Jennifer Agee Murder Update – 2012-09-27

If you don’t remember my last post on this subject, I don’t blame you – it’s been a while. Just to refresh your memory:

Almost a half-hour before Jennifer Carter Agee was shot to death in the parking lot of a Sheetz convenience store in Roanoke on Memorial Day 2011, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was warned that her sheriff’s deputy ex-husband, Jonathan Agee, had a rifle and was driving to Salem to kill her.

But [then-Sheriff] Hunt told his dispatch center not to issue a “be on the lookout” alert to other law enforcement agencies, saying he would take care of the situation himself, according to a sheriff’s office radio call log. He ordered a dispatcher “not to mention anything,” that log shows.

[Source: Roanoke Times article dated 1 June 2012]

As I have noted before, it is entirely possible that Jennifer Agee would still be alive had Hunt not withheld critical, urgent information from the neighboring agencies. They could have found her before her husband did and taken her into protective custody, or they could have found and stopped him before he found her. Instead, we have an innocent woman murdered by her ex-husband in front of their daughter, and a State Trooper injured in the line of duty.

Others agreed. Back in June, after an investigation, a special prosecutor charged Hunt with the common law crime of “misconduct in office”.

Well, on Tuesday, we saw some infinitesimal measure of justice delivered, when Hunt was convicted on that charge.

A prosecutor and a defense attorney questioned more than 20 witnesses across seven hours at a bench trial Tuesday in Franklin County General District Court, all to probe one issue:

Was former Sheriff Ewell Hunt guilty of misconduct in office, based on his handling of the warnings that preceded a fatal Memorial Day 2011 shooting rampage believed to have been committed by one of Hunt’s former deputies?

Once testimony was heard and arguments made, retired General District Court Judge John Quigley took just a few brief moments to announce his decision.

“I don’t have a problem with what he did. It’s what he didn’t do,” Quigley declared, and found Hunt guilty of the misdemeanor offense.

Sadly, it’s only a $500 fine and a 30 day suspended jail sentence, not even the full sentence available. Additionally, Hunt has already filed his appeal to the Circuit Court, where the case will be completely re-tried. But if it sticks, it will at least be a permanent stain on his official record.

It will match nicely with the stain on his honour.

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[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 9/26/12]

(h/t to reader Dwight Brown for reminding me about it. Thanks!)

Jennifer Agee update

A minor update to a story from last year – the murder of Jennifer Agee (link goes to my posts on the murder and scandal). From today’s Roanoke Times:

Ewell Hunt, who lost a bid for re-election last year to Bill Overton, has been charged with misconduct in office stemming from a Memorial Day 2011 shooting rampage believed to have been committed by one of his former deputies.

Hunt has been charged under common law, or law that hasn’t been codified by the Virginia General Assembly, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

[...]

Almost a half-hour before Jennifer Carter Agee was shot to death in the parking lot of a Sheetz convenience store in Roanoke on Memorial Day 2011, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was warned that her sheriff’s deputy ex-husband, Jonathan Agee, had a rifle and was driving to Salem to kill her.

But Hunt told his dispatch center not to issue a “be on the lookout” alert to other law enforcement agencies, saying he would take care of the situation himself, according to a sheriff’s office radio call log. He ordered a dispatcher “not to mention anything,” that log shows.

This murder, and his actions relating to it, are what ultimately cost Hunt his reelection bid. The surviving family has already accepted a settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against him. Now he will have a permanent mark on his record that will hopefully keep him out of any kind of law enforcement forever.

The charge is a Class 1 Misdemeanor – I’m not sure if that’s an upper limit because it’s not statutory law, or some other reason – which is punishable by jail for no more than 12 months and up to a $2,500 fine. It’s not real justice for the results of this man’s actions, but it is something.

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[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 6/1/12]

Another recording released

Roanoke City has released the audio of it’s dispatcher’s call to the Franklin Co. Sheriff’s Office dispatch. This confirms information that was released previously.

If you listen, you can hear the “Oh, shit,” tone in the Franklin dispatcher’s voice as soon as the Roanoke dispatcher asks if they have a K9 unit in the city.

