Former Caseyville police chief dies of self-inflicted gunshot

News-DemocratJune 14, 2013 

— Former Caseyville Police Chief J.D. Roth, who faced two counts of official misconduct, died Thursday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone said.

Roth was found outside his home and died of a shotgun wound, Stone said.

"There will be additional testing," he added, but declined to specify exactly what that meant.

Roth, 56, was at his home at 9407 Avalon Drive in Fairview Heights on Thursday morning. Former Caseyville Mayor George Chance arrived and hugged acting Caseyville Police Chief Frank Moore.

A woman at the scene cried out, "My dad is dead," before charging at media members at the scene. Another woman collapsed at the scene, crying, "No!" Neighbors stood in their yards and looked towards Roth's blue and white frame house.

About 15 to 20 police and other cars crowded the small residential street, including an ambulance. The ambulance remained parked at the house until 11:15 a.m. Thursday.

Fairview Heights Police Department and the Illinois State Police investigators and crime scene technicians were at the home on Thursday morning.

Roth resigned as Caseyville police chief effective June 1 when his contract expired, according to Village Board Trustee Rick Casey Jr. Roth had been placed on paid administrative leave earlier this year.

Roth was charged with two counts of official misconduct in May after an investigation by the FBI, the St. Clair County state's attorney, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Illinois State Police.

The charges are related to a 2003 Dodge Dakota Ram 1500 pickup that was seized in a drug bust by the Caseyville police. Roth drove the truck for personal and police business and later, the truck was put up for auction by the Village Board. Instead of auctioning the truck, the Village Board told Roth to get bids for the truck from local car dealers. The bid process came under fire when Caseyville officers began to investigate after Roth purchased the truck from a dealership where Roth's friend and car salesman Brad Reno worked. The dealership bought the truck from the village for $7,500. Less than a month later, Roth bought the truck from the dealership where Reno worked.

State law prohibits individual public officials or employees from buying or benefiting from seized property.

The truck was parked in Roth's driveway on Thursday.

The second count of official misconduct is connected to luggage purchased with village funds. The criminal complaint stated that Roth used the luggage for his personal use.

Charges were filed pending a grand jury indictment. As of Thursday, no indictment had been returned by the grand jury.

"This is a tragic end to a tragic case," State's Attorney Brendan Kelly wrote Thursday afternoon.

Each count of official misconduct is a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Extra security was placed around Kelly as a safety precaution on Thursday, according to St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson.

"Strange phone calls and Internet chatter are unfortunately just part of this kind of public service sometimes," Kelly said. "But I appreciate the sheriff's proactive approach to security."

Roth's attorney, Justin Kuehn, said, "We were mounting a defense and looked forward to answering the charges, and we truly expected J.D. to be vindicated ... His suicide comes as a big surprise given the optimism we all felt regarding the future outcome of his charges."

Kuehn said he had known Roth for only a short time.

"In the short time I knew him I came to like J.D. a great deal," Kuehn said.

Roth became police chief in 2002, taking over after Ron Tamburello retired.

April Clepper, co-founder of the Stop Heroin Movement, called after learning of Roth's death. She said Roth fought hard to battle drugs in Caseyville.

"He wanted to get the drugs out of town. He was doing the best he could," Clepper said. "He tried to support us. When we had a rally in Caseyville, he was there. He had the fire trucks, the drug dogs, the mayor. He came and he stayed the whole rally. He was the best."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 618-239-2625.