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Autopsy Expected After Kirkersville Police Chief's Sudden Death

Kirkersville Police Cruiser
Debbie Holmes

The Franklin County Coroner's Office will conduct an autopsy on Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes, Jr., who died unexpectedly last Friday at his home in Reynoldsburg.

Hughes was the village's third police chief in a year, and was on the job for less than two months. He was hired in March and served the community in a part-time capacity.  

"A guy working for you that you'd seen the night before and he was fine and himself, and the next day you get a call, he passes away," says Kirkersville Mayor Terry Ashcraft. "Sure it's a shock."

Ashcraft says the Kirkersville Council members will meet next week to talk about possibly searching for a new chief. It would be town's fourth new chief in just over a year.

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz says the cause and manner of Hughes's death is awaiting toxicology and microscopic lab results, which will take about 12 weeks.

Last May, Chief Steven Eric DiSario was fatally shot by a gunman at the Pine Kirk nursing home, after the man killed his ex-girlfriend and her co-worker. At the time, DiSario had only been chief for three weeks.

A new chief, Jeff Finley was hired last October, but only stayed for a few months before resigning, claiming a hostile work environment.

Hughes took over as Kirkersville's police chief in March, but quickly came under scrutiny for his criminal history and work record. According to personnel records obtained by WOSU, while working as a Fairfield County Sheriff's Deputy, Hughes had an improper relationship with a former female inmate after she was released from jail.

He also had pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for an incident in Whitehall at a fast food drive-through window, during which he called the workers a racial slur.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Hughes leaves behind his wife and three children.