Sunday, June 12, 2011

Franklin County Deputy Jonathan Agee had checkered record

Jonathan Agee had been disciplined for actions while working for Franklin County Sheriff's Office before he apparently snapped.

Jonathan Agee was on the golf team at Franklin County High School, often among the top six players.

Franklin County High School yearbook

Jonathan Agee was on the golf team at Franklin County High School, often among the top six players.

Franklin County sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Agee was supposed to be watching that drug deal. It was early in 2008, behind the Sheetz convenience store off U.S. 220 in Rocky Mount.

Instead, it was his off-duty boss, Lt. Allan Arrington, who saw the dope transaction from a nearby restaurant. Arrington called for backup and, with Chief Deputy Josh Carter, the sheriff's second-in-command, made the arrests.

Agee showed up a half-hour later with the sheriff's teenage daughter, bragging about how fast they'd driven from a Taco Bell 20 miles away.

Agee spent a lot of time with Sheriff Ewell Hunt's daughter in 2008 on patrols, stakeouts, drug buys and arrests, according to a grand jury report. The relationship led to him being disciplined, the grand jury said.

Three years later, Agee, now 32, spiraled out of control again.

The divorced and remarried deputy told his wife on Memorial Day that he was going to kill his ex-wife, Jennifer Agee, according to police logs. He left their Boones Mill home in his K-9 sheriff's cruiser, fatally shot his ex-wife in Roanoke and exchanged gunfire with state troopers on Interstate 81 before he was wounded and captured, police have said.

Agee is now jailed without bail on a charge of murder, the beginning of legal proceedings that may keep him in confinement for the rest of his life. His two daughters are without parents, Sheriff Hunt is under fire for his response to Agee's threats, and law enforcement's fraternal culture of trust in fellow officers has been splintered.

From golfer to father

Agee grew up in Franklin County, the son of former Rocky Mount Councilman Steve Agee. At Franklin County High School, he wrestled and played golf on the school teams. Former wrestling coach Kris Kahila said he couldn't remember Agee as a standout among the 100 or so students who wrestled. On the 20-member golf team, Agee was consistently among the six best.

"I definitely wouldn't have been able to tell you that was going to happen, knowing him in high school," said Michael Jamison, a former golf teammate who now lives in Asheville, N.C.

After graduating in 1997, Agee sold lamps at Lighting Galleries on Apperson Drive in Salem. His first daughter with Jennifer Agee was born in the spring of 1999. The couple married in July 2000, according to Franklin County Circuit Court records.

The young couple moved to Radford, and in October 2001 filed to liquidate their assets in bankruptcy, the result of medical debt. Most of the creditors they listed were affiliated with Carilion Clinic and LewisGale Medical Center, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Their second daughter was born in late 2003.

By the following summer, Jonathan and Jennifer Agee had split. Jennifer Agee was living in Vinton, working at a Wachovia Bank branch on Plantation Road. Jonathan Agee was living with his parents in Rocky Mount, working for the sheriff's office.

The decree of divorce came Aug. 19, 2005, giving custody of the daughters to Jennifer Agee. Jonathan Agee was granted visitation every other weekend was ordered to pay monthly child support of $651.

When he was first hired as a deputy in 2004, Agee was assigned to jailhouse duty, like most other new recruits, said former Sheriff Quint Overton. He gave his superiors no trouble, Overton said.

The work of a deputy

Agee moved to Boones Mill to live with Julia Angell, a deputy in the Roanoke Sheriff's Office, as early as 2006. They lived off a country road in a neatly maintained ranch-style house surrounded by trees. Neighbors said they didn't know much about Agee.

"He's a nice guy," one said.

When Hunt was sworn in as sheriff in January 2008, he appointed Arrington lieutenant in charge of the drug unit. The sheriff's office got two new cruisers that year and the sheriff's daughter, Ashley Hunt, told the assigning lieutenant that one of them would go to Agee, a decision the sheriff backed, Carter said in a 2010 interview.

Carter was fired from the sheriff's office in 2009, and declined to speak for this article, citing a lawsuit he has filed against the sheriff's office.

Hunt was charged with failure to maintain required records. The charge was later dropped.

Agee's police career otherwise includes the cops-and-robbers work of a deputy.

In October 2008, he and two other deputies searched a patch of woods near South Main Street and found a man suspected of robbing a convenience store, the Franklin News-Post reported.

In January, he responded to a call in which the Rocky Mount police confiscated $3,149 in cash and seven plastic bags of marijuana.

In May, he was part of a K-9 team that won a competition in Danville that included challenges in the woods and in target-shooting, according to the Danville Register & Bee.

Jennifer Agee, 30, found a new boyfriend, who died in March. She had been living with her mother in Salem, working as a waitress at the nearby Mac and Bob's restaurant and as a receptionist at Elizabeth Arden in Roanoke.

Her aunt, Christina Bolduc, said Jennifer was a "lively, outgoing person and awesome, hardworking mother."

Jennifer and Jonathan often argued over their children, and Jonathan was "violent at times," Bolduc said.

'A family emergency'

The night before the shooting, Agee had been scheduled for duty. He called the sheriff's office and said he couldn't work because "he had a family emergency," according to a Franklin County 911 transcript.

He and Jennifer Agee had been exchanging "very heated" phone calls and Jennifer Agee had been sending Agee's new wife text messages about their ongoing relationship, according to a search warrant filed in Franklin County after the slaying.

Agee spent 10 days recovering from state police bullet wounds in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. On Thursday, police hauled him straight to Roanoke's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, where he appeared in a hospital gown and wheelchair for his arraignment on a murder charge. Then he was taken to Western Virginia Regional Jail.

Agee's friends didn't respond to interview requests. Current and former Franklin County deputies and Rocky Mount officers who worked with Agee said they had been ordered not to talk to reporters and didn't want to be associated with him.

A basic rule among officers who face daily risk is to trust one another -- even if they work for different agencies and haven't met, said Dana Schrad, director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.

Once trust breaks, it can't be fixed, Schrad said.

Jennifer Agee's family has retained Roanoke attorney Harvey Lutins, who said in an interview that the grieving relatives have not decided how to proceed.

Agee is scheduled to appear in court June 23.

News researcher Belinda Harris and staff writers Amanda Codispoti, Sheila Ellis, Jordan Fifer, Mike Gangloff and Janelle Rucker contributed to this report.

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