Candidate for judicial vacancy receives opposition from late Huntington woman’s family

By Lawrence Smith | Dec 16, 2013

CHARLESTON - As the field of candidates to replace a Cabell County circuit judge has been narrowed, one of the finalists is receiving opposition due to his alleged inaction relating to the death of a Huntington woman and her baby.

After conducting interviews the same day, the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission on Dec. 3 submitted to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin the names of three attorneys it felt were the best qualified to replace retiring Judge David J. Pancake. Commission chairwoman Debra Scudiere said, “We are impressed with the overall experience and qualifications of” the three, Christopher D. Chiles, Cheryl L. Henderson and Paul A. Ryker

Chiles, 58, is Cabell County’s prosecuting attorney and has served in that capacity for nearly a quarter-century. Henderson, 57, and Ryker, 61, are in private practice. Henderson is a partner in the Huntington law firm of Henderson, Henderson and Staples, and Ryker is a sole practitioner in Barboursville.

In a letter to Tomblin, the surviving family members of Kristy and Jayden Crawford are encouraging him not to select Chiles as Pancake’s replacement. In the letter, the family said they “believe strongly” that Chiles did not deal with them honestly when they asked him to conduct an investigation into Kristy's and Jayden’s deaths, and he “would continue to be derelict in his duties if appointed as a circuit court judge.”

According to a lawsuit filed by Pamela Prout, Kristy’s sister, she alleged paramedics from the Cabell County Emergency Medical Services failed to provide any care for Kristy after she experienced a seizure at Prout’s home on Jan. 4, 2007. Because of the lack of care, Crawford, who was eight months pregnant, died en route to the hospital, the suit says

Though the baby, Jayden, was delivered via emergency C-section, he died a day later due to a lack of oxygen.

Initially, the wrongful death suit was filed by Prout seven months after Kristy's and Jayden’s deaths after she qualified as the administratrix of their estates. Later, Prout’s parents, Kenny and Constance Crawford, were admitted as co-administrators of the estates and were subsequently added as co-plaintiffs in the suit.

In the course of mediating a settlement nearly a year later, Bill Mundy, co-counsel for the family, said discovery revealed the paramedics who responded to Prout’s 911 call, Frank Pierson and J.N. Rimer, committed fraud when they falsified documents regarding their actions that day. Armed with that information, the family later asked Chiles to open a criminal investigation of Pierson and Rimer.

However, in their letter, the family says that after initially speaking with his investigator, Timothy Murphy, Chiles failed to return voice messages left with him about the status of the investigation. On an unspecified date, the family says they turned to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which through its Office of Emergency Medical Services has oversight of paramedics, for help.

According to the letter, following an investigation by DHHR’s Inspector General’s Office, Pierson and Rimer agreed to surrender their certifications and never seek recertification. The family says they were told by David Bishop, the inspector general, that was the best he could do since DHHR lacked any prosecutorial powers.

In the letter, the family was unequivocal in saying that Chiles’ failure to investigate possible criminality in Kristy's and Jayden’s deaths was his way of “protecting the Cabell County EMS and other Cabell County cronies.”

Also, they say Chiles’ actions, or lack thereof, are “on par with that of Mingo County,” referring to how Judge Michael Thornsbury and Prosecutor Michael Sparks either covered for the criminal actions of other officials or their own, which led to them resigning in disgrace following their indictments on federal civil rights charges.

As such, the family said in concluding the letter that “Chiles’ decision to protect and show favoritism to his Cabell County colleagues demonstrates a lack of respect for the law that he took an oath to uphold.”

Neither Chiles nor a spokesperson from Tomblin’s office was immediately available for comment by presstime about the Crawford family’s letter.

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