HAZARD — A former Perry County judge-executive who pleaded guilty to federal mail-fraud charges is back in politics. The Democratic Party in Perry County has nominated Sherman Neace for the seat left vacant when Magistrate Jimmy Darrell Neace was killed in a double murder-suicide in May. The two men were distantly related.
Sherman Neace, 67, will run against Republican newcomer Frank Hurley, 54.
Neace, a car dealer, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in April 2000, after pleading guilty to charges that he sold used vehicles to the county at inflated prices and routed them through Central Kentucky car dealers to disguise his involvement. Neace was judge-executive at the time.
The original indictment charged Neace with 10 counts of money laundering and mail fraud in a scheme that netted him at least $13,000.
But the issue is not his past, Neace said Friday, but the future of Perry County.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Neace said of his criminal history. “The people of this county know the good I did. When I set out to do something, it happens.”
Neace said 680 miles of roads were paved and 375 bridges built in the county while he was judge-executive. If elected, Neace said, he will work on road improvements and bringing city water to those who don't have it.
Neace, who owns Grand Vue Auto Sales as well as a BP service station, says he and Hurley are good choices for Perry County.
“I feel honored to be nominated,” said Neace, of Bonnyman. “The opponent I'm running against is a good man.”
Hurley said he doesn't think Neace's criminal record is an issue.
“I'm not really interested in the past,” Hurley said Friday. “I think our county needs to move forward.”
Still, Hurley says, he wants voters in Perry County to know they can count on him to be honest. Hurley, of Chavies, said his top priorities include better roads and ensuring that the county receives more coal-severance funds. Hurley said he also is excited about tourism possibilities in Perry County.
“I am more in touch with the majority of the people in the county,” said Hurley, who is a lineman for Kentucky Power, where he has worked for 28 years.
Jimmy Darrell Neace's widow, Audrey Neace, was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to serve as magistrate until the election in November. She is the first woman to serve as magistrate in Perry County.
Jimmy Darrell Neace and county highway worker Lew Allen Caudill were shot outside a convenience store in May by former county employee Jerry Fugate, Kentucky State Police said. Fugate then turned the gun on himself.
State police spokesman Tony Watts said investigators still don't know what triggered the shooting.
“We will probably never know,” Watts said.