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KY: Whitley County Magistrate Shot To Death by Felon While Turkey Hunting

April 7, 2010

Whitley Constable candidate killed in Wednesday hunting accident Police say shooting apparently accidental, but nephew jailed for illegally possessing firearm

A Whitley County constable candidate apparently died while turkey hunting Wednesday morning, and the man's hunting partner is behind bars for illegally possessing a firearm.

Whitley County Chief Deputy Coroner Jerry Croley pronounced Dennis "Russell" Meadors, 62, of 302 Goldbug Church Road, dead about 9 a.m. from a gunshot wound.

The body will be taken to the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office in Frankfort for autopsy.

The shooting was reported shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday near a residence at 400 Concord Church Road.

Sheriff's Detective Lt. Chuck Davis, the lead investigating officer in the case, said he is tentatively ruling the death as an hunting accident and that he has uncovered no evidence so far to indicate it was intentional. The case is still open and being investigated though and further charges could still be filed against Meadors hunting partner and nephew, William Sulfridge.

Sulfridge, 38, of 1336 Oak Ridge Church Road, was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and lodged in the Whitley County Detention Center.

Sulfridge shot Meadors one time in the back near his side and his left shoulder blade. Both men had 12 gauge shotguns, Davis said.

Sulfridge initially told police that he didn't have a firearm with him, but later admitted that to having one. Sulfridge told police that he lied because of the prior felony conviction and because he wasn't allowed to have one, Davis said.

"When he was interviewed, he told me a completely different story. I confronted him with it. Some of the things he was saying just didn't make sense," Davis said.

Three-Point Volunteer Fire Department, the Williamsburg-Whitley County Rescue Squad, Whitley County Emergency Management Director Danny Moses, and Sheriff's Capt. Todd Shelley assisted at the scene.

Davis said that the volunteers helped search the scene for Sulfridge's shotgun and a spent shotgun shell, which were both later recovered. The victim's shotgun was recovered loaded with one spent round.

The county's four-wheel drive mule was used to remove the body from the scene to the corner's office vehicle, Davis said.

Davis said that a third person was in the area, who lived nearby, and is also a potential witness in the case. He wasn't hunting or with the other two men.

Turkey hunting season doesn't officially begin until April 17. Davis said that he has already spoken with Department of Fish and Wildlife officials, who may charge Sulfridge with hunting out of season.

It's possible Sulfridge could also face second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide charges, but Davis said a decision on that won't be made until the investigation is complete.

Meadors was one of two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for fourth-district constable.

Davis and the coroner's office are continuing the investigation.

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