County came together

Published 5:12 pm Sunday, October 22, 2017

In light of the recent tragic situation that occurred in Decatur Township, Lawrence County on Oct. 11, I want to first say to the families and loved ones of the victims how sorry I am for them, and to let them know they are in our prayers.

Secondly, I want to express my gratitude by saying “thank you” to numerous people. I knew from the onset of this situation that I was going to need a vast array of resources, so I picked up the phone and began to make calls. I needed crime scene experts, helicopters, ATV’s, bloodhounds, computer experts and extra officers. Everyone I called jumped right into action, and those people even called other agencies who might be able to help. Before I knew it, there were well over 100 law enforcement officers involved in what may be Lawrence County’s largest manhunt in history.

We had four people brutally murdered and our suspect was on the loose. The citizens of Lawrence County were in danger and I was pulling out all the stops to arrest this fugitive and make Lawrence County safe. I wanted to use every resource I could get my hands on, to resolve this situation before one more innocent person was injured.

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I am proud of the many officers who put their lives on the line to scour through unfamiliar terrain searching for a man who could have stepped from behind any tree and done the unthinkable. Many of these officers had no ties to this area, but their oath and duty to serve caused them to want to ensure that the peace we have come to love in Lawrence County was restored. The sheriff of Lawrence County asked them for help, and that’s all they needed.

As I begin the “thank yous,” I want to say that if I inadvertently leave out your name or organization it is strictly by accident; please do not feel slighted. We have racked our brains to try to remember all who helped. Please know we appreciate you and your help.

I first want to thank the employees of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. As this situation developed you all jumped into action. Dispatchers came in to assist and deputies began to rush through the county, searching for the suspect or assisting with the crime scene.

I next want to thank Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier and Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader for coming to my aid and assisting me throughout this ordeal. Your help was greatly appreciated. The Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association is a great organization that assists sheriffs in times of need.

Thank you to the Ohio Bureau Criminal Investigation for your help in processing the scene, aiding in the search, computer expertise, interviews and all that you continue to do.

Thank you to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for the numerous troopers that were sent in to aid in the search, as well as all the equipment that was utilized such as helicopters, airplanes and SWAT Teams. Thank you for all your help and support.

Thank you to the West Virginia State Police and the Butler County Ohio Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Richard Jones for the use of your helicopters. Thank you to the Barboursville, West Virginia Police Department for the canine and canine handler.

I want to thank the Upper Township Fire Department and the Upper Township Trustees for allowing us the use of their building that we turned into our command center, and for your kindness and support in helping with all our needs.

I want to thank the following law enforcement agencies for all you did: U.S. Marshals, Huntington, West Virginia Police, Ashland, Kentucky Police, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Gallia County Sheriff’s Office, Highland County Sheriff’s Office, Ironton Police, Coal Grove Police, South Point Police, Chesapeake Police, Proctorville Police, USDA Forestry Service, Ohio Department Natural Resources, Lawrence County Drug & Major Crimes Task Force, Law. County Common Pleas Probation, and the Ohio Department Rehabilitation and Correction.

I want to thank the following emergency responders for all their help: Upper Township Fire Department, Coal Grove Fire Department, Decatur Fire Department, Lawrence County Coroner’s Office, Patriot EMS, Health Net, Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency, Lawrence County Children’s Services, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Lawrence County EMS.

I also want to thank the numerous citizens who provided tips, support, and prayers, as well as the many who brought food and beverages: Giovanni’s of Coal Grove, Giovanni’s of Ironton, Skeeto’s Pizza, NECCO, JD Boyd/FedX, Spice of Life, Ironton High School (Patty & Valerie), Rock Hill Elementary Parents, Patriot EMS, Citizens of South Point, Coal Grove Ladies Auxiliary, Mamre Church, Patrick Leighty, Mike Boster, Krista Blankenship, New Valley Church, Open Door School, Campbell Chapel Church, Tipton’s Bakery, Back Pack Buddies , ZMZ Graphics, Freddie Evans (Evans Family) of Rock Hill Schools, Larry Justice, and the numerous citizens who arrived with goods to keep everyone going. Thank you!

This was a horrible time for Lawrence County, but through it all, Lawrence County showed who we truly are. For everyone to come together the way we did is a true testament to what I have said for years which is, “We live in a great county full of kind, loving people.” I had several officers from other parts of the state remark to me that the outpouring of community support we were receiving was unbelievable and that they would never get this kind of support in their communities. I cannot say thank you enough to all the citizens of Lawrence County who assisted us with tips, provided us with food and those who just kept us in their thoughts and prayers.

Thank you!


Jeffrey S. Lawless is the sheriff of Lawrence County.