In the small coal towns of southern West Virginia, the poorest patch of Appalachia, the police blotters these days read like big-city tabloid fodder. Last month, a 23-year-old man received up to 25 years in prison for wheeling a quadriplegic to a house against his will, carrying him inside, beating him and stealing his prescription painkillers. That same week, a 25-year-old man was charged with child neglect resulting in death for taking three prescription painkillers and passing out, suffocating his one-month-old son in his arms. The child’s 21-year-old mother was charged as an accomplice.
A couple of weeks ago, the manager of a pain clinic in the Mingo County seat of Williamson (nickname “Pilliamson”) pleaded guilty to “reluctantly selling drug prescriptions illegally”–abetting doctors in writing scripts for thousands of prescription pill addicts. “Patients” would line up at the clinic before it opened, like bargain shoppers at a Black Friday Christmas sale. And now, as the nation knows, the Mingo County sheriff is dead, shot at point-blank range as he sat in his car eating a sandwich.
Eugene Crum, a former small-town police chief and magistrate who’d been in office just three months, was gunned down at lunchtime last Wednesday in downtown Williamson, a city of 3,160 residents. Crum, who had pledged to crack down on Mingo County’s rampant prescription drug abuse, also happened to be staking out a parking lot, as he did most days at noon. The lot, attached to a pharmacy that was busted as a pill mill over two years ago, remains a notorious drug market, where pill pushers and addicts buy, sell and swap opioids.
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