WILLIAMSON – The widow of a murdered Mingo County Sheriff is suing Chafin Funeral Home and five others she claims saddled her with elaborate funeral costs they promised to pay and then didn't.
On April 3, 2013, Eugene Crum was shot and killed by a suspected illegal drug dealer and drug user, Tennis Maynard, according to a complaint filed April 2 in Mingo Circuit Court.
His widow, Rosanna S. Crum, claims the following day, John Mark Hubbard, Greg "Hootie" Smith and David Baisden, who were all members of the Mingo County Commission, and Michael Thornsbury, who was then a Mingo County judge, came to Rosanna Crum's home and assured her they would take care of all funeral and burial costs.
Rosanna Crum claims at the funeral home on April 5, 2013, the defendants repeated these assurances to her and other family members and a representative of the funeral home, "Tib" Cook, was present when these assurances were made.
During the same time period, Cabell County Sheriff Thomas McComas had arrived in Mingo County following the sheriff's murder and was also aware of the assurances made to Rosanna Crum, according to the suit.
Rosanna Crum claims Cook and McComas collaborated on putting together what could only be described as an elaborate funeral for the sheriff and the costs of the funeral exceeded $30,000.
Several weeks later, the funeral home charged the funeral costs to Rosanna Crum instead of the other defendants. The conduct of the county officials amounted to a breach of contract as she had relied on them that they would be responsible for the funeral bill, according to the suit.
Rosanna Crum claims the county officials' conduct amounted to negligence and a tortuous breach of contract as they knew they were making promises they could never keep or knew or should have known they were increasing the costs for the plaintiff.
McComas arranged an elaborate and costly funeral without Rosanna Crum's permission when he knew or should have known that she could not afford such an elaborate affair, according to the suit.
Rosanna Crum claims the funeral home also arranged for the elaborate funeral without her express permission.
The defendants' conduct amounted to negligence, breach of an implied contract and tortuous breach of implied contract.
Rosanna Crum is seeking for damages in the amount of at least $30,000 and punitive damages. She is being represented by attorney Richard A. Robb.
Robb had no further comment about the case Friday, saying the complaint speaks for itself.
Crum only served as sheriff from Jan. 1, 2013, until April 3, 2013. He was shot while he was eating lunch in his official police cruiser and watching over a former "pill mill" location.
Maynard walked up to the sheriff's vehicle and shot Crum in the head. After shooting him, Maynard fled from the scene, where he was later shot and seriously wounded by Mingo County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Norman Mines.
Maynard was known to be mentally disturbed.
On Aug. 5, the Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a press release regarding corruption in Mingo County, claiming Thornsbury, Crum and county prosecuting attorney Michael Sparks, were part of the alliance that used their authority to serve their own interests rather than those of the citizens who elected them.
The press released stated that the three men adopted the campaign slogan "Team Mingo" to promote their political slate.
"These men essentially ran the county’s legal system,” said Special Agent Jim Lafferty in the press release.
Lafferty called Thornsbury the ring leader and said the judge and his team were the power in Mingo County
"They didn’t like anyone who tried to oppose them. If you were an attorney or an individual who wanted to get a fair shake in the court system, you had to play whatever game they wanted you to play. It was a toxic environment."
The FBI opened the case in September 2012 and Lafferty and retired Special Agent Joe Ciccarelly uncovered evidence that Thornsbury, Crum – who had formerly been the county’s chief magistrate judge – and Sparks had been engaging in corrupt activities.
Specifically, the judge coerced a local drug defendant into firing his defense counsel because Thornsbury and other "Team Mingo" officials, including former County Commissioner David Baisden, learned that the drug defendant was prepared to testify that Crum had illegally received prescription pain medication and obtained unlawful campaign contributions.
To protect Crum, Thornsbury and his colleagues pressured the defendant into firing his defense attorney and replacing him with another attorney handpicked by Team Mingo.
After switching lawyers and pleading guilty to lesser charges, the defendant dropped his allegations against Crum and was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
Thornsbury was later charged with trying to frame the husband of a woman with whom he was having an affair and trying to have drugs planted in the husband's car.
He also planned to have the man arrested for stealing scrap metal when the drug plan failed.
In June, Thornsbury was sent to prison for more than four years for denying residents their constitutional rights.
Sparks was recently sentenced to a year in prison for his role in Team Mingo's illegal activities.
Others previously jailed as a result of the corruption probe include Baisden, sentenced in January 2014 to 20 months' imprisonment, and former Mingo County chief magistrate Dallas Toler, sentenced in March 2014 to 27 months in prison.
Mingo Circuit Court case number: 15-C-68