As Mingo mourns, former First Lady remembers Pike sheriff

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - The people of Mingo County, West Virginia are still mourning the death of Sheriff Eugene Crum, but this latest incident of violence is not the first time a law enforcement official has died by an assassin's bullet in Appalachia. In fact, it's happened several times.

The assassination of Eugene Crum brought back painful memories for former Kentucky First Lady Judi Patton. She was only nine years old when her father, then Pike County sheriff Roy Conway, was killed.

"We spent all of our lives without a father," she said. "My mother never remarried. She never could find another one like Roy Conway, she said."

Conway had served less than seven months when two brothers, Tommy and Hubert Vanover, shot him in the back in his front yard on July 28th, 1950.

"We had bootlegging of beer and whiskey in those days, and he was cracking down on it," said Sheriff Charles "Fuzzy" Keesee, "and I think that's what caused him to be shot and killed."

Both the sheriff and Mrs. Patton say they believe the rise of drugs in the area have made the work of law enforcement much more dangerous than it was 63 years ago.

"Times have changed so much, since I became sheriff," said Keesee. "I used to go out and arrest people without a weapon on me," something the sheriff says he would never do now.

Judi Patton says her heart breaks for the family of Eugene Crum, and says she knows exactly what they are going through.

"I just want to wrap my arms around that lady, and say 'there's so many people out there who care, and think this is so wrong.'"

She says people like Crum and her father were "born special" and served the way they did out of love for their fellow man.

The last sheriff in the WYMT viewing area to be assassinated was Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron in 2002.

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