Sheriff in Judge Christ case faces misconduct charges in unrelated death

News-DemocratMay 20, 2014 

Joe Christ.

BND

The sheriff who investigated the death of former St. Clair County Associate Judge Joe Christ is facing official misconduct charges related to the handling of another drug-induced death.

Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty, who also serves as the Pike County coroner, was charged by Pike County State's Attorney Carrie Boyd on Friday afternoon. He is accused of not following proper procedures.

The charge is connected to the death of Shanda Lopez 48, of Milton, who died of a heroin overdose on Sept. 26, 2012 -- just a few months before Christ was found dead in a hunting cabin in Pike County owned by the family of fellow judge Michael N. Cook.

The felony charge stated Petty "recklessly failed to perform a mandatory duty" in his capacity as coroner when he "failed to instruct involved parties that embalming of a body ... was not to be conducted until toxicology samples were drawn."

As of Monday afternoon, the criminal charge filed by Boyd had not been signed by a judge, whose signature is required before an arrest warrant can be issued.

Petty, a Democrat, declined to comment. Boyd, also a Democrat, could not be reached for comment.

In the case of Lopez's death, John R. Edgar, 26, of Kampsville, was charged Oct. 31 with drug-induced homicide. Boyd added an amended charge against Edgar on April 14. He is scheduled to go to trial June 24.

Petty first stated that Christ died of natural causes in March 2013, but later said the cause of death was cocaine toxicity. At the time of Christ's death, there was already an ongoing federal investigation into drug use by Cook. Cook later was charged in federal court with misdemeanor possession of heroin. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

Boyd called the News-Democrat on Thursday, the day before the charge against Petty was filed. A reporter returned the call and Boyd stated she was returning a call from months ago.

The reporter asked whether the call was related to Cook's case, and she replied that she had no involvement with Cook's case. She offered no further information.

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

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