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Suspect in sheriff slaying banned from buying guns, but not soon enough

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Supreme Court did not report people found mentally unfit to own firearms to federal authorities until late 2010, the same year the suspect in Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum's slaying allegedly lied about being institutionalized so he could buy three guns.

About a year later, though, after a tracking system had been put in place, the suspect was flagged at least twice and was denied a gun purchase both times.

The state did not have the capability to submit large numbers of mental-health orders to the Federal Bureau of Investigation until early 2011, after creating secure software to do so. By that time, Tennis Melvin Maynard had lied on three federal background check forms and received three guns, including a .40-caliber Glock pistol, according to a federal indictment handed up this week.

Police believe Maynard, 37, of Delbarton, shot Crum with a .40-caliber Glock at close range as Crum sat in his car eating lunch in Williamson on April 3. Police have not released a motive. Crum was Maynard's boxing coach when Maynard was 15.

Maynard was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges of possession of a firearm by an individual who had been committed to a mental institution and making a false statement in acquisition of a firearm. He also faces charges of illegally possessing a firearm on five occasions.

Maynard allegedly lied on a federal background check form before buying a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol from Gander Mountain in South Charleston on March 7, 2010, a month after he was committed to a mental institution in Mingo County.

According to the indictment, Maynard lied again on the Department of Justice's Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Form 4473 before he bought a .380-caliber Walther pistol from Gander Mountain on Oct. 7, 2010. He picked up the gun three days later.

On Dec. 7, 2010, Maynard allegedly lied before buying a .40-caliber Glock pistol from B&B Loans in Logan County. He was given the gun the same day, according to the indictment.

The state had not reported anyone to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System until early 2011. The Legislature passed a law in 2008 requiring mental-health orders to be shared with the FBI to stop prohibited residents from buying firearms.

The state formed a committee to build such a system, the first of its kind in the country, said Linda Richmond Artimez, director of mental-hygiene services for the West Virginia Supreme Court. That system was fully launched in early 2011, and the state submitted the names of more than 600 people to the FBI. As of today, it has submitted more than 11,000 people, Artimez said.

"Somewhere before the summer of 2011," Artimez said, "we were able to send out large amounts [of orders] in bulk . . . and we've been submitting them ever since."

Mental-health examiners in each county have 72 hours to report people involuntarily committed to a mental institution or deemed criminally insane to the state Supreme Court, Artimez said.

Those orders are then sent by a secure link to the West Virginia State Police to be sent through another secure link to the FBI. All orders sent to the FBI come from state courts and not from mental-health providers.

On Oct. 11, 2011, Maynard lied on a federal form at Johnny's Gun and Pawn in Huntington but was denied a gun purchase, according to the indictment. Maynard allegedly lied again on Dec. 6, 2011, at Gander Mountain and again was denied.

A 2011 study by the lobbying group Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that only 28 states have laws either requiring or permitting state officials to submit mental-health information to the FBI for federal background checks. Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been pushing for stricter federal gun-control laws.

According to the study, millions of records identifying seriously mentally ill people and drug abusers are missing from the FBI database because of lax state laws.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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