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Longtime Lawrence prosecuting attorney dies at 68

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- J.B. Collier Jr., the county's longest serving prosecuting attorney, was described as a "tough, but fair" lawyer who had a passion for the victims in the cases he prosecuted in his 20-year career.

Collier, 68, died from an aggressive form of cancer several months after he retired as Lawrence County prosecutor.

"He took the lead in the high-profile cases," said Bob Anderson, an assistant Lawrence County prosecutor who worked with Collier for years. "He didn't shirk from them. He was an excellent lawyer. He was not overzealous. He took a balanced approach. He was a friend as well as a colleague."

Anderson called Collier "committed" and "a hard worker. It was good the people had him on their side for so long."

Collier was elected prosecutor in 1992 and had no opposition the next four times he ran for the job. He decided not to seek another term as prosecutor last year.

"I talked him into running for prosecutor," said Anderson's brother, Mack. "He agreed to do it if Bob and I would work with him. He was a good trial lawyer before he became prosecutor. He was always good to me. I'll miss him."

When he wasn't working, Collier enjoyed his motorcycle, his noted music collection and fishing, said Common Pleas Judge Charles "Chuck" Cooper.

"He was two years older than me," Cooper said. "He played football for Ironton," he said. "He enjoyed his time at his cabin on Lawco Lake. He became a fishing enthusiast. He knew the best private ponds and jealously guarded his best fishing spots."

Collier was well-respected, Cooper said.

"He was a good criminal defense lawyer before he became prosecutor," Cooper said. "He also was a good personal injury lawyer and a good domestic relations lawyer."

"He was always well-prepared," said Juvenile-Probate Judge David Payne. "He also had a passion for the victims."

Mark McCown, an Ironton lawyer, said Collier was always a formidable opponent.

"He was a strong advocate for his clients," McCown said. "In all the cases we had, he never, ever once backed down." While Collier would tell jokes, he didn't laugh at other people's jokes, he said. "He said it was a good way to keep yourself under control. If you can maintain your demeanor, you won't be surprised at trial."

Both the Andersons worked with Collier on a case against Jack Volgares and his wife, Mona. Jack Volgares was convicted of pushing his eight-year-old stepdaughter causing her to hit her head against a wall. and she subsequently died. The parents put the girl's body in a garbage bag and placed it in a crawl space under their home in Ironton before eventually burying the child's body in a side yard, Anderson said.

The case gained national publicity when the family fled with their other children. The case was featured on "America's Most Wanted" before the parents were arrested in Oklahoma, Mack Anderson said.

"It was one of the toughest cases we had," Bob Anderson said. Collier used the kidnapping statutes in the prosecution of the case not commonly applied, he said. "He did a great job," Anderson said.

Ray T. "Moose" Dutey served for years with Collier on the county's budget commission.

"He tried several hard cases and had a good record of winning," Dutey said. "He was an excellent prosecutor. He was a dedicated public servant. He was tough, but fair."

"It's a shame he didn't get to enjoy his retirement," Dutey said.

At Collier's request, there is no visitation nor service. Memorials may be made to the Lawrence County Humane Society, P.O. Box 412, Ironton, OH 45638.

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