June 23, 2014

Charges dropped against sheriff in judge's death investigation

The official misconduct case against Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty was dismissed by a judge on Friday.

Petty, who investigated the overdose death of St. Clair County Associate Judge Joe Christ at Circuit Judge Mike Cook's hunting cabin in Pike County, was charged with felony misconduct last month, just two weeks before Pike County State's Attorney Carrie Boyd unexpectedly resigned.

"This dismissal ends an unfortunate chapter in Pike County history," said Petty's attorney Rick Frazier. He added that he did not believe that the charge had anything to do with the death of Christ or the subsequent FBI investigation of Cook, a Democrat, as are Boyd and Petty.

Ed Parkinson, of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, was appointed as the special prosecutor to handle the case against Petty. He asked the case to be dismissed on Friday.

"On the motion of the Special Prosecutor, the charge in this case should be, and is, dismissed," wrote Judge Chet Vahle. "Because in our system an accused is innocent until proven guilty by the state, and no guilt has been established or proven beyond a mere allegation by one person, and the state, in the person of the special prosecutor, has made its decision that the charge should not be prosecuted, this dismissal means that Sheriff Petty's innocence of the charge against him has not been altered or changed. ..."

Boyd charged Petty on May 16 with misconduct in connection with a drug-induced homicide case. Boyd alleged that Petty, who also acts as the county's coroner, allowed a body to be embalmed before blood samples could be taken, impeding an investigation into the death of Shanda Lopez.

John R. Edgar, 26, was charged with drug-induced homicide in connection with Lopez's death.

But Frazier, Petty's lawyer, said that the body was delivered to a funeral home and embalmed two hours before Petty knew about the death. Frazier also said that a pathologist had taken samples of tissue from the remains suitable for a toxicology study even though it contained embalming fluid.

Petty investigated the death of Joe Christ, who died on March 10, 2013 at a cabin owned by Cook. Petty assisted in the federal investigation into Cook, who later pleaded guilty to heroin and weapons possession charges.

Cook, 44, is serving a two-year-sentence at the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp, a minimum security lockup in northern Florida.

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