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Ronald Hewett lived, died a local legend


BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Ronald Hewett was not just a sheriff in Brunswick County. He was an icon.

Born and raised in Brunswick County, the West Brunswick High School graduate did not take long to rise to prominence. After working as a Brunswick County deputy starting in 1983, he became the state's youngest sheriff at age 31 in 1994.

Hewett was a charismatic leader as sheriff, for better or worse; never shying away from the spotlight, a camera, an interview. It was a management style that at once earned him devoted fans and vocal critics.

In 2004 Hewett was even the subject of a documentary called "Sheriff." The movie's tagline was "A complex man trying to do good in a bad world."

Hewett's world became more complex in late 2006, when a federal investigation had Hewett and several of his deputies testifying before a grand jury in Raleigh.

In March 2008, then District Attorney Rex Gore sent shockwaves through Brunswick County when, during a hastily called evening news conference, he announced a judge had signed off on a petition to remove Hewett temporarily from office on the grounds of neglect or refusal to perform the duties of his office, willful misconduct or maladministration in office, extortion and intoxication.

Gore handed reporters a binder full of documentation and evidence against Hewett, including affidavits by many of his top lieutenants, as well as audio recordings of phone conversations with Hewett, including some in which the sheriff talks about suicide. The report outlined questions about Hewett's fitness to lead, including accusations and evidence of him under the influence of drugs and alcohol while on the job, including at crime scenes, and other accusations of corruption.

Within days, a Brunswick County grand jury had indicted Hewett on charges of embezzlement and obstruction of justice.

Two weeks later, Hewett resigned, ending a 14-year run in office. But Hewett's problems were only just beginning.

In May 2008, that federal grand jury that had been hearing testimony for about a year, indicted Hewett for obstruction of justice. Less than a month later, Hewett pleaded guilty to the charges. That October a judge sentenced Hewett to 16 months in federal prison and called it a tragic day for Brunswick County.

A few days later, Hewett also closed the book on the state case against him. He pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement and no contest to a charge of obstruction of justice. His four-month sentence would be served concurrently with his federal stint, which began a month later.

Hewett would wind up serving less than a year behind bars. He was released in October 2009 after racking up credit for good behavior. He then spent about three months in a halfway house before being released for good in January 2010.

His law enforcement career over, Hewett worked for developer Mark Saunders before and after his prison term and then as a salesman for Jones Ford in Shallotte.

Since his release from prison, Hewett declined interview requests. In September 2010, though, he gave his only public comments in an e-mail, in which he referred to himself as the "Retired Sheriff of Brunswick County" and made clear his resentment for Gore, who had been a political ally.

Since then, Hewett largely stayed out of the spotlight he had so loved as sheriff. That all changed Wednesday, when ATF agents served a warrant at Hewett's home, where they say they found weapons. They charged Hewett with a federal count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Hewett found himself spending the night in the jail he once ran.

At a federal court appearance Thursday morning, prosecutors said they wanted to keep Hewett in custody, and the judge scheduled a detention hearing for next week. Hewett's attorney said keeping the defendant in such a case locked up was rare. At the very least, though, Hewett would stay in jail until the hearing set for this coming Friday.

Of course, that hearing will never happen. Hewett, 51, was found dead in his cell at the New Hanover County Jail Saturday afternoon.

In death, as in life, his supporters remain devoted, and his critics vocal.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.



This is a compelling story of corruption and abuse of power by Law Enforcement in the murder of a young Police Officer on Bald Head Island in Brunswick County , N C. A story every citizen should read to see how money and power can overtake the reality we assume as Protection in this country. When you start this book you will not put it down!

Ronald Needed a Doctor NOT an Executioner

I have known this man all my life and will defend him to my death. It was very apparent that he needed a doctor, both before and during his recent incarceration and subsequent death. Why couldn't the jailers/deputies have used pepper spray instead of tasers? If indeed, his medical information was known in advance,as has been stated by the media and the public address by Sheriff McMahon, why would he have been tasered in the chest? That's just asking for a homicide. Ronald did not deserve to go down like this. The charges in the past, and the recent charges, amount to nothing less than a witch hunt. The Bible outlines the way to deal with folks who are off track. One person confronts him, if he doesn't make changes, bring another to confront him and if he still doesn't change, take him before the church. This is the model for how to handle anyone who is off track. You don't just betray him by recording his late night conversations with friends then leak it to the media prior to his arrest. The whole thing was a big debacle. Ronald devoted his life to law enforcement and deserved better than this. I will always remember him for the good things he accomplished in his short life. To those of you who really know him, please try to remember the good times and let some of this negativity go. I think the family has a viable lawsuit against the NHC jail for the mishandling of a man who needed medical attention and not an executioner. Rest Easy my friend. They can't hurt you anymore. I'll see you on the other side. Save me a seat.
With admiration and true love for a lifelong friend
<3 Dianna

His crimes certainly weren't

His crimes certainly weren't deserving of death, but he is the ultimate cause of his own death. Read the coroner's letter for more details. Read the DA's report to see about the medical attention.

