PITTSFIELD – Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty, who beat a felony misconduct charge, said he felt ecstatic when a judge dismissed the charge and a packed gallery applauded.
“During the entire four to five week period, I sensed a development over time regarding the public’s consideration when they understood the charge,” he said on June 24.
Former state’s attorney Carrie Boyd accused Petty on May 16, charging that he violated a mandatory duty in his separate role as coroner. She alleged that he prematurely allowed a mortician to embalm the body of heroin overdose victim Shanda Lopez in 2012.
“It wasn’t like the facts would change, so I wasn’t necessarily surprised," Petty said. "It was a definite personal good feeling and the public, particularly in the courtroom that day, was ready for it to be over.
“There was a number of - I’m going to call them good citizens, concerned for the county. I think they had come to know the facts of this and to be very involved in the outcome.”
Petty had gained name recognition in St. Clair County as the sheriff who connected the death of judge Joe Christ to cocaine.
Petty obtained a confession of drug use from former judge Michael Cook, leading to heroin charges that sent Cook to prison for two years.
Two weeks after Boyd charged Petty, she reached a plea agreement with the suspect in Lopez’s death, John Edgar.
She reduced the charge from drug induced homicide, which carries a sentence from six to 30 years, to involuntary manslaughter.
Edgar accepted a sentence of 353 days, which would mean freedom because he had spent that many days behind bars before posting bond.
Boyd quit her job that day.
At a hearing on June 2, Adams County Associate Judge Chet Vahle told Petty he would appoint a special prosecutor.
On June 12, the Pike County board hired Matt Goetten to replace Boyd.
On June 18, Vahle appointed Ed Parkinson of Morgan County as special prosecutor.
Parkinson quickly prepared a report, and Vahle quickly adopted it.
Vahle dismissed the charge at a hearing on June 20, and banged his gavel.
He signed an order finding Parkinson “determined that there is no proper basis in fact or in law for the prosecution of the charge to go forward.”
He wrote that “no guilt has been established or proven beyond a mere allegation by one person.”
"Sheriff Petty’s innocence of the charge against him has not been altered or changed, and no one in good faith and legally can say otherwise.”
That closed the Petty case, but Edgar’s case remained open as of June 25.
Pike County Circuit Judge Diane Lagoski planned a hearing on Edgar’s plea agreement on June 26.