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Lawrence County Commissioner Pratt dead at 45

Sheriff: Gunshot wound appears self inflicted

CHESAPEAKE — Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt died Friday, after suffering what the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office Friday night, they received a call of a possible shooting at 2868 County Road 35 in Chesapeake at about 7 p.m. on Friday.

Deputies discovered  Pratt, who they said had suffered a single gunshot wound. Lawrence County EMS arrived at the scene and provided care to Pratt. He was transported to Cabell Huntington Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, the sheriff’s office said.

Although no foul play is suspected at this time, this case remains under investigation with the assistance of Lawrence County Coroner Ben Mack, Sheriff Lawless said.

“Our hearts are deeply saddened at the loss of our good friend,” Lawless said.

Pratt was elected to the commission in 2011 and was in his second term, serving as its president. He previously served on the Chesapeake Board of Education.

Lawrence County Commissioners DeAnna Holliday and Freddie Hayes Jr. issued a joint statement on behalf of the commission.

“We are heartbroken over the passing of our friend and colleague, Commissioner Bill Pratt. We earnestly pray for his family and send our heartfelt condolences to them,” the statement says. “Our County feels the loss of this valued public servant. We urge all to pray for his family in their bereavement and also for their future.”

A graduate of Chesapeake High School and The Ohio State University, where he obtained a dairy science degree, Pratt, 45, was the owner of Pratt Dairy Farm in Chesapeake.

Pratt took great pride in his farm and was an advocate for agriculture in the county. In September 2017, when hosting the commission’s weekly meeting at his farm, he pointed out that he was the last remaining dairy farm in the county, which, at one time, was home to 165 farms.

Pratt’s brother also owns Pratt’s Greenhouse, and he said the stretch of road between the two businesses was the only place in the county where all four food groups were produced. Pratt’s farm was a stop on the annual county farm tour and he served as judge for the dairy cattle competition, which made a return to the Lawrence County Fair this year.

Tributes to Pratt poured in from across the county.

“The Lawrence County Veterans Service Commission and Office staff are deeply saddened on the loss of our County Commissioner Bill Pratt, praying for his family, friends and the county as a whole,” a statement online read.

Lawrence County Engineer Patrick Leighty also paid his respects.

“All the county is heartbroken with the loss of a great man,” Leighty wrote on his office’s Facebook page. “Thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and every stretch of the County that is feeling this pain. Commissioner Bill Pratt will surely be missed!”

The staff of Collins Career Technical Center, located near Pratt’s farm, released a statement.

“We are saddened to learn about the passing of Commissioner Bill Pratt,” it read. “Mr. Pratt was a devoted public servant and a valued friend of Collins Career Technical Center. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and the citizens of Lawrence County.”

The NWTF South Hills Longbeards Chapter also paid tribute.

“With a very heavy heart this evening, we would ask everyone to please pray for the family of Lawrence County Commissioner, Bill Pratt,” a message from the group read. “A very sad day In Lawrence County today.”

The Lawrence County Republican Party also released a statement.

“Words cannot express how heavy our hearts are tonight at the devastating news of the passing of Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt,” the message on social media read. “He loved Lawrence County and we loved him. We will all miss him dearly. Please keep the Pratt Family in your prayers.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, issued a statement of Saturday.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Bill’s family and to the Lawrence County community,” Portman said. “Bill was a respected leader and popular public servant, and we will miss his many contributions to Southern Ohio.”