Travel-Obsessed, Scuba Diving Missouri Sheriff Is a ‘Charismatic’ Figure. He’s Being Criticized for Jailhouse Deaths … – The Messenger

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An eccentric small Missouri county sheriff stands accused by critics of delegating his law enforcement duties to others, freeing his time to roam the world on exotic diving expeditions instead.

Chris Heitman has been the sheriff of Maries County, Missouri, located about two hours outside of St. Louis, since 2008, The Riverfront Times (RFT) reported.

But Daryl White, the mayor of the county’s largest town, has accused Heitman of lately spending only about 10 hours per month on sheriff-related duties — despite bringing in a $70,000 annual salary.

Other locals have accused Heitman of more elaborate violations, including insurance fraud and arson. But community members are perhaps most angry about Heitman’s management of the local jail.

The 44-year-old recently went on “exotic” diving trips in Egypt, the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, Micronesia, and Mexico, according to RFT.

Meanwhile, he allegedly handed over the jail’s day-to-day duties to a sheriff’s deputy named Scott John, who critics say failed to treat a diabetic man, leading him to suffer multiple seizures.

Chris Heitman

Chris HeitmanSheriff Chris Heitman/Facebook

During one seizure, the man fell and hit his head, leading to a fatal subdural hematoma, when blood collects between the skull and brain. In a different case, an inmate allegedly killed someone after being mistakenly transferred to the wrong detention center, where he was released.

One former deputy added that the jail was a location where “inmates are sleeping with inmates, dispatchers are sleeping with inmates.”

In response to claims that he has been neglecting his sheriff duties, Heitman insists he is “always available,” adding that he often works from locations besides the sheriff’s office.

He also disputed any suggestion that he planned some of the fires at his properties, pointing out that he lost precious items in those blazes, including heirlooms passed down from his father.

Heitman said he was inspired to start diving in 2015 when he witnessed a family waiting helplessly for a rescue team to recover their drowned loved one.

“People shouldn’t have to wait six hours for a diver to get here to get their loved one out of the bottom of the lake,” he told RFT.

Heitman said he has put his diving skills to good use by operating a volunteer diving team, which helps locate missing murder and drowning victims.

He said he won’t run for reelection, although he has already thrown his support behind John, the deputy he placed in charge of the jail.

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