The Franklin News-Post has a partial transcript of Franklin Co. dispatch tapes with a conversation between the dispatcher and the Sheriff. While there is no mention of a BOL, she does ask him if someone should call Roanoke County and he says “No, let me call them” – which he never does. Note that, to get to either Roanoke City or Salem from his home in Boones Mill, Agee would have had to travel through Roanoke County. Yet Hunt maintains that he “did everything possible, with the information that we had at the time, to alert the appropriate authorities”.

In reality, it appears he did everything possible except for actually alerting the appropriate authorities.

Later, he complains about Salem PD not calling him back, saying “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with them.” Perhaps, if you had actually mentioned that it was urgent, you might have gotten a call back sooner. That usually helps if you want someone to call you back in a hurry.

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[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 6/6/11]
[Source: Franklin News-Post article, retrieved 6/6/11]

Sheriff Hunt’s official statement

Can be found here.

Nothing we haven’t heard before, except for two things. First, he subtly castigates the Roanoke Times for using “illegally leaked information” for its articles, and reiterates his assertion that the dispatch log is not an accurate representation of events because it is “only a summary” and “incomplete.”

The second new item is that he is officially denying, in direct contradiction to the dispatch log, that he told the dispatcher not to issue a BOL.

At no time did I cancel a “be on the lookout,” order for Mr. Agee.

Yet what the dispatch log says is completely different.

DISPATCHER:8040@05/30/2011 11:15:09
CAR 22 ADV TO CALL ROA CO AND SALEM TO GET THEM TO BOL AND PULL HIM OVER AND STOP HIM IF FOUND, CAR 1 ADV NOT TO CALL THAT HE WILL TAKE CARE OF IT

[CAR1 is Sheriff Hunt - Ed]

The rest is what we’ve already seen, plus the timeline we saw previously.

He claims to have done “everything possible” to alert the appropriate authorities to the situation, and the he “contacted local authorities by the quickest method possible.” We know both of these statements are not true. “Everything possible” would have included the BOL he did not have issued. And while a direct phone call is usually the quickest way to contact someone, we know that he did not provide the Salem PD dispatch with any information on the situation, instead choosing to leave a message – with no indication whatsoever of any urgency, as can be heard in the recording released by Salem PD – for the on-duty supervisor. A message which was not returned until almost fifteen minutes later – after Jennifer Agee had been fatally shot. This is not alerting them to the situation by the quickest method possible, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Excuses and lies. Sheriff Hunt is scrambling to cover his mistakes, nothing more.

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Update: I have created a PDF of the dispatch log from the released images, just in case. My source is this previous Roanoke Times article.

[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 6/6/11]

More malfeasance by Sheriff Hunt

[Note: I have added a new category to track this story: The Murder of Jennifer Agee. Previous posts on this topic have been added to the category as well.]

Roanoke City police have released 911 transcripts that indicate Sheriff Hunt had ordered dispatchers not to mention Dep. Agee’s threatening remarks or acts.

Ninety seconds after the first 911 call reporting that a man in a Franklin County sheriff’s K-9 car shot a woman outside the Sheetz convenience store on Orange Avenue in Roanoke, a city dispatcher called the Franklin County Dispatch Center, the transcript shows.

The Franklin County dispatcher hesitated as the Roanoke operator urgently sought information, according to the transcript.

“Do y’all have a K-9 unit that’s in the city?” the Roanoke dispatcher asked.

After a confused back-and-forth, the Franklin County dispatcher finally said, “OK. We are looking for a K-9 unit. … He has made a remark. But see, I, see — What our sheriff is telling us. …”

The city dispatcher interrupted at that point: “Not to mention anything.”

“Not to mention anything,” the Franklin County dispatcher continued. “So that’s why I’m sort of stuck in the middle of this and everything.”

The Franklin Co. dispatcher had to call Hunt to get him to call a Roanoke sergeant. According to the Franklin Co. dispatch log that was released earlier, it was almost half an hour after the shooting before Hunt authorized his dispatcher to release information to other law enforcement agencies.

