A dark story is unfolding in the shadow of the rolling hills of rural West Virginia. A story of drug deals, sex abuse, extortion, blackmail and murder. In which politicians behave like Afghan warlords, judges attempt to imprison husbands so they can steal their wives, the law is used to settle scores, and you might go to prison for trying to collect a few thousand dollars a government official owes you.
Mingo is a waning county where political figures are the privileged class. This is Hatfield and McCoy country, literally: What is now Mingo County was the homeland of the Hatfield family. In Mingo, political power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of a few families. With its coal mining decimated, the official unemployment rate is well over 8 percent. While the state of West Virginia leans Democratic by a margin of 2 to 1, the county of Mingo splits for the Democrats at a rate of 9 to 1.
The sordid tale began to unravel when Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was gunned down in his car as he ate lunch on April 3rd.
News reports at the time suggested that the sheriff, who had only been in the job three months and two days, was killed because of his zero-tolerance policy for drugs. Crum’s funeral was widely reported as a tribute to a heroic officer of the law gunned down in the line of duty. His wife Rosie took over as interim sheriff but resigned on September 4th. In her resignation letter she recommended Dave Rockel, former Chief of Police for Williamson, West Virginia as her replacement.
Melvin Maynard, the father of the sheriff’s accused killer, Tennis Maynard, has since claimed that his son, “a one-time boxing student of Crum’s,” shot Crum because the sheriff raped him when he was a teenager. Tennis Maynard’s brother Leslie claims that when Tennis tried to report the incident “they just throwed it away.”
Prior to becoming sheriff, Crum was a magistrate for 12 years. Though he was described by locals as a “good man” who “worked every day hard to protect this community,” Crum was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old intoxicated woman in the back of a police cruiser in 2001. Those charges were later withdrawn. Crum did admit to having consensual sex with a woman in the back of a Delbarton police cruiser while two officers listened from the front seat. Crum was Delbarton’s chief of police at the time.
Crum’s death is a more complicated story than just a cop lost to the war on drugs. Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was charged earlier this month with conspiring — in partnership with Crum — to prevent a man from cooperating with an FBI drug investigation.
Evidence presented in several indictments indicates Thornsbury’s character is questionable at best. In addition to the charges he is now facing related to Eugene Crum, Thornsbury faces conspiracy charges for “repeatedly” attempting to frame Robert Woodruff, the husband of his former secretary Kim Woodruff, with whom he was having an affair.