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Opponent Charged in Sheriff’s Death

April 15, 2002

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SOMERSET, Ky. (AP) _ A candidate for sheriff was charged Monday in the slaying of the incumbent, who was gunned down by a sniper at a weekend campaign stop.

Jeff Morris, a political opponent of slain Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron, was jailed on a charge of complicity to commit murder, jail authorities said.

Morris, 34, was booked along with Kenneth White, 54, who was arrested on the same charge.

Catron, 48, was running for a fifth term as sheriff.

He was a well-known enemy of drug traffickers, flying a helicopter to search for marijuana plants and filling courtrooms with alleged offenders.

A bullet from a rifle killed Catron shortly after he finished a campaign speech at a fish fry and political rally Saturday at a volunteer fire department in Shopville, a tiny community about 70 miles south of Lexington.

The man charged in the shooting _ Danny Shelley, 30 _ was caught after wrecking a motorcycle registered to Morris, one of Catron’s opponents in the May 28 open primary. Shelley pleaded innocent earlier Monday.

Jim McWhorter, the chief deputy sworn in as sheriff, has said Morris was a deputy under Catron from 1996 to July 2001. McWhorter wouldn’t comment on Morris’ reason for leaving the sheriff’s office, but he said he knew of no ill will between Catron and Morris.

Catron had been the sheriff of the sparsely populated south-central Kentucky county since 1985.

He usually wore a bulletproof vest because his father, then-Somerset Police Chief Harold Catron, had been shot and wounded in 1957. He was wearing it Saturday.

Coroner Alan Stringer said the bullet hit Catron in the head and killed him instantly. Hays said the shot came from ``a considerable distance.″

Under Kentucky law, shooting a police officer in the line of duty is a capital offense. Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy Montgomery said Catron was in uniform when he was shot, but it may be questionable whether he was technically on duty.

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On the Net:

Pulaski County Sheriff: http://www.pulaskisheriff.com

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