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Man Who Killed Union County Sheriff Dies In Prison

Union County Sheriff Harry Wolfe, who was killed in 1982.
Union County Sheriff's Department
Union County Sheriff Harry Wolfe, who was killed in 1982.

Stanley Penn, the man who killed Union County Sheriff Harry Wolfe in 1982, has died in a prison medical center.

Thirty-eight years after the killing, former investigator Chet DeLong calls it the biggest case of his career.

“I worked many investigations, but this was definitely at the top of the list,” DeLong says.

The Jan. 21, 1982 murder of Wolfe still touches a nerve in Marysville, where Wolfe is honored every year at a fallen officers’ memorial.

DeLong, a Columbus Police detective at the time, lived in rural Union County and responded to the scene outside of Plain City. Wolfe was killed in the driveway of a home while responding to a security alarm.

DeLong says the investigation eventually pointed to Stanley Penn, a Columbus resident with a long criminal history.

“I knew some of the people he was acquainted with. We just went from there,” DeLong says.

DeLong took the unusual step of being reassigned to the Union County case by then-Columbus Chief of Police Earl Burden.

“We had helicopters, and we had photographers, and we had crime scene search unit people and all that stuff I had at my fingertips,” DeLong says.

DeLong says the months-long manhunt, led by detective William Griffith, ended “accidentally” when Penn was found in New York City. He was jailed under another name and identified by his fingerprints. Union County officials traveled to New York to transport him back to Marysville to face trial.

A jury sentenced Penn to life in prison with no chance of parole for 27 years. He was denied parole several time before falling ill and dying Sunday in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Franklin Medical Center in Columbus.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.