CHARLESTON – A former circuit judge who served Kanawha County for nearly 20 years has died.

John Hey served as a circuit judge in Kanawha County for nearly 20 years before he retired in 1995. He resigned from his employment while undergoing sexual abuse charges and alcohol abuse.

Hey died on May 4 at his home in Charleston, at the age of 86.

Hey was born in Providence, R.I. in 1931, the oldest of four children. During his teenage years, he was arrested for stealing cars parked outside bars with keys in the ignitions, which he often told juvenile offenders.

“He was controversial and colorful, but he was stern in law and order before it was popular,” said Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, who was a friend of Hey’s. “You didn’t have to guess who was in charge of his courtroom.”

Carper said he considered Hey a good friend and was saddened by his passing.

“I tried many cases in front of him,” Carper said. “He even saw just how bad drugs were getting in the area before others were aware. He was very harsh on drug dealers.”

Hey later went to Boston University, joined the Army and then moved to West Virginia, where he graduated from law school at West Virginia University College of Law.

After a series of government jobs in Charleston and working as an assistant city manager in Wheeling, Hey was elected to circuit judge in 1976.

In April 1995, Hey surrendered his law license as part of an agreement with the Judicial Investigation Commission to settle a sexual harassment case and for using vulgarity toward a court employee while presiding over a case under the influence of alcohol.

Hey also plead guilty in 1995 to misdemeanor battery charges, admitting to battering two women in 1994 and 1981.

In addition to his parents, Hey was preceded in death in 2015 by his wife of 38 years, Sarah Ellen Toney Hey.

Hey’s funeral service will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home in Charleston with Rev. Dr. Jay Parkins officiating.

Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. Burial will be at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar.

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