Son of slain Mingo sheriff speaks against allegations
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Months after family members of the man accused of killing Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum said sexual assault was the motive behind the slaying, the sheriff's son says he could call on dozens of former athletes his father coached to testify that his father never did anything inappropriate with them.
E.J. "Bub" Crum, 33, this week spoke out publicly for the first time since his father, who had been sheriff for about three months, was shot and killed on April 3.
The shooting rocked Mingo County, where hundreds of people attended vigils and memorial services for the slain sheriff. Since then, Crum's name has been drawn into the county's political conspiracies, which have brought down the circuit judge, prosecuting attorney and others.
Police believe Tennis Melvin Maynard, 38, of Delbarton, shot Crum as the sheriff sat in his police cruiser in Williamson. Crum was Maynard's boxing coach in the early 1990s, when Maynard was 15.
Although police and prosecutors have never officially released a motive for the shooting, Maynard's brother and father told reporters in August that Crum had sexually assaulted Maynard as a teenager.
E.J. Crum -- then 8 years old -- was in the Delbarton Boxing Club with Maynard. He said he doesn't have any memories of Maynard from that time and doesn't recall his father having any interactions with him either.
Crum said any allegations made by Maynard's father and brother are unfounded because their explanation for the shooting has changed several times.
"They can say anything they want, but they can't put the rest of the story with it," E.J. Crum said. "Anyone that knew my dad knows this isn't true."
Initially after the shooting, Maynard's father told The Associated Press that his son would have shot anybody that day or the first person he came upon. Maynard's mental state changed after he was in an Alabama mining accident in 2007, his father said.
Sheriff Crum loved youth sports and was very active in coaching baseball, basketball and boxing, E.J. Crum said. He said his father was always volunteering in the community and wanted to make a difference in young people's lives.
"I can bring, literally, thousands of guys that I know that I played ball with, boxed with, kickboxed with, football, baseball -- not one of them will have an accusation on my dad of any kind like that," the younger Crum said. "There is not one person, besides Tennis Maynard, who will be able to get up on the stand and say that."
Maynard has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and fleeing. Police said Maynard drove to Delbarton after the shooting and pointed a gun at a Mingo County sheriff's deputy.
Crum said it's unfair that his father's reputation is being destroyed when he's not here to defend himself. Public opinion of his father has shifted since federal authorities launched an investigation into corruption in Mingo County, he said.
"Nobody's perfect," Crum said, "but my dad was a hell of a lot better than any man that held office in Mingo County.,"
Federal authorities believe the sheriff and other county officials took part in a conspiracy to deny a convicted drug dealer, George White, his constitutional rights. Crum owed White $3,000 for campaign signs, and instead of paying the bill, he sent an undercover police officer to buy oxycodone tablets from White, federal prosecutors have said in charges against other county officials.
Once White was arrested, according to prosecutors, he began talking to investigators about providing prescription pills to Eugene Crum. Crum and other county officials then concocted a scheme to give White a light sentence if he switched lawyers and stopped talking, according to prosecutors.
Former Mingo circuit judge Michael Thornsbury and former county prosecutor Michael Sparks have pleaded guilty in connection to the alleged scheme. Former Mingo county commissioner David Baisden, who allegedly also was part of the plan, has pleaded guilty to an unrelated federal charge.
E.J. Crum said his mother has proof that his father paid White the $3,000 federal prosecutors say he owed for the campaign materials. The younger Crum said his father was friends with White and warned him to get clean of drugs. When White didn't, his father went after him, E.J. Crum said.
White was arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver oxycodone and morphine with an attempt to deliver. White is trying to get his guilty plea to the charges thrown out.
As sheriff, Crum took a hard stance against prescription pill abuse and campaigned on a platform promising to target drug dealers. He led a prescription pill crackdown called "Operation Zero Tolerance."
E.J. Crum said his father never used drugs and was vehemently opposed to them. He said his father helped his son through his own battle with prescription pill abuse, and wanted to help other families do the same.
"He saw what I went through and didn't want it for anyone else," E.J. Crum said.
Federal agents also had been investigating Crum in the weeks before his death on suspicion of mail fraud, according to an unsealed search warrant. Crum allegedly laundered money by arranging to buy campaign signs with cash obtained from a doctor convicted of running a pill mill. According to the warrant, Dr. Diane Shafer paid "hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash" to White for making Crum's campaign signs.
E.J. Crum said he's joining his mother and sister in calling for more recognition of the good things Sheriff Crum did for the community before his death.
"The heart my dad had, the great person he was is all being washed away by all these lies," E.J. Crum said.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.