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Slain West Virginia sheriff's widow takes job as his replacement

By Susan Candiotti. Ross Levitt and Greg Botelho, CNN
April 5, 2013 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rosie Crum is sworn in as Mingo County sheriff, replacing her late husband
  • Late Sheriff Eugene Crum was shot in the head while he was eating lunch in his car
  • Suspect in sheriff's shooting had mental health issues, his mother says
  • He is in a West Virginia hospital, after being shot in the chest, authorities say

Williamson, West Virginia (CNN) -- As she grieves, Rosie Crum is being called upon to lead.

Rather than having dinner with her husband, Walter E. "Eugene" Crum, she spent Thursday night mourning his violent death and taking over the job he held as sheriff of Mingo County, West Virginia.

The county's three commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Rosie Crum as sheriff during an emotional meeting Thursday afternoon.

That night, she was sworn in as sheriff at the county courthouse, meaning that she'll serve at least through the remainder of her late husband's term, with an election set for 2014. Rosie Crum did not speak at the ceremony, though she did hug 22 deputies who came to the ceremony, county commissioner John Mark Hubbard said.

"(She) is the best person to fulfill" her husband's commitment as sheriff, including taking steps to curb drug abuse in the county, county Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith said.

David Baisden, another county commissioner, explained that part of the rationale for appointing Rosie Crum -- who has known her husband since she was 14 and, though she is active in local politics, has no law enforcement experience -- is to make sure she is taken care of financially for the next 21 or so months.

She will have a role, but Williamson Police Chief Dave Rockel will "manage the law enforcement end" of the sheriff's department, he explained.

Authorities still are trying to make sense how they got into this position, how a man so admired in his community could be so brazenly gunned down while eating his lunch.

It took two shots to kill Eugene Crum around noon Wednesday, as he sat in a parking lot near the Mingo County courthouse.

A man had walked up to the sheriff's driver's-side door from behind, fired at Crum's head, then returned to his own vehicle and drove away, Rockel told reporters Thursday. The .40-caliber shell casings recovered at the scene indicate the shots came from a semi-automatic handgun, he added.

Those were some of the details offered Thursday by authorities. What they didn't explain, however, was why.

The suspect -- Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37 -- was in critical but stable condition Thursday at Cabell Huntington Hospital, said Rockel. He had been shot in the chest an exchange of gunfire with a sheriff's deputy, following a chase.

He "said some things to us" on his way to the hospital, West Virginia State Police First Sgt. Michael Baylous told CNN on Wednesday.

"We're still trying to make sense of it," Baylous said of Maynard's comments. "It could be interpreted in different ways."

Rockel did not elaborate Thursday, when asked by CNN, on whatever Maynard might have said, saying only that "we don't want to focus on any particular motive."

"We are unsure at this point," Rockel said, why the sheriff was killed. "We are looking at all possibilities."

Source: Suspect got treated for mental health issues

Who is Tennis Melvin Maynard?

A search of Mingo County court records show no criminal arrests or civil cases involving Maynard. His only citation involves failure to wear a seat belt, according to the records.

On Thursday, a source with knowledge of the suspect's past told CNN that Maynard had spent time at a state hospital for mental health issues within the past couple of years.

Weeping and shaking, his mother, Olgie Maynard, confirmed as much, saying her son was institutionalized for about a week three to four years ago.

"He went crazy," Olgie Maynard told CNN, explaining her son hadn't been the same since he was involved in a workplace explosion five or six years ago in Alabama. "He was out in the yard yelling. We called the police, and they took him away."

Since then, she said Tennis had gotten more psychiatric help at another mental health center. At home in Ragland, where he lives with his parents, he mostly stayed in his bedroom and watched television.

"He talks a lot to himself," Olgie Maynard said. "... He was never violent."

She added that Tennis Maynard "has guns, but I don't know one from another."

On Thursday afternoon, he was recovering in a hospital bed. According to the state police spokesman, Maynard is expected to survive.

He's already facing at least two serious charges: first-degree murder for Crum's death and attempted murder for firing on a sheriff's deputy.

"Those charges are pending on him getting out of the hospital," Rockel said.

Sheriff's slaying 'a big blow to the community'

The man he allegedly killed, 59-year-old Eugene Crum, had been a county magistrate and a special investigator for the prosecutor's office before becoming sheriff in January.

In 93 days on the job, Crum gained a reputation for taking a tough stance on drug dealers. His legacy will live on, Mingo County officials say.

"The flame that Sheriff Crum sparked cannot be extinguished," Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks said in a statement read at Thursday's press conference in Williamson.

His slaying has shaken the rural county, which normally sees only one or two slayings per year, said Lt. Randy Hatfield of the Mingo County Sheriff's Office.

"It's devastating," Hatfield said. "It's a big blow to the community."

Asked whether officials thought there was any connection between Crum's slaying and the recent killing of a Colorado prison official or the slayings of two Texas prosecutors, Hatfield said, "I hope not," but declined to elaborate.

For now, the focus is on remembering Crum and his family.

In addition to Thursday night's candlelight vigil, a memorial service for Crum will be held late Saturday afternoon and his funeral will take place Sunday, both services at Mingo Central High School.

Crum will be remembered as a devoted public servant and a family man, having left behind his wife as well as several children and grandchildren.

"It's quite obvious that the last 26 hours have been a difficult time," said Hubbard, president of the Mingo County commission. "We continue to solicit your prayers."

CNN's Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt reported this story from Williamson, West Virginia, and Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta. CNN's Dana Ford, Lateef Mungin and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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