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Ohio Police Chief Fatally OD's On Drugs Allegedly Swiped From Evidence Room

Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes Jr. was found dead in his home on May 25 along with three syringes, two of which tested positive for the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

By Jon Silman

A deceased Ohio police chief overdosed on drugs he stole from the station's evidence room, investigators say.

Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes Jr., 35, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose on May 25, according to the Newark Advocate. He was found unresponsive in the bathroom of his home.

Nearby Reynoldsburg Police Department handled the investigation, and Lt. Ron Wright said his department is continuing to investigate the circumstances of Hughes' death. It looks like Hughes acted alone and becasue he didn't buy the drugs, Wright said, there is no one to charge in the death.

As for how Hughes was able to just take drugs from the evidence room, Wright said he plans to contact the State Attorney's Office to handle that part of the investigation.

"It's kind of gone beyond our level. You're talking about another agency's property room," he told the Advocate. "We think the state should probably intervene."

Wright added that someone should take a deeper look into it given that this happened at all.

"There appeared to be some practices happening out there that probably someone from the state AG's office should probably look into," he said.  

Hughes was hired on March 13 after the last chief, Jeff Finley, suddenly resigned, citing irreconcilable differencers with Kirkersville Mayor Terry Ashcraft.

Hughes had a troubled past as an officer with several spots on his record, the Newark Advocate reports. One supervisor wrote that Hughes would "never be accepted or respected as a leader."

While he worked at the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office in 2012 and 2013, he was subjected to three internal investigations. In one, he was said to have had a relationship with a female inmate from the jail after she was released. However, they both denied sexual activity with eachother.

In another investigation, a supervisor wrote that Hughes had poor decision-making skills.

"I believe that Deputy Hughes needs to think before he acts," the supervisor wrote, according to the Advocate. "Deputy Hughes is known to make bad decisions on and off duty."

He also had a run in at a drive-thru where he spit at an employee and used a racial slur, police said. The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. on June 13, 2013, according to a police report. He got into it with the employee, told him to get a real job, spat at him when he was told to get out of the line, and then flashed his badge.

He was charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct while intoxicated, according to records cited by the advocate. He later wrote a letter to Fairfield County Sheriff's Office investigators admitting to using the slur and saying he lost his temper.

He resigned on June 5, 2013. He eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $165 fine. He was hired by another department less than one month later, the Advocate reported.

When he died in May, three syringes were found with Hughes and a coroner's office report indicated that two of them tested positive for fentanyl, a narcotic used to treat severe pain. The third was empty. A sandwich bag with cocaine was also found at the scene.

In addition, investigators found heroin, LSD and closed packages of more fentanyl, Wright told WCMH-TV in Columbus.

Wright said the chief's death shows that everyone is succeptible to the heroin epidemic that's engulfing not only Ohio but places all over the country.

"It's happening at all different levels and walks of life," he told the Newark Advocate.

[Photo: Kirkersville Police Department]

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