Prosecutor disputes claims sheriff raped shooter
WILLIAMSON, W.Va. — Mingo County authorities are challenging claims that former Sheriff Eugene Crum raped the man who's been charged with murdering him, as well as any allegations that the sheriff's office ignored a complaint that sexual abuse had occurred.
Tennis Maynard is accused of shooting Crum twice in the head on April 3 as the sheriff ate lunch in his parked vehicle in downtown Williamson.
Maynard and Crum had known each other for years, with Crum previously serving as a boxing club mentor to Maynard when he was a teenager and when Crum was police chief in the town of Delbarton. Maynard is 37. Crum was 59 at the time of the shooting.
Crum 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 took office on Jan. 1.
"Eugene raped him," Melvin Maynard, Tennis Maynard's father, said in a video recorded by WCHS-TV and WOWK-TV outside a court hearing earlier this week. "It'd give me the damn right to kill him."
Prosecutor Michael Sparks said his office looked into the rape claims made this week by Maynard's family and found no evidence to support them.
It wasn't clear exactly when Tennis Maynard supposedly reported the abuse or when it allegedly occurred.
Video from WCHS-TV shows Maynard, handcuffed and being led out of the courthouse, declining to answer a reporter's question about whether Crum had sexually assaulted him.
Maynard did try to report the abuse, but his efforts were ignored, said his brother, Leslie Maynard.
"Six or seven months ago, before he shot Eugene, he tried to file charges and they just throwed (sic) it away," Leslie Maynard said.
No one answered the door during several visits to the Maynard family's Delbarton home, and there is no telephone listing for the family. Tennis Maynard's defense attorney, Rick Weston, did not immediately return a telephone call to his office seeking comment Friday.
Maynard's father has previously said his son has mental health issues and was exposed to harmful chemicals and injured while working at an Alabama coal mine. In addition to the murder charge, Tennis Maynard has been indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of a firearm by an individual who had been committed to a mental institution.
Evidence collected by Sparks includes orders of involuntary hospitalizations from Williamson Memorial Hospital, Logan-Mingo Mental Health Clinic and Highland Hospital in Charleston.
Sparks told The Associated Press his office has conducted an investigation into the sexual assault claims and that there is no evidence to support them. He said the officer from the Mingo County Sheriff's Office who the Maynards claim took the complaint told investigators none had ever been filed.
"We have found no evidence that that happened, according to our investigation, that a complaint was made. Certainly, I can tell you no one came to my office with that," Sparks said. "And we will refute the other claim at trial — that he was assaulted by the sheriff. When an allegation like that is made, we don't put our head in the sand. We're going to investigate that."
A call to the sheriff's office was not immediately returned.
West Virginia State Police Capt. David Nelson said investigators have been working closely with Sparks. While he couldn't talk specifically about the allegations, he said state police were investigating "a lot of different facets" of the sheriff's slaying.
"We have spoken to the prosecutor in reference to various information that's been passed along and we are reviewing and investigating anything given to us," he said.
Sparks declined to say how he knows there was no sexual assault, citing professional practice standards that he says prevent him from disclosing such information ahead of a trial. While Weston hasn't disclosed all the evidence he may present at trial, Sparks said even if there were evidence that Crum had sexually abused Maynard, "Our law does not permit vigilante killings."
State police investigated allegations that Crum sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman in 2001 when he was Delbarton's police chief. A 2002 state police report on the investigation concluded that the sex was consensual, and no charges were filed.
In Delbarton, many people are still mourning the loss of Crum and said they don't find the allegations of sexual assault credible.
"I've heard the stories. It's not true and I don't believe it," said Davina Ball, who said she knew Crum for decades. "If it was true, why didn't it come out while he was running (for sheriff)? Why are they waiting for the man to be dead, and then bringing it out? He's a hero. He'll stay our hero. He was a good man."