This guy wannabe sheriff

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Responding to my earlier post speculating about who might be the next the High Sheriff of Buncombe County (click Ashvegas politics link at bottom to read it), apparently this guy wants to be sheriff. J.B. Howard is a Dem, former Highway Patrolman and a private investigator.

For a quick recap: it’s an open secret that the High Sheriff’s health is not good, and he may be consiering taking an early retirement package from the county and get while the gettin’ is good.

That’s led to a lot of speculationo about who might be next. The High Sheriff’s term isn’t up until next year, so if he quits now, the party of the sheriff gets to pick. The sheriff is a GOPer. He’s known to be loyal to his political fiends and a sonuvabitch to his political enemies.

Everyone’s talking about Maj. Bill Stafford of the High Sheriff’s department being the top pick as new High Sheriff. Howard would take on whoever is in that post in next year’s election.

The current High Sheriff has earned the rep as a cowboy, mostly through two high profile cases. Both were botched by the High Sheriff.

The first was the murder of Karen Styles, a college student jogging through Bent Creek forest one day in the fall of 1994 when Richard Allen Jackson, a dishwasher and son of a prominent local real estate salesman, snatched her.

He duct taped her to a tree, used a stun gun to torture her, raped her, then shot her in the head. It was a violent murder and it sent shockwaves through Ashvegas.

Some nifty police work by then detective Randy Bradford helped lead police to Jackson (for example, they discovered that Jackson had purchased duct tape and a rifle at the Kmart on Brevard Road just weeks before the crime). But they had no solid, physical evidence.

Medford, who hadn’t been in office very long, hauled Jackson in for questioning. The police were trying to scare the shit out of him, which apparently worked, because Jackson offered up a written confession, but not before saying “I think I need a lawyer.”

The High Sheriff ignored that little tidbit, that little constitutional right of all Americans to have counsel present, and bulled ahead. Medford and the DA got their conviction, but Jackson won an appeal.

The lack of hard evidence was apparent on March 13, 2000, when Jackson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in state court. The DA said he consulted with Styles’ family before reaching the agreement, but it came as a shocking end to such a high profile case – no trial? no death penalty? “Where’s he justice in that?” everyone said.

That’s why the police powers went after Jackson again, this time in federal court. Jackson was convicted in federal court on May 7, 2001 for use of a firearm on federal property (Bent Creek Recreation Area if federal land) during a felony (the kidnapping, torture and rape of Styles) resulting in her death.

This time, he got the death penalty.

The second high-profile case case that went way wrong involved two men who the High Sheriff charged with killing teen Mary Judd.

They were charged with snatching North Buncombe High senior Judd one morning as she waited for the school bus. Her body was later found in a ditch. She had been strangled and raped.

Again, the high sheriff had no hard evidence. He kept the two men in jail for two years without trial as the police powers tried to get the story straight, in part by apparently coercing a witness to say she saw some things she really hadn’t seen.

Again, the entire case fell apart. The police powers had no choice but to let the two men go, without so much as an apology. They later arrested and charged another man, and got a plea bargin conviction. Again, no trial.

It turns out that J.B. Howard was a key to highlighting the problems with the witness in the case. He was working as a private investigator hired by bulldog Jack Stewart, a defense lawyer for one of the first two men charged in the Judd case. And Howard was the first to ask the questionable witness about the case.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Ash May 15, 2005

    Thanks Lee. I’ll check out Duncan.

  2. Lee May 15, 2005

    I am so glad folks have finally noticed what an insult the Medford administration is to this community. There are some very professional, experienced and talented officers in this department who care deeply about this community…and everyday their good deeds and hope for the future are smothered in the morale destroying unethical and illicit dealings of the High Sheriff and his “good ol’ boy” cronies. The morale of the Sheriif’s office is now completely destroyed. The “good ol’ boys” are scared to death of the future and the change it might bring. There are too many skeletons in their closet. The true professionals are praying for relief, and we are betting on one of our own. No hard feelings toward Mr. Howard, but Van Duncan is the leader this community needs. Ask around. Don’t listen to me. I think he has a website now…Start there:–then do your own homework. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in the law enforcement community that won’t echo my feelings.


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