Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 26, 2012

Former Greenbrier County officer is being investigated

By Tina Alvey
Associated Press

Greenbrier County — A former Greenbrier County deputy sheriff is under investigation for the alleged theft of money and controlled substances from the Sheriff’s Department.

An internal Sheriff’s Department memo obtained by The Register-Herald indicates the target of the probe is former Sgt. Jim McFerrin, who abruptly resigned his post earlier this year.

The investigation is being conducted by Sgt. M.S. Haynes of the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police, according to court documents accompanying a request for appointment of a special prosecutor filed Sept. 7 by Greenbrier Circuit Judge James J. Rowe.

Greenbrier Prosecutor Patrick I. Via notes in an information sheet accompanying the request to the Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, “It would be impossible for this office to continue in a role as (prosecutor) under the circumstances, inasmuch as the suspect was until recently an active member of the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department with a pending investigative caseload.”

Via also wrote in the information sheet, “An amount of United States currency and controlled substances are reported missing from the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department. Internal investigation by said Sheriff’s Department revealed reasonable suspicion of theft.”

Sheriff James Childers would not confirm the identity of the former deputy or address the specific allegations, saying, “I’m forbidden to discuss personnel issues. Deputies are covered by civil service regulations, but there was misconduct.”

He was quick to add, however, “It did not involve the evidence room. The only cases jeopardized are the ones involving this officer, because his credibility is now in question.”

Haynes confirmed the sheriff’s assertion, saying, “It has nothing to do with the evidence room. It’s not that type of issue.”

Childers said once he learned about the allegations against the then-deputy, he dealt with the situation swiftly.

“It came to my attention that I had an officer engaged in conduct unbecoming to an officer and to our Sheriff’s Department,” Childers said. “After looking into the information I had received, I found it to be true.”

He said he confronted the accused deputy the morning after the internal investigation concluded, and the deputy asked to be permitted to resign rather than be fired.

“I had a letter waiting for him to sign if he wanted to resign, and another letter dismissing him if he chose not to resign,” Childers said. “He chose to resign rather than be fired.”

Two days later, Childers received a letter from Via requesting a breakdown of the allegations and evidence against the by-then former deputy. Childers said he turned over everything from the internal investigation to the prosecutor.

“At that time, it was out of my hands,” the sheriff said. “I had a problem, and I took care of it.”

The details of the timeline provided by the sheriff matched the information contained in the internal department memo which identified McFerrin as the focus of the State Police investigation and the incentive for the request for a special prosecutor.

Haynes said Tuesday his investigation into the situation is still “in the preliminary stages,” and like Childers, declined to confirm the identity of the former deputy who is the apparent target of the probe.

He said, “I’m more in a holding pattern right now, waiting for a special prosecutor to be appointed. Once that’s done, we’ll move forward with the investigation.”

Philip W. Morrison, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, said he expects to announce the name of the special prosecutor sometime today.