As for his past crimes being a witch hunt, you are off base. He pleaded guilty. In doing so he admitted to committing the crimes of which he was accused.

The family does not have a viable lawsuit. Ron Hewett's heart failed because of the alcohol abuse and ultimately the stress of the altercation that he provoked.

ron hewitt suicide

I thought/know that cells are to be clear of anything one could use to commit suicide. If properly done... how did this man commit suicide in his cell, as a number of others here have ???

Sad for his Family But....

Hewett's Blind ambition while in office ruined a lot of lives. His disregard for proper procedure led to the needless incarceration of hundreds. For those of you who think this is no big deal, ask yourself how long you would have a home or a job if you were locked up for 30 days. I have first hand knowledge of individuals who sat in his jail for months, waiting for a court hearing because they couldn't afford bail, just to have the charges dropped against them for lack of evidence. Hewett abused his power and authority as sheriff, and his subordinates compiled enough evidence to prove it. Unfortunately, there is no compensation for the people and families he injured.

Sounds like sour grapes to me

Whose life did Ronald "ruin", as you stated?

HA the title of this article

HA the title of this article just proves how low and corrupt our local law enforcement are. How is a corrupt cop a legend? This was a bad man that was lucky he was only charged with the few crimes he was. Someone must have paid for this hilarious propaganda you call an article. For those who knew Ron then you know the truth. Don't sugar coat it cause he's dead. He was a good man when he wanted but don't dare cross him! Again the title of this article is far from true and a disgrace to those that call southeast NC their home!! No wonder it hard to trust the local LEO...Corrupt cops are called legends around here. Here is a more fitting title : CORRUPT COP DIES IN CORRUPT SYSTEM HE HELPED CREATE....the EX-sheriff knew better than anyone how they treat criminals in prisons and jails around here.

our opinion

Those of you that choose to lift up this fallen elected official is your choice,this is a public forum, don't expect everyone to feel the same way all of you do. There are those of us that have seen the other side of this man you consider some kind of "hero". We have seen how he chose to run his department while he was in office, surmise to say there are a lot us that are glad he is no longer Sheriff of Brunswick county.

Honest Death Investigation

Everyone deserves an honest death investigation. I hope Ron Hewett gets one. I had tried to contact him on June 26 to ask him about the Amy Frink death. He never returned my call. My son disappeared shortly after I gave Hewett's office, Gore's office information about Amy's death in 1998. I believe the people involved in my son's disappearance were involved in the Frink case. My son didn't get an honest police investigation. His body did not match the autopsy report and police mishandled the investigation in two states. Davina Buff Jones did not get an honest police investigation in Brunswick County. I read the book and saw the photos of her autopsy report. They washed down the area where she was murdered–– blood, prints, and evidence–– to prepare for a wedding that was to take place on Bald Head Island before they got all the evidence they needed. Maybe Ron Hewett will get an honest death investigation. Please read about my son's disappearance here: Any comments can be made there. Sincere hopes that Brunswick County and the State of North Carolina will conduct an HONEST INVESTIGATION of Ron Hewett's death in memory of every police officer who has risked his/her life in service.


There are 3 men serving time for the brutal murder of Amy Frink. At least one has been up for parole which was denied. I remember because the community was in an uproar about it. Over 35 deputies and every detective employed with BCSO investigated the death of Davina Buff Jones and were actually physically present on Bald Head Island the day following the midnight discovery of her remains. I'm getting that from the book Out With Three. The crime scene was washed down by the fire department. No one has ever owned up to giving the order. No one has ever been able to find evidence to support the family's conspiracy cover-up theory. Read the book. Please don't spin conspiracy theories. We all saw a conspiracy played out when Ron Hewett went up against the evidence collected against him by his so-called friends. If there are any of you whose life and every word spoken in confidence to "friends" could stand up under the scrutiny of the SBI and federal prosecutor, I think you'd better run for office. His friends and those who worked with him daily in the BCSO collected enough stupid bull for enough years to do him in. He wasn't perfect. But he had a million dollar personality and has never been implicated in anything worse than allowing his employees to collect money for his golf tournament, work in the yard of his new home and paint campaign signs on county time. Oh, and horror of horrors, he allowed his son to take a writing pad and a pen from the sheriff's office. He sent a deputy to pick up a shirt his son needed for the BCSO dive team. That's some serious crap.

Brunswick County

That whole police force, mostly the white ones are all corrupt, sexiest, racist and as corrupt as the Brunswick community Hospital ER. They're all friends. They're group do no wrong. The things I know......:)

Mostly White Ones

Its people like you that promote racism. You should be embarrassed for such a moronic comment without any details or facts to support. I have no idea what race you are, but it sure makes guessing easy

So sorry for his family

So sorry for his family. But was he was really "found" in his cell?


" Hewett, 51, was found dead in his cell at the New Hanover County Jail Saturday afternoon."

How do you just "find" someone dead at a police station??! I believe there is something they are not telling us... Yes, he broke the law, but please Ronald was an amazing person and did not deserve to go this way. There needs to be an outside source to come in and investigate, I would hate to see this get covered up or blamed on natural causes. No, the public, his friends, family, we demand answers. We demand the truth.

Ronald I will miss that grin and those big bear hugs!

A local legend?? Born and

A local legend?? Born and raised in southeast NC and the criminal Ron Hewitt is no legend. He disgraced the title of being a sheriff. He was a bad man that was charged for only a few of his many criminal acts. What irony that the corrupt ex-sheriff dies in police custody.

Ronald was a schoolmate of

Ronald was a schoolmate of mine. I've known him for over forty years. regardless of what he did or didn't do in the past, it seems like people could have a little more compassion and just let it be. And just to let everyone know, this is the kind of treatment all prisoners get in NHC or BC jail.

you talk about stripping man of his dignity!!!

This is bs! Somebody didn't like Ron and dropped a dime on him. OK, so what if he had firearms, nobody ever knew it because he wasn't bothering anybody with them. He paid his debt to society, so if he had weapons, why not just confiscate them and leave him alone???? And I wouldn't be surprised if it was some foul play in his death. I'm sorry all of this had to happen to him. R.I.P. Mr Ron Hewett!!


He stripped himself of his diginity when he considered himself above the law. The federal law mandates manditory prison time for a felon having a firearm. There is no grey area in the law here.


How many other felons do you think are running around brunswick county with firearms and nobody is arresting them. Ronald was in his house minding his own business. I hope the informat is sleeping good tonight cause karma is around the corner.

Ron Hewitt

Ron made many contributions to law enforcement, I believe his downfall began with alcohol and drugs, though self inflicted and accoutable for his deeds, there should have been much more respect for this man, trust me, there are many functioning alcoholics in law enforcement, some will enter the non-functioning category later, like Ron. I understand He was tazed, sounds fishy, and tazing will cause a person to go into cardiac arrest. There were also a vendetta by many, by the way they speak of him.

Charles, You Are Absolutely Correct

Charles, You are absolutely correct. I'm shocked and dismayed at the outcome. Be that as it may, hopefully we will see some change for the better.

Ron Hewitt..diginity denied him, by some source.

What a way to get "supposedly" revenge. This leads me to think that We, as a whole , could be found in great harm, at any time if someone doesn't like us. What has happened to our Morals? What has happened to "our great Patriotic Country ? GOD be with us all.


This is unbelievable! Ronald was no threat to society. He paid his dues in multiple ways. Finally paying with his life. Ronald was seeking peace and happiness. He turned from the spotlight but yet someone or something happened to cause the ATF to show up!! That is the catalyst in this tragedy! Ronald loved his county, church and community friends. They took away his badge, took away his freedom temporarily, mocked him while most of this being done by those closest to him at the time. Keeping him in jail for what? He was no flight risk, he was a man trying to rebuild his life and surrounding himself with true friends. Despite anything anyone can say, I loved Ronald before, during and after his notoriety! He was an imperfect man living in an imperfect world. He tried to make a difference and perhaps got off track but he was worth saving instead or crucifying.

Right on Tina

We know the Ronald that other people only read about. He was a very loving, outstanding human being. The betrayal he experienced was beyond compare. I have known him all my life, like a brother, and will defend him until the day I die.

My heart breaks for the

My heart breaks for the family. Ronald was a good person, he loved Brunswick co and the people in it.

My heart breaks for the family

Amen. Let's think of the family and let this man rest in peace.

RIP Ronald

I met him once. And he seemed like a nice guy. He made mistakes, but we all have made mistakes. Law Enforcement is a tough line of work. Things don't always turn out the way they should.

Each year, Law Enforcement Officers, Sheriffs, and Police Chiefs, seem to get bashed. More and more. In the end, we are all 'Flesh and Blood', imperfect, humans. Who have feelings. He paid for his mistakes, and tried hard to get back on his feet. It's a tragedy it ended this way. RIP Ronald Hewitt.

Rest Easy Ronald

I've known him my whole life and love him to the core.

the truth

Is no one going to ask the real question. who killed him bc i know this man personaly an in every statment made leads to the police killed him they denied bail when he wasn't a flight risk an 2 day n they find him dead an we only know what they want to tell . guess no one see who the real killers r they killed a. 90 pound kid with 3 armed officers on scene bc he had a.screwdriver. does no one get it. maybe when it u there killing u mite admit it the the cops have turned to killers an it all over dirty politics

Goodbye Ron, RIP

Unfortunately our LEO's are going to be more and more militaristic. Following orders blindly, making decisions based on their military training. There
is no constitution in Afghanistan. Ron was trying to clean this up so I was told.
May God take you in his arms Ron.