Chief of Staff for Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office denies any wrongdoing

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. – Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Tim McWhorter has issued a response to Sheriff Gene Mitchell’s statement that he has been “suspended,” calling the wording misleading.

Sheriff Mitchell did not specify the reason for McWhorter’s suspension, calling it a personnel matter.

McWhorter released a statement about the incident, saying he was put on paid leave after he requested an investigation be conducted against himself into allegations of inappropriate conduct while performing the duties of Evidence Custodian at the sheriff’s office.

McWhorter was assigned those duties in 2007 when Sheriff Gene Mitchell entered the office and continued those duties after his most recent promotion. McWhorter relinquished his duties as Evidence Custodian approximately 3 weeks ago after Sheriff Mitchell informed him that he wanted the Chief Investigator to assume the duties.

Shortly after, McWhorter stated that he had heard rumors that he was accused of wrongdoing. He said that Sheriff Mitchell confirmed that the change of duties was a result of those rumors. McWhorter said Sheriff Mitchell told him he had received the information third hand and did not give him the specifics of the allegation.  He said that he asked Mitchell at that time, if an investigation was going to be conducted and was told that since the information was third hand, an investigation was not warranted.

McWhorter stated that he was informed that the change of duties was simply precautionary and that there would be no disciplinary action against him, and was advised to continue his duties as usual.

McWhorter states that he was concerned about his reputation and standing within the department and law enforcement community. He presented the Sheriff with a written request for an investigation to be conducted.  McWhorter says that he was informed by the Sheriff that his integrity was not in question, but that an investigation would be conducted as soon as possible.

McWhorter says he was informed four days later that an investigation had been granted and that he was being suspended with pay. He says he was asked to turn in all equipment assigned to him and he complied, believing that he was on leave rather than an actual disciplinary suspension.

McWhorter said he was under the impression that his absence was needed to preserve the integrity of the pending investigation, but was later informed by way of media that his absence was actually a disciplinary action.

McWhorter says that he vehemently denies any wrongdoing in this matter.  Below is the statement released to the media in full.

“A response from Chief Tim McWhorter

Chief Staff and Operations Tim McWhorter, who is a 19 year law enforcement veteran with an unblemished career working for three different Sheriff’s, was put on paid leave after he requested an investigation be conducted into allegations of inappropriate conduct while performing his duties as custodian of evidence for the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.  Chief McWhorter has been with the Sheriff’s Office his entire career and has worked in every division within the agency.  He has held the rank of Jailer, School Resource Officer, Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain and most recently Chief of Staff and Operations.

McWhorter was previously a Captain assigned as Chief of Investigations for 7 years during which time he solved hundreds of cases including the murder of Jose Ruiz, for which he arrested Jose Martinez.   Martinez later confessed to him that he had committed over 35 murders in 12 states over a 30 year period.   Chief McWhorter has served in his current capacity since 2014.

McWhorter was initially assigned as the custodian of evidence in 2007 when Sheriff Mitchell entered office and continued his duties in that capacity after his most recent promotion due to the newly assigned Chief Investigator’s lack of experience.  McWhorter, whose additional duties include Public Information Officer, head of the Patrol Division, manager of grant funds, Department Administrator of the National Crime Information Computer (NCIC) System, and second in command to the Sheriff, relinquished his duties as Evidence Custodian approximately 3 weeks ago after Sheriff Mitchell informed him that he wanted the Chief Investigator to assume the duties.  McWhorter did not have any issue with this change.  After receiving information of unverified rumors of possible wrong doing, Chief McWhorter consulted with Sheriff Mitchell and was informed that in fact the evidence custodian change was made in reference to information Sheriff Mitchell had received third hand pertaining to an allegation of possible wrong doing on the part of McWhorter.  McWhorter said that Mitchell did not give him the specifics of the allegation.  He said that he asked Mitchell at that time, if an investigation was going to be conducted.  Mitchell told him that since the information was third hand, an investigation was not warranted.  Chief McWhorter said that he was informed that the change was simply precautionary and that there would be no disciplinary action against him.  Lastly, McWhorter was advised to continue his duties as usual.

Concerned about his reputation and standing within the department and law enforcement community, he presented the Sheriff with a letter requesting an investigation be conducted in an effort preserve his integrity.  Chief McWhorter was informed by the Sheriff that his integrity was not in question.   The Sheriff did however tell McWhorter that an investigation would be conducted as soon as it was possible.  Four days later, Chief McWhorter was in the performance of his duties while filling in on a patrol shift due to the department being short 4 deputies, when he was contacted by Mitchell and asked to meet with him.  During their meeting, McWhorter was presented a letter stating that his request for an investigation was being granted and that he was being suspended with pay.  McWhorter’s letter also stated that he was to turn in all Sheriff’s Department equipment that had been assigned to him.  He complied with the directive, believing that he was on leave rather than an actual disciplinary suspension.  Chief McWhorter was under the impression that his absence was needed to preserve the integrity of the pending investigation.   McWhorter was later informed by way of media that his absence was actually a “suspension”, which defined by the Lawrence County Employee Handbook, is a disciplinary action.

McWhorter vehemently denies any wrong doing in this matter, and has no idea why a disciplinary suspension has been issued against him.  Chief McWhorter said that he does not understand why Mitchell issued a misleading statement.”