Hunt’s lawyer claims that the dispatcher misunderstood Hunt’s orders, and categorically denies that he told the dispatcher not to tell other law enforcement agencies what was happening. But, given his other actions, including ordering the dispatcher to not issue a BOL in direct contradiction of normal procedure, I find it entirely believable that he did.

It’s maddening that, while he may lose his position – whether through the recall petition that is currently circulating or simply by losing the election later this year – he will most likely never have to face any other penalty for the unforgivable malfeasance which likely cost a woman her life.

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[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 6/4/11]

More damning evidence against Sheriff Hunt

The audio recording of his call to the Salem PD has been released.

He never indicated any urgency or gave any hint whatsoever that there was an emergency situation developing. He simply asked for a supervisor to call him. This directly contradicts his previous statement that “I thought I could get the fastest response by making personal contact.” If you want “the fastest response,” you at least tell the person taking the message that it’s urgent.

His response is looking worse and worse every time more evidence comes out.

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[Source: Roanoke Times article, retrieved 6/2/11]

More on the Roanoke/I-81 shootings

Some other information from a new update and the article I linked to previously.

From the new update:

It looks like this was triggered by text messages from the victim (the shooter’s ex-wife) to the shooter’s current wife, where the victim claimed “an ongoing relationship” with the shooter. There are claims by the current wife of “repeated “very heated” arguments” on the phone between the shooter and the victim.

The Franklin Co. Sheriff has released his own timeline of events that includes calls to and from his personal cell phone. There are some very interesting (and disturbing) points in this timeline.

  • The Sheriff was called by the shooter’s father first, before anyone called dispatch.
  • It was about seven minutes after that initial call ended before he contacted his dispatch center. Two of those seven minutes involved him calling the shooter directly (presumably on the shooter’s cell phone) to attempt to speak with him directly. He had to leave a message.
  • The wording of the Sheriff’s timeline leaves it unclear whether he contacted dispatch on his own initiative, or because he found out that the shooter’s wife had called. However, from the dispatch log that appears in the earlier story [separate link], it appears that the dispatcher attempted to contact the Sheriff first, and had to resort to a text message because they could not reach him by phone.
  • After dispatch becomes involved (thus making things “official” and on the record), the Sheriff’s timeline appears to be what one would expect in this situation.

He also released a short statement by email. I fisk it here.

At no time did we ever have any indication that Mr. Agee was capable of such a horrific act.

Except, you know, for the calls from his father and wife that he had flatly stated his intent to commit said horrific act.

I can assure you that both myself and members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office did everything possible, with the information that we had at the time, to alert the appropriate authorities as to the situation regarding Mr. Agee.

Except for actually alerting the appropriate authorities.

Moreover, both I and other members of my office attempted to contact Mr. Agee by every possible means, in order to prevent the tragic events from occurring this past Monday.

This is probably the only true sentence your entire statement. [/fisk]

He says, of course, that he has no plans to resign.

Now, some more thoughts from the earlier story:

It appears that, after shooting his ex-wife, Dep. Agee was looking for suicide-by-cop. He called a Rocky Mount police officer who was a friend and said he would surrender to him, but that the friend would have to kill him.

Despite his apparent unwillingness to follow procedure and take the appropriate steps to ensure that the shooter was located before he could actually carry out his plan, the Sheriff did move to protect the shooter’s parents, wife, and the child he had custody of, by having them escorted to the office by other deputies.

During the pursuit through Montgomery County, the shooter’s car was struck by a cruiser driven by Virginia State Police Sgt. Brannock. Reports are not clear if this was intentional as part of a PIT maneuver, or accidental, though I suspect the former. It is at this point that Sgt. Brannock was shot in the leg when he got out of his car.

The shooter killed the victim in broad daylight, in public, at a crowded gas station with multiple witnesses, by shooting her with a rifle (the type of rifle is, as yet, not identified, but I suspect it would be an AR type, and possibly his “patrol” rifle). There was a child – HIS child – in the car with her. He approached in a marked Sheriff’s Department vehicle, and apparently fired immediately upon exiting. His approach in a marked vehicle ensured that no one would think to interfere until it was too late. I have seen no indication of whether he was wearing his uniform or not, but if he was that would have contributed to that effect. By using a rifle in a crowded area, he endangered everyone there, whether they were involved in his vendetta or not, including his own child. He later endangered more innocents by opening fire on a crowded highway.

As many have said, the Sheriff has much to answer for.

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[Source: Roanoke Times story, retrieved 6/1/11]

Why do they insist that the police will protect you?

I haven’t posted on the semi-local* incident of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy who killed his ex-wife at a gas station and then got into a shootout with state troopers on the interstate on Monday, because there wasn’t a lot of information beyond the basics, and I didn’t really know where to go with it. When a cop goes that bad, with what was apparently little to no warning, there’s not a whole lot most people can do. There’s no indication from the available information that the victim knew he was following her until he got out of the truck and shot her. Even if she did, she did the appropriate thing by going to a crowded area. It sounds like the violence was sudden and unanticipated, and she wouldn’t have had much (if any) time to react.

But now this information has surfaced.

Almost a half-hour before Jennifer Carter Agee was shot to death on Memorial Day, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was warned that her sheriff’s deputy ex-husband had an assault rifle and was driving to Salem to kill her.

But Sheriff Ewell Hunt told his dispatch center not to issue a “be on the lookout” alert to other law enforcement agencies, saying he would take care of the situation himself, according to a sheriff’s office radio call log. [emphasis mine]

He instead called the Salem police department directly. He claims “I thought I could get the fastest response by making personal contact,” but when he couldn’t get direct contact with a supervisor he simply left a message with the dispatcher for someone to call him. By the time he got that return call, thirteen minutes later, Jennifer Agee had already been shot. [Note: To avoid confusion, I will refer to the victim either as "the victim" or "Jeniffer Agee", and the shooter as "the shooter" or Dep. Agee.]

Rather than issue an immediate alert that would have had every police officer in the area actively looking for a rogue deputy who was threatening homicide (and for the intended victim so she could be protected), he waited almost a quarter of an hour for a call back that might never have come – plenty of time for that deputy to reach his destination and commit his planned murder without interference. Additionally, the department he called does not cover the area where the shooting ended up actually happening, which was in the neighboring city of Roanoke.

There are only two reasons I can think of for him to do this. He may have been concerned that Dep. Agee would hear the BOL and know they were looking for him, since he was known to be in a patrol car at the time. But that reason doesn’t wash when you realize that he a) knew that his current wife had called the Sheriff’s Office and told them what he intended, and b) they were trying to call him on the radio – alerting him to the fact that they were trying to locate him. Additionally, in the local departments every officer has a cell phone and the number is on file with dispatch. A “silent” BOL by cell phone could have been easily issued, keeping it off the radios.

The other reason would be to keep the situation quiet. Dep. Agee already had previous disciplinary issues that had resulted in bad publicity for the department. The Sheriff may have been attempting to keep everything under wraps to avoid further bad publicity, or to try and protect Dep. Agee’s career. Those previous issues involved the Sheriff’s 17 year-old (at the time) daughter. Since Dep. Agee still had a job after that, you know that the Sheriff both liked Dep. Agee, and clandestinely approved of his actions at the time.

Either way, it is entirely possible that Jennifer Agee would still be alive had he not withheld critical, urgent information from the neighboring agencies. They could have found her before he did and taken her into protective custody, or they could have found and stopped him before he found her. The second possibility would probably still have resulted in a shootout with the officers that found him, but that is a risk every officer knows is possible when they take the job, and it would have protected an innocent civilian – which should always be any police officer’s first concern.

Instead, we have an innocent woman shot to death by her ex-husband in front of their daughter, and a State Trooper injured in the line of duty.

Remember, the police are not required to protect you.

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* He killed his ex-wife in a neighboring county, and the shootout took place in my county, but not “locally” in my county.

[Source: Roanoke Times story, retrieved 6/1/11]

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Update: Welcome, readers from Snowflakes in Hell! On a blog that rarely breaks 50 views in a day, you’ve pushed it over 300 today! (So is that called a Bitterlanche?)

I just wish it wasn’t such a tragic story that did it.

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