Ronald Hewett lived, died a local legend


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Submitted: Sun, 07/13/2014 - 1:25am
Updated: Fri, 12/12/2014 - 9:02pm
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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.

48 Comments

  • JC says:

    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……:)

  • damien says:

    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!

  • j kkng says:

    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.

  • Isis says:

    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.

  • John says:

    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.

  • p.craig says:

    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.

  • Bob says:

    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.

  • Michelle Looney says:

    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: http://sniffenfiles.blogspot.com/2013/10/mimicks-disappearance-and-murder.html 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.

  • Dianna says:

    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.

  • Dianna Adams says:

    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

  • ???? says:

    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.

  • Guest2020 says:

    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.

  • eyeonyou says:

    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.

  • Christian says:

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

  • nunya says:

    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.

  • Donna Wilkes prevatte says:

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

  • Wendy hewitt says:

    Whose life did Ronald “ruin”, as you stated?

  • margie says:

    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.

  • Tina Johnson says:

    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.

  • gsxr says:

    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!!

  • portcity says:

    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.

  • Deion Sanders says:

    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

  • Charles Walters says:

    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.

  • Sarah Hall says:

    ” 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!

  • 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 ???

  • Mark Smith says:

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

  • Dianna says:

    I’m agreeing with Mr Bowman. I’ve known Ronald for 45 years. He deserved NONE of this.

  • PaulaM says:

    He made some bad mistakes. I noticed he put on quite a bit of weight since he was sheriff. Maybe the stress gave him a heart attack. Or at least someone will say that’s what happened. One commenter said he had been throwing up since Thursday. That is one symptom of a heart attack. I think there is also a drug that can induce the same symptoms and make it appear a person had a heart attack. Someone did not want him talking and giving names and it appears to me that the only way to shut someone up is put them in a jail cell and make sure they don’t come back out. This is very worrisome and scary for our community in general. He could have been rotten to the core but I hate this happened!!! I hope they figure out why it happened and who did it!!! No coincidence here!

  • Jerry Bowman says:

    Karma Kame, I am happy to explain my reasoning. First, I never stated that Ronald did not deserve the time he received. I would never second guess the arbiter of his findings. You, and many others are quick to emphasis the word felon. What makes an act a felony? A law that is passed during the time the house and senate are in session in Raleigh, or in this case, in Washington,DC. Ronald made some very poor choices in commiting a criminal act, and then attempting to thwart or usurp the investigation. He put pressure on those who were going to be called in front of a grand jury investigating the alleged incidents. After considering what he had done, he pled guilty, and accepted his punishment. I am always questioning the fairness of punishment given to law enforcement, after they are adjudicated guilty of criminal offenses. You often hear people state that the police should be given a more severe punishment, because they should have known better. In many instances they are sentenced more severely. Is that fair? I suspect it might depend on your political affiliation. If you are a politician, of the same party as your current sheriff, you might be able to avoid prosecution for hit and run, leaving the scene of an accident, and maybe covering up a possible DUI. I’m just saying, the determination of the charges brought are quite often based on different levels of probable cause. How the probable cause was obtained, in order to obtain an arrest warrant, as well as a federal search warrant, is beyond me. I suspect he had a two faced friend who wanted to jam him up. I have no problem with the manner the information was obtained. I do not understand the quick rush to arrest, instead of waiting for a grand jury to issue an indictment. Perhaps the prosecution was afraid the grand jury would not return a bill of indictment, for lack of probable cause.The statement of Hewitt not being above the law, could not be more true. However, care must be taken to ensure that he does not receive less than is generally given to the general public. Would John Q Public have been treated the same? How many non violent offenders have their peace interrupted for no reason? He had done nothing to draw attention to himself, or give any reason to be singled out for a search warrant to be issued and then served by a fully dressed tactical team! I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. If Hewitt received a phone call from whatever charging agency possessed the warrant, advised of it, and told to show up as soon as he Confered with his attorney, I am pretty sure he would have followed the request. I guess that just did not bring enough press attention during this political season. I would also be contacting an attorney to protect myself from the totally ridiculous suggestion that his son be held to account for not coming forward, and revealing his dad had a gun. I don’t have a PhD, but I think one could reasonably expect the man to have a gun, or guns at his home. He’s a local guy who has hunted since a kid, but more importantly, there are many people who would rejoice in seeing harm come to him. Lastly someone ask why the jail should have been watching Ronald while being detained? Because it is the jail’s responsibility to ensure his safety. Especially after electrifying him twice! It makes no difference whether he deserved the shock or not. ( By the way, until video is shown, I don’t believe Ronald fought the officers.) Ronald was being held against his will, and as such the County and their members are required to ensure his safety. Any law enforcement agency would have, and should have procedures in place to prevent detained subjects from doing harm to themselves or others. The signals were present and easy to see the situation is highly charged, and right for something like this to happen.I must say something that is strictly my opinion, and not scientific facts. Each time I see someone leave a message gloating or saying things that he or she thinks is amusing, it disgust me. What kind of person are you, that you can rejoice in the death of a father, grandfather, friend or any of a million other things. There is no pleasure in seeing a fellow human swirling downward, into a dark place where he feels worthless. Every person has a value to someone. To the Hewitt family, Ronald was irreplaceable. They must now move forward picking up the pieces of their lives, as they try and move on. They deserve our thoughts and prayers. If you can not give them that, just try and refrain from making ugly and hurtful statements. May God hold them close, and bring them the strength they will surely need in these coming days.

  • Jerry Bowman says:

    Someone needs to explain why Mr. Hewitt was treated in the manner he was. Who was the person who supplied the information leading to the search warrant, and why there was an interest in arresting a man who was the.face of law enforcement in Brunswick County for many years. Why was it imperative to arrest a non violent man, who committed no acts of violence when there are thousands of violent offenders every single day of the year, not only in Brunswick County, but every town in this state. There had to be a reason the feds had for their actions. This was a very predictable end to a persons life. Why wasn’t someone watching the cell? The community deserves answers.

  • Grand Ole Party says:

    “Someone needs to explain why Mr. Hewitt was treated in the manner he was” Please allow me to provide you with the explanation you are searching for, it’s rather simple to be honest. Ronald Hewett was treated in this manner because he had ONCE AGAIN broken the law. For better or worse, he was no different than anyone else. He was not above the law. He committed a crime and was arrested for said crime, it doesn’t matter that it was non violent. It was ILLEGAL. There are hundreds of inmates in the New Hanover County Jail, why was he so special that someone needed to watch his cell all night? He made mistakes, he took a huge fall and never recovered from it. But the blame for how his life turned out, lays at his feet and his feet alone. It was a very tragic ending to a very sad story, but only Ronald could have changed the ending. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very sad turn of events, but the blame can not be put on anyone’s shoulders but his. He was a very troubled soul and I hope he has finally found peace.

  • Karma Kame says:

    Mr. Bowman, there are thousands of non-violent offenders in jail, and Ron Hewett boasted about how full his jail stayed. Anything from traffic violations to possession of a small amount of marijuana would land really nice people in jail, under the thumb of this reckless sheriff. He was a convicted felon and was well aware of the ramifications of owning firearms. He would have showed no one in a similar situation leniency, and to expect this habitual criminal leniency would have shown very bad judgment on the part of the feds. Live by the jail, die by the jail.

  • Chester says:

    Maybe the lawyers and sheriff are running for office this year. Publicity before an election is good. If Ron had not died this would have been in the news every day. Now I bet it gets minimum publicity from the county and state.

  • Bystander says:

    How many otherwise law abiding citizens did this guy arrest on felon with gun charges.

    How many times did he use operation ceasefire to jam up low level non violent drug dealers?

    If it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander.

    He was law enforcement he had to know having a gun access able to him yet alone multiple was aginst the law. Did he fell the blue brotherhood would not arrest one of their own?

    Sorry for his death and it needs to be investigated but I know a small business owner who committed a felony in the 1970s. He got a gun to protect his small resturant in 2009. During a attempted Robery he used his gun to scare the crooks away. His reward was a plea bargain to 5 years in federal prison.

    So sorry I am not sad or questioning why this guy (convicted felon) got jammed up living above the law

  • paul craig says:

    No explanation needed, he was a crooked cop who abused his power while in office.He was caught breaking the law and had to endure the consequences of his actions,LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY. Lots of criminals have friends and famy whom they support,that fact the law breakers no less guilty.

  • Dianna says:

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

  • paul craig says:

    This ‘hate’ or dislike for the man didn’t come from nowhere, this is a public forum,you have to realize not everyone is going to feel the same way you feel.He was disliked by just as man people that cared about him. Another elected official gone corrupt, he served his time and still chose to break the law upon release. He didn’t deserve to die,but its a dilemma he created himself.

  • Justin. hewett says:

    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

  • micpro09 mi says:

    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.

  • guest 1980 says:

    I hope he was writing a book and it tells everything that goes on behind the political system in BC…

  • concerned citizen says:

    He was confined as a mouse for a cats taking to hush him.

  • Ann says:

    Ronald was a wonderful person and did so much for the residents of BC. Its such a shame that his life had to end the way it did. My prayers go out to his family. Maybe now he can rest in peace.

  • PublicAvenger says:

    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.

  • Isis says:

    Why didn’t Ron Hewett receive medical attention while in federal custody in N. Hanover County? I have it from an eyewitness that he had been throwing up since Thursday. If his death is due to their neglect, I hope the truth comes out.

  • Donna Wilkes Prevatte says:

    Well said, pender red head. My heart breaks for the family. Ronald was a good person and didn’t deserve to spend his last days like that. Can all of you that have so much hate in your heart keep it to yourself? I’m sure you have voiced it enough through the years. This is a sad time for his family and they loved him even if you didn’t .

  • PenderRedHed says:

    Prayers go out to the Hewett family on their great loss, and may God help each one of them get through this tragedy. No matter what Ron Hewett was found guilty of, he didn’t deserve to die in a jail cell. R.I.P., Mr. Hewett.

  • zenobia says:

    Why were they leaning on him so hard, what did he know? This smells.

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