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Former Marion sheriff recalls bomb blast that changed his life

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Every day, former Marion County Sheriff Ron Watkins remembers the bomb blast that changed his life.

And though he doesn't know them, he thinks he has some idea how the family of slain Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum feels.

"It's going to take a long time to get over it," said Watkins, now 62. "There's tears that have been shed from these two eyes of mine that don't look too good after 20 years."

On Wednesday, Crum was gunned down in his car on a Williamson street as he sat eating lunch. Tennis Melvin Maynard, 37, of Delbarton, was in a Huntington hospital Thursday, suspected of killing the Mingo County sheriff.

Watkins survived the attempt on his own life. On April 26, 1989, Watkins was a Marion County sheriff's deputy when he answered an anonymous call about a stolen car being left in Worthington.

William Bowman, of Mods Run, had rigged the car to explode when someone touched the door handle as retaliation for what he perceived as mistreatment by the Marion County Sheriff's Department. Watkins just happened to be the deputy who answered the call.

A bomb in the Plymouth Horizon went off, rocking the town of Worthington and seriously injuring Watkins and tow truck driver Tim Stout.

Watkins lost his hearing and the sight in his left eye because of the blast.

Bowman was sentenced to up to 25 years in federal prison for his role in setting the car bomb. He remained defiant and unrepentant even at his sentencing.

Watkins said Thursday it took him more than two years to get over the incident. He still thinks about it every day. But Watkins said he put his trust in God, and went on to serve two terms as Marion County sheriff.

"Everybody thought I should quit, but I wanted to stay in law enforcement," he said.

"I'm here for a reason," he said. "If I help someone, I thank God I was able to help someone."

Watkins said Crum's death brought up memories of his own experience.

"It's rough to talk about it," he said. "I want to believe -- and I do believe -- that [Crum] is in a much happier place now."

Watkins said he is praying for Crum's family. And he has a word of advice for helping them come to terms with what happened.

"You have to forgive the man who did this," he said. "It's hard to do, but until you do that, I don't think anybody can get any satisfaction out of life."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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