MOUNT VERNON, Ohio April 10 2017— Former Knox County Sheriff David Barber, 63, who held the job for 20 years, was found dead Sunday at his home near Mount Vernon of an apparent suicide.
The Knox County sheriff's office released a statement on its Facebook page confirming the death and expressing condolences to his family. Barber appeared to have died from a single gunshot wound and his death appears to be the result of a suicide, current Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer said in a news release Monday.
Officers train together to manage violence, discuss the latest tactics and have a commitment to ensure they all go home, but rarely discuss their mental health
A forensic autopsy is scheduled for today, Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle said in an email.
"No foul play is suspected," she wrote. "However, the investigation is ongoing and will be treated with the same sensitivity and attention as any other coroner's case in Knox County."
The local fire department was dispatched to Barber's home a few minutes after noon Sunday.
The 911 caller who reported the death said he had gone to check on Barber on behalf of his relatives, who hadn't heard from the former sheriff recently. The caller told the dispatcher that he'd found a suicide note and that it appeared Barber had been dead for three or four days.
Barber spent 20 years as sheriff until he retired at the end of his term in 2013. He was a detective and deputy with the office for years before he won the first time in 1992.
"He was a great boss. He put the citizens ahead of politics. He did things right. This is a sad time for the county," said Richard Brenneman, a former captain who served with Barber at the Knox County sheriff's office.
A gruesome triple-homicide investigation in November 2010 thrust Barber into the national spotlight. Matthew J. Hoffman, 36, is serving a life sentence for stabbing and dismembering two women and an 11-year-old boy and hiding their bodies inside a tree.
Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville worked as an assistant prosecutor during the last four years of Barber's career. He called Barber a "well-respected" man and recalled his years of service in Knox County, both as a deputy sheriff and detective, before he was elected sheriff.
The Hoffman case "took a toll on everyone involved," McConville said, but Barber worked tirelessly until it was resolved, even when resources were stretched thin.
"Dave got to the bottom of things; he got answers," he said.
Barber devoted much of his attention to managing the Knox County jail, McConville said. Barber took pride in opening a new $7 million, 100-bed facility in 2002.
In April 2009, Barber was charged with dereliction of duty for illegally borrowing $1,042 from the Knox County Law Enforcement Trust Fund and spending money on his 2004 re-election campaign. He apologized and was fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs.
Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp knew Barber from when they both worked as detectives for their counties on cases that would cross jurisdictions during the late 1980s and early '90s.
"He was the kind of guy who worked extremely hard on a case and wouldn't give up on it. He cared a lot about the victims on the cases he was working," Thorp said.
While the public saw Barber as a serious lawman, Thorp remembers Barber as a friend who was "a good guy who was fun to be around."
Funeral arrangements are pending.