We're still investigating everything.''
Weston also questioned whether the slaying was planned, given that premeditation is a factor in the first-degree murder count against Maynard, 37.
"My understanding is that Mr. Maynard did get up and go about his business on the morning of the shooting, to indicate that it was not a premeditated act,'' Weston told the judge, who denied bail.
Weston said following the hearing that Maynard had gone food shopping at a Wal-Mart, and had groceries with him when he was stopped by law enforcement.
Weston also cited Maynard's apparent lack of a prior criminal conviction, and that he had been a coal miner. The lawyer also referred to mental health problems, blamed by Maynard's family on exposure to harmful chemicals and injuries while at an Alabama mine in 2007.
Urging no terms of release, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks said Maynard acquired several firearms before the slaying even though his mental health condition barred him from buying or having them.
Crum was killed April 3 while parked in his cruiser, in a spot in downtown Williamson where he frequently had lunch. The sheriff was shot twice in the head at close range, said Sparks, who also cited evidence that Maynard fled the scene and then pulled a gun on a pursuing deputy who shot and wounded the suspect.
"He made threatening gestures toward an eyewitness,'' Sparks also told Farrell.
Sparks said Maynard possessed marijuana as well, while noting that his defense team may be unaware of that allegation. A grand jury indicted Maynard on the murder count along with attempted first-degree murder and fleeing.
Pale and with his head shaved, Maynard attended the 10-minute hearing in shackles and holding a sort of catheter bag. Still housed in its medical ward, Maynard will remain at the Western Regional Jail pending his tentative Oct. 21 trial. A special security team from the jail, in body armor and combat-style fatigues, guarded the courtroom during Monday's hearing.
Crum, 59, had been a longtime community figure and a county magistrate for more than a decade when he stepped down to run for sheriff last year. He made combating the area's prescription drug abuse crisis a top priority, helping to organize raids even before he took office in January.
Crum's widow, Rosie, has since been sworn in as interim sheriff pending the 2014 elections. Dressed in civilian clothes, she appeared close to tears throughout Monday's hearing and declined to comment afterward.