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Wife of slain trooper blasts attorney general candidate over his repeated comments about the case

The wife of a state trooper who was slain in the line of duty says a candidate for West Virginia attorney general has repeatedly used the details of the case for political gain.

Rachel Maynard

Rachel Maynard says Mike Stuart, a state senator and former federal prosecutor who is running for attorney general, spoke publicly at least twice about details that weren’t yet public in the June 2, 2023, shooting death of her husband, Sgt. Cory Maynard.

She contends she reached out to Stuart to ask him to stop talking about her husband altogether, particularly in advance of a trial set for this coming Sept. 3. Rachel Maynard says she wound up being blocked from Stuart’s campaign social media.

“My children’s privacy, well being and the trial integrity are all my concerns,” Rachel Maynard said.

Stuart says he feels terrible for Maynard’s ongoing pain over her husband’s death. He says his comments were part of consistent advocacy for the death penalty for people accused of killing first responders. And Stuart said he hasn’t known any non-disclosed information about the case to reveal: “It’s stuff that I read in newspapers, and I think it’s public information.”

“My intentions were honorable, and I wanted justice in this case,” Stuart said in a telephone interview this week.

Stuart uses case in advocacy of death penalty policy

Sgt. Cory Maynard

Cory Maynard, a father of two, had been with the State Police since 2007. He was among officers responding to a report of a shooting in the Beech Creek area of Mingo County about 3:30 p.m. last June 2. State Police said the officers were ambushed and that Maynard was shot fatally.

The suspect, Timothy Kennedy, has been charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and disarming a law enforcement officer.

Stuart, a Republican, has talked about the case while advocating for legislation to reinstitute West Virginia’s death penalty in cases where first responders are slain in the line of duty.

“If you target first responders in the line of duty leading to death, the death penalty should be on the table,” Stuart said in