KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio – Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes Jr. An Ohio police chief died of an overdose of fentanyl, according to an autopsy report released Friday.
Kirkersville Police Chief James Hughes Jr., 35, was found unresponsive in the bathroom of his Reynoldsburg home on May 25. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
An autopsy was conducted by the Franklin County Coroner’s Office and results released Friday indicated Hughes died of an “acute intoxication by fentanyl.”
The coroner’s office classified Hughes’ death as accidental. This is the classification given to most overdoses unless officials believe suicide was the intent.
Records from the coroner’s office indicate two syringes were recovered and tested for the presence of substances that may have contributed to Hughes’ death.
One syringe had no drugs in it, the other was positive for fentanyl. A plastic sandwich bag found at the scene also tested positive for cocaine and a third syringe containing a liquid was determined to be positive for fentanyl.
Hughes was named police chief on March 13 during a two-minute special village council meeting. His hiring came less than a week after the prior chief, Jeff Finley, had unexpectedly resigned, citing irreconcilable differences with Mayor Terry Ashcraft.
Finley had taken the reins of the department in October 2017, five months after Chief Steven Eric DiSario was killed on May 12, 2017, in a triple homicide at the Pine Kirk Care Center in the village.
Prior to his death, the village had been planning to increase Hughes’ weekly schedule from 20 hours to 32 hours. He was making $14 an hour at the time of his death.
Hughes’ checkered history was discovered by The Advocate following his hiring in Kirkersville. The mayor and village council members were reluctant or declined to answer any questions about that history, which included a misdemeanor conviction in Whitehall for disorderly conduct for a 2013 incident at a fast food restaurant drive-thru in which Hughes used a racial slur.
Hughes had also been the subject of multiple investigations at his previous law enforcement employers, including at least three during a 14-month time frame he worked at the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office.
Hughes had also worked for the Brice Police Department, Valleyview Police Department and the Ohio Health Police Department.
The village has not yet named a replacement for Hughes. In June, the village council agreed to provide Hughes’ family with $1,500 to help cover the costs of his funeral.
The Advocate has reached out to Ashcraft for comment but has not received a response as of Friday afternoon.