Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Weird Times in Mingo County

Xn1auj0ioawyrumx9znq
AP Photo

Remember back to this Spring, there was a quick trio of murders, each of which at first seemed connected to white supremacist gangs and possibly even part of one campaign. There was the murder of the Superintendent of Prisons in Colorado (which was tied to white supremacist gangs), followed by the double murder of a Sheriff and his wife in Texas and then finally the killing of Sheriff in Mingo County, West Virginia. The exact motive of the Colorado killing remains unclear. The Texas case turned out to be the work of a former Justice of the Peace with a grudge. And the West Virginia case led to the arrest of a suspect with possible mental health problems.

I wanted to update you on this because of the amount of time we spent covering the original story of the assassination of Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum.

Back on April 3rd of this year, Sheriff Eugene Crum was shot at point blank range while eating lunch in his car near the county courthouse. Thirty-seven year old Melvin Maynard was later arrested for the murder after a subsequent shoot-out. And Maynard's father later suggested that his sons mental problems may have contributed to the killing. Crum had been elected on a platform of cracking down on drug trafficking in the area and had done a lot of cracking down in his three months of office. So there was always some question of whether this may have played a role too.

But recent court filings in the case point to a dramatically new dimension to the story: part of Maynard's trial will revolve around an accusation of rape against Crum from 2002 when Crum was police chief of Delbarton. Police eventually concluded the sex was consensual and no charges were filed. But both the prosecution and the defense suggest that the accusation will play a key role in Maynard's defense.

As noted, police decided no crime was committed. But even the undisputed facts of the incident make it sound like the investigation was a white wash of a probable rape.

To summarize briefly, according to Crum's version of the story, he remained at a local bar after his wife left with the couple's car around midnight. A 19 year old woman began hitting on him and eventually suggested they "take a ride up the road" to have sex. Crum, then 48 years old, called Police Officer John Meddings who showed up a short time later at the bar with a police cruiser and Scott Estepp. Crum asked Meddings to drive to a local park where Crum and the 19 year old woman had sex in the backseat while Meddings and Estepp blared the radio to drown out the noise.

Meddings then dropped the woman off at her apartment and brought Crum back to the bar.

Later that morning the woman went to Williamson Memorial Hospital and reported that she'd been raped. Her blood alcohol level at that point was .30, triple the legal limit for driving in the state at that time.

Now, two points to keep in mind, the blood test was done at least some period of time after the incident. So her blood alcohol level was at least possibly somewhat higher when the encounter occurred. But at .3 blood alcohol, according to this standard index, "you're probably in a stupor. You have little comprehension of where you are or what's really going on around you. You may suddenly pass out and be difficult to awaken." In other words, during the time they had sex, the woman was likely either passed out or far beyond the ability to grant any kind of meaningful consent.

But officer Meddings said it all seemed like it was on the up and up ...

Meddings and Scott told State Police that the sex appeared to be consensual and they did not hear the victim say "no" or "stop" over the sound of their radio. Scott said he heard Crum and the victim discussing something about warrants before they had sex, according to the report.

Crum, meanwhile, told police that the woman never said "no" or "stop" and didn't seem intoxicated. Again, given her extremely high blood alcohol level, that later claim seems highly dubious.

So, who knows what happened that night? But even the undisputed facts make it sound overwhelmingly likely that Crum, a middle aged chief of police was at a bar where he found an extremely intoxicated young woman. He called an officer on duty to come by and drive him and the woman to a park where proceeded to have sex with the her in the backset of the patrol car while she was either unconscious or in a drunken stupor.

Just how this fits into Maynard's defense isn't specified. Maynard was 25 when the alleged rape occurred and earlier, when Maynard was in high school, Crum was his boxing coach. It doesn't take a huge amount of imagination to come up with ways the alleged rape might play into Maynard's defense, especially if this wasn't a one time thing for Crum.

We'll keep you posted as more details emerge.