Monroe County Sheriff accused of ‘negligence and incompetence,’ County Commission awaits results of State Police investigation

By Matthew Young, RealWV

UNION, W.Va. – After a resolution was drafted granting them the authority to do so, the Monroe County Commission, on Wednesday, voted unanimously to delay the removal of Sheriff Jeff Jones until the W.Va. State Police have completed their investigation into allegations of misconduct. 

The resolution was drafted by Monroe County’s Prosecuting Attorney Justin St. Clair, and Clerk Jeremy Meadows. While most of the allegations against Jones pertain to his management of the department’s evidence room – particularly the storage and transfer of firearms – the most concerning accusation involves a shooting incident which took place on Dec. 8 of last year.

As stated in the resolution: “Jeff Jones has demonstrated by his acts that he is incompetent to perform the essential duties of the office of Sheriff of Monroe County, by virtue of the fact that Jones, and Chief Deputy James Hylton, have demonstrated an inability to employ proper investigative techniques when conducting a criminal investigation.”

Monroe County Chief Deputy James Hylton.

According to the resolution, the Dec. 8 shooting resulted in the death of a Monroe County resident. Although not experienced in homicide investigation, Jones and Hylton acted as lead-investigators on the case. While acting in that capacity, Jones and Hylton allegedly failed to secure the crime scene, and “prematurely released” the crime scene to an acquaintance of the deceased for the purposes of cleaning the area. The act of cleaning made it “impossible for subsequent investigators to locate and collect evidence.”

Most alarming of all was Jones and Hylton’s alleged failure to locate a second gunshot wound on the deceased, which, according to the resolution, “Placed an additional burden on the W.Va. State Police, the W.Va. Office of Chief Medical Examiner, and the W.Va. State Police Forensic Laboratory in their effort to classify the decedent’s death as a suicide or a homicide.”

Monroe County Sheriff Jeff Jones.

The final allegation against Jones and Hylton is that the two failed to terminate the employment of a Monroe County deputy sheriff who was believed to have been involved in “criminal conduct.”

The Resolution states that, “On or about March 28, 2023, (Jones and Hylton) were made aware of a report made by a teacher at James Monroe High School that Deputy E. Blankenship had solicited nude photographs from a 17-year-old female.” 

The resolution further states that Jones and Hylton conducted an “insufficient investigation,” and that, “At no point during the investigation did Sheriff Jones consult the Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney or the Monroe County Commission.”

Despite admitting that he had “exchanged photos and engaged in ‘flirty’ conversations with the minor,” Jones chose not to terminate Blankenship’s employment. Blankenship was, however, placed on administrative leave for a period of 12 hours as the result of his behavior. The W.Va. State Police subsequently began an investigation of their own into the matter, and Blankenship has since resigned his position as a deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

While RealWV has made several requests for comment regarding this matter, none of the parties involved offered an immediate response. 

RealWV will provide updates regarding the W.Va. State Police investigation of Jones and Hylton, as well as any possible actions taken by the Monroe County Commission as additional information is made available. 

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