Murder suspect caught by Ironton police

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ironton Police apprehended an Ironton man last night wanted in connection with the brutal beating death of a retired Lexington, Ky,. Catholic priest.

Ironton Police Capt. Jerry Leach said Jason A. Russell, 26, whose address is listed on police records as 612 S. 10th St., was taken into custody without incident in the vicinity of Fifth and Walnut streets. Russell was taken immediately to the Lawrence County Jail and Lexington, Ky., Metro Police were notified at that time.

Russell is charged with murder in connection with the death of the Rev. Joseph J. Pilger, who had been beaten to death at his residence sometime between Dec. 3 and Dec. 5., according to a report in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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Leach said local authorities were made aware earlier this week that Russell could be in the area and had been actively looking for him.

"Officer Mitch Crum spotted a man he believed was Russell in a car at the Speedway at Third and Monroe streets," Leach said. "Crum alerted other officers and followed the car to Fifth and Walnut streets where other units were in a position to assist in the apprehension."

In addition to Crum, officers involved were Leach, Capt. Dan Johnson, detective Jim Akers and Sgt. Anthony Forest.

Leach said he and Sgt. Joe Ross had responded to a domestic dispute involving Russell on Sunday, but a check of the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) did not produce information about his being a suspect in the crime. Shortly afterward, Kentucky authorities contacted the Lawrence County authorities about the possibility of Russell being in the area. The official warrant for Russell's arrest was issued Tuesday.

Leach said Ironton officers then began aggressively searching for him.

Ironton Police Chief Bill Garland praised the work of his officers in handling the situation.

"They did do an outstanding job," Garland said. "I think some commendations will be issued."

Leach praised Akers, whom he said has been working diligently to find Russell.

"Jimmy Akers has really worked around the clock to find this man before something happened here," Leach said. "He really invested some time to get this guy off the streets."

Russell was scheduled for arraignment today in Ironton Municipal Court.