From Susan Candiotti and Lateef Mungin
(CNN) — The man suspected of killing a West Virginia sheriff spent time at a state hospital for mental health issues within the last couple of years, a source with knowledge of the suspect’s past told CNN.
Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, remained hospitalized Thursday, a day after the shooting of Mingo County Sheriff Walter E. “Eugene” Crum as the lawman was eating lunch in his department vehicle.
Maynard, shot in the chest by deputies after a chase, is expected to survive, a state police spokesman said Thursday.
Maynard spent an unspecified amount of time at the facility, according to the source, who was unable to say who sought the care for Maynard — family, police or someone else.
Maynard’s father has told CNN affiliate WSAZ that his son had mental health issues caused by a workplace accident in Alabama and that he had been exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Maynard is accused of shooting Crum on Wednesday just blocks from the county courthouse.
Authorities think Maynard parked his car close to the sheriff’s, walked up and shot through the window, according to a state official briefed on the investigation. The man then fled in his car.
A sheriff’s deputy shot Maynard in the chest after a brief chase, authorities said.
As the suspect recuperated, many wondered why someone would target Crum, a sheriff known for his tough stance on drug dealers.
“He and his deputies and other law enforcement agencies have worked tirelessly to wipe out crime in our county, especially targeting the drug dealers who spread the disease of addiction among our residents,” said John Mark Hubbard, president of the Mingo County Commission.
“Pray for the residents of Mingo County as we struggle to understand why someone who fought so freely and selflessly on behalf of all of us was taken so tragically,” he said.
On the way to the hospital, the suspect spoke, West Virginia State Police First Sgt. Michael Baylous said.
“He said some things to us, and we’re still trying to make sense of it,” Baylous said. “It could be interpreted in different ways.”
A search of Mingo County court records show no criminal arrests or civil cases involving Maynard. His only citation involves failure to wear a seat belt, according to the records.
Crum, 59, took office as sheriff in January and quickly earned respect from many in the community, officials said. He was married and had children and grandchildren, and he also served as a county magistrate and a special investigator for the prosecutor’s office.
The sheriff’s slaying shook the rural county, which normally sees only one or two slayings per year, said Lt. Randy Hatfield of the Mingo County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s devastating,” Hatfield said. “It’s a big blow to the community.”
Asked whether officials thought there was any connection between Crum’s slaying and the recent killing of a Colorado prison official or the slayings of two Texas prosecutors, Hatfield said, “I hope not,” but declined to elaborate.