Madison County sheriff found dead; deputy to fill in

Herald-Leader Staff ReportMay 21, 2013 

Madison County Sheriff's Jerry Combs. Photo courtesy of the sheriff's office website.

A deputy sheriff has taken temporary command of the Madison County sheriff's office after Sheriff Jerry R. Combs died unexpectedly Monday night.

Madison County Judge Executive Kent Clark said he has asked Chief Deputy Mike Coyle, who is retired from the Kentucky State Police, to take charge of the office for the time being.

Combs, 61, was found unresponsive at the home of his parents, where he had been working in the yard.

He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital-Berea, where he was pronounced dead at 9:31 p.m. Monday by Madison County Coroner Jimmy Cornelison.

"While our hearts are heavy at the loss of our sheriff and friend, we want the public to know we will continue the mission that Sheriff Jerry R. Combs would have wanted for our community," Coyle said Tuesday.

Clark said he will formally appoint someone to serve as sheriff for the remainder of Combs' term in a few weeks. That person will serve until Dec. 31, 2014, when Combs' term would have expired.

Combs had gone to the home of his elderly parents in Berea on Monday evening, and he was tilling their garden when he collapsed, suffering a heart attack, shortly after 8 p.m., said Deputy Willard Reardon.

Combs, a Madison County native and a graduate of Madison Central High School, was assistant police chief in Berea when he retired in 2006. Four years later, he was elected Madison County sheriff, taking office in January 2011, Reardon said.

Combs was a veteran of more than 30 years in law enforcement, mostly with the Berea Police Department, Reardon said.

Reardon said the family has requested full formal ceremonies at the sheriff's funeral to honor his many years of service.

Clark said Combs' twin brother, Larry Combs, has served as a magistrate on the Madison County Fiscal Court for many years.

He said Jerry Combs was "made for" the sheriff's position.

"His death is just the ultimate shock," Clark said. "Even people that didn't know him respected him."

Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Church on the Rock, 1049 Richmond Road north in Berea.

Funeral will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Church on the Rock.

Combs will be buried at the Combs Family Cemetery at 2809 Ky. 1016 near Berea.

Law enforcement agencies who will be coming are asked to be at the church by 9:00 a.m. Saturday.

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