Kirkersville will now have to hire its fourth police chief in little over than a year.
James Hughes, Jr. died unexpectedly at his home in the Columbus suburb of Reynoldsburg on Friday night. He had served as the Kirkersville Police Chief for under two months, but reports of his criminal record and work history stirred up controversy among the village of 500.
Mayor Terry Ashcraft says the cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy.
A WOSU investigation of Hughes’ personnel records found that, while working as a Fairfield County deputy in 2012-13, Hughes had an improper relationship with a former female inmate after she was released from jail. For that offense, he received a two-week suspension without pay and was transferred.
In 2013, Hughes pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor county of disorderly conduct in Whitehall after getting into an argument with workers at a fast food restaurant, spitting at the drive-thru window, and referring to the workers as “ignorant n-----s.”
Hughes denied comment about his work history. When asked about the incidents, Ashcraft defended his chief, saying the media was only getting one side of the story.
Hughes’ death comes almost a year after the death of Chief Steven Eric DiSario, who was fatally shot when responding to an attack at the Pine Kirk Nursing Home in May 2017. Two women employees and the shooter also died in the attack.
DiSario’s successor, Jeff Finley, was named chief in October 2017 but resigned just five months later, claiming Ashcraft was verbally abusive and created a hostile work environment.
Ashcraft said the county sheriff's office will help out in the village of about 500 people until a new chief can be appointed.