Pubdate: Sun, 21 Apr 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Page: A6
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Roger Alford, Associated Press


Sam Catron Was Shot During A Rally Trying To Boost His Reelection Bid. 
Three Face Charges.

SOMERSET, Ky. - Sam Catron was 4 years old when three thugs armed with a 
shotgun pulled up in front of his family's home and shot his father, the 
city's police chief.

His father survived for seven years until one of the shotgun pellets that 
had lodged near his heart shifted, killing him. The experience drove the 
young Catron into law enforcement and shaped his cautious approach to life, 
which included wearing a bulletproof vest wherever he went.

"I asked him once why he never got married," said friend Charlotte Davis. 
"He would never get married as long as he was in law enforcement. He said 
he never wanted a woman to go through what his mother had gone through."

Not even Catron's closest friends ever thought someone would actually try 
to shoot him. After all, Davis says, lightning doesn't strike twice.

But minutes after delivering a reelection speech at a political rally and 
fish fry last weekend, a single bullet fired from a nearby hillside killed 
the four-term Pulaski County sheriff who was known for his crackdown on 
drugs in the hollows of southeastern Kentucky.

Investigators say the killing was the culmination of a plot orchestrated by 
a political challenger and a former drug suspect in hopes of getting the 
heavily favored Catron out of the race.

"We believe it's all politically motivated," said state police detective 
Todd Dalton. "Each one of those persons had their own motivation for the 

Sheriff's candidate Jeff Morris, 34, and Kenneth White, 54, were arrested 
on charges of complicity to murder a police officer. Danny Shelley, 30, was 
charged as the triggerman in the April 13 slaying.

Detectives say White, who previously faced cocaine-possession charges, 
wanted Morris to win the race so he could count on a sheriff who would look 
the other way.

Shelley, who was unemployed and had a record of arrests ranging from public 
drunkenness to assault, had a different motivation, according to 
detectives: a job as deputy if Morris was elected.

Shelley was arrested when he lost control of a motorcycle that witnesses 
saw speeding away from the shooting scene. The motorcycle belonged to 
Morris. And it was well known that White, who became a police informant 
after his cocaine charge was dropped, was bankrolling Morris' campaign.

Morris had been a deputy under Catron from 1996 until last summer, when he 
resigned as a result of what officials describe only as an internal matter. 
He was working as a plumber at the time of his arrest.

"They all should be indicted for stupidity," said Kenneth Stringer, a 
retired chief of detectives for the Somerset police who also is running for 
sheriff. "This whole situation has been just tragic."

Pulaski County Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery said he might seek 
the death penalty for all three defendants.

Catron, 48, a soft-spoken man who lived with his 86-year-old mother, was 
devoted to law enforcement.

"He loved police work," says Michael Muse, a retired Somerset police 
lieutenant who remembered Catron as a 12-year-old who hung around the 
station. "If Sam ever expected to die, he expected to die in uniform."

A well-known enemy of drug traffickers, Catron earned a pilot's license so 
he could fly a helicopter to search for marijuana fields in the rolling 
farmland and wooded hills of Kentucky's third-largest county. In one raid 
two years ago, Catron and his deputies rounded up more than 70 suspects.

At the rally, Catron came straight to the point in his speech, with no 
rehearsed jokes or grand oration: "I'm Sam Catron, and I'm running for 
reelection. I'd appreciate your support."

Catron's name remains on the primary election ballot. Officials say it is 
too late to take it off.

"He was considered the front-runner, and it's a very real possibility that 
he could get the most votes," said Pulaski County Clerk Willard Hansford.
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