By Lawrence Messina
A West Virginia man accused of gunning down Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum was denied bail Monday prior to his first-degree murder trial, even as defense lawyers questioned whether evidence showed the killing was planned.
Noting that the defense team continued to investigate the case, attorney Richard Weston cited the reported actions of defendant Tennis Melvin Maynard before Crum’s slaying April 3.
“My understanding is that Mr. Maynard did get up and go about his business on the morning of the shooting, to indicate that it was not a premeditated act,” Weston told Circuit Judge Paul Farrell.
Weston said after Monday’s bail hearing that Maynard had gone food shopping at a Wal-Mart, and had groceries with him when he was stopped by law enforcement.
Citing Maynard’s apparent lack of a prior criminal conviction, Weston also argued that the 37-year-old would not be a threat to the public if released.
“One thing that I think is well-known at this point, is that there is some history between the two,” Weston told the judge.
Weston declined to elaborate following the hearing, but did cite media reports that Crum had in the early 1990s coached Maynard, then a teenager, at an after-school boxing program. Weston said the available evidence suggests it wasn’t a random act.
“We’re still investigating everything,” Weston said.
Urging no terms of release, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks said Maynard acquired several firearms before the slaying even though his mental health condition barred him from buying or having them. Maynard’s father has said his son has psychological issues after he was exposed to harmful chemicals and injured while working at an Alabama coal mine.
Crum was killed while parked in his cruiser, in a spot in downtown Williamson where he frequently had lunch. The sheriff was shot twice in the head at close range, said Sparks, who also cited evidence that Maynard fled the scene and then pulled a gun on a pursuing deputy who shot and wounded the suspect.
“He made threatening gestures toward an eyewitness,” Sparks also told Farrell.
Sparks said Maynard possessed marijuana as well, while noting that his defense team may be unaware of that allegation. A grand jury indicted Maynard on the murder count along with attempted first-degree murder and fleeing.
Pale and with his head shaved, Maynard attended the 10-minute hearing in shackles and holding a sort of catheter bag. Still housed in its medical ward, Maynard will remain at the Western Regional Jail pending his tentative Oct. 21 trial. A special security team from the jail, in body armor and combat-style fatigues, guarded the courtroom during Monday’s hearing.
Crum, 59, 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 made combating the area’s prescription drug abuse crisis a top priority, helping to organize raids even before he took office in January.
Crum’s widow, Rosie, has since been sworn in as interim sheriff pending the 2014 elections. Dressed in civilian clothes, she appeared close to tears throughout Monday’s hearing and declined to comment afterward.