Former Pike County sheriff Charles Reader will spend three years in prison after pleading guilty to theft in office and tampering with evidence.
As sheriff, Reader presided over the investigation into his county’s most famous criminal case — the “Pike County massacre,” in which eight members of one family were shot to death on the night of April 21, 2016.
However, according to prosecutors and Reader’s own guilty plea, he also used his office to steal thousands of dollars that had been confiscated as evidence in other cases.
Reader attempted to defend himself during his sentencing by claiming he had not used the money for personal gain, despite prosecutors’ claims that he made suspicious expenditures in Las Vegas.
“I took the money — and, mind you, this does not excuse it — but from drug dealers that took it from parents of very poor people in this county,” Reader said, adding that he had used some of it to fund the planting of memorial trees and that he replaced it eventually.
The former sheriff also cried openly in court and urged Judge Patricia Cosgrove to sentence him to community service, not prison, so he can attend upcoming family events such as his son’s graduation and his daughter’s wedding.
Cosgrove, who is retired but was specially appointed to oversee the case, opted for prison.
“It cannot be underestimated the damage you have caused to the citizens of Pike County, to law enforcement who every day get up and face the same sort of stresses that you do,” she said. "They get up in the morning. Their family, they don’t know if they’re going to come home. The sacrifices that these men and women make, I think you’ve made a mockery of it.”
Cosgrove sentenced Reader to 6 1/2 years, of which he’ll serve three. He’ll also be permanently barred from holding public office in the state of Ohio and will lose his ability to serve as a peace officer.
In a statement after Reader's sentencing, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wrote he was glad to see the case end.
"No one is above the law – and there are rightful consequences for violating the public trust," he wrote. "Today’s sentencing closes an ugly chapter for Pike County, whose citizens deserve government free of corruption.”