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Old 06-29-2006, 09:54 AM   #1
Former Police Chief Dies After Snakebite

Former police chief dies after snakebite

Eagle Staff Writer

A longtime member of Madison County law enforcement and decorated Vietnam War hero died Saturday after being bitten by a snake.

Jim West, 65, was outside of his house near Midway on Saturday evening when he was bitten on the ankle by a copperhead, sheriff's officials said .

West was transported to Madison St. Joseph Health Center in Madisonville, where he died. Officials were awaiting the results of an autopsy Monday to confirm the cause of death.

Originally from Muskogee, Okla., West served in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. The decorated infantry sergeant received numerous awards for his service, including three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

It was West's experience in the military that led him to pursue a career in law enforcement, his family said Monday. He lived in Madison County for 26 years and served as Madisonville police chief from 1981 to 1990. He also was the chief deputy constable in Madison County for 14 years before he retired last year.

"He was a heck of a nice fella," said Madisonville police Chief George Sweetin. "He would do anything in the world for you. He never met a stranger and was so easy to talk to."

Jay Kimbrough, a former deputy attorney general for criminal justice and member of the state's Homeland Security Task Force, remembered West as a great leader and close friend to whom he would always be indebted.

West saved Kimbrough as he lay shot and bleeding in a rice paddy during the Vietnam War - an action that earned West his Silver Star.

"I owe my life and my existence to him," Kimbrough said.

"I was hit hard and bleeding to death. I was dead. There was no way I was going to get out of there. But he came down in a hail of gunfire and saved my life."

The two friends lost touch for more than 20 years after the war but managed to reconnect in 1987, Kimbrough said, adding that they had been close ever since. Kimbrough recently took a job in College Station and was planning to spend more time with West, who also had become a hunting and fishing buddy.

"I never met a braver man, a quieter man or a gentler man," Kimbrough said. "Jim was a great American."

West's daughter, Julie Hupfauer, said her father had many friends who were automatically drawn to him because of his upstanding character and friendliness.

"He was a good listener and a great storyteller," she said. "He had such an interesting life and was willing to share."

West's wife of 25 years, Maribeth, said she was proud of her husband's dedication to the county in which they lived and all of his accomplishments in life.

"He was an outstanding man in every way," Maribeth West said.

"He really loved people, and when you love people they know it, and they love you back."

Funeral services for West will begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Elwood Baptist Church in Madisonville. Burial will be at Houston National Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Day Funeral Home in Madisonville.
Old 06-29-2006, 09:38 PM   #2
Honestly, I always thought Copperheads were only a real lethal threat to kids and elderly. I thought adults would manage a bite okay?

Seems I was mistaken?
Old 06-30-2006, 08:46 AM   #3
Maybe, maybe not

I wouldn't be surprised if the autopsy shows a different cause of death than snakebite. He may have had an allergic response to antivenin, he may have had a heart attack....I hope there's a follow up story soon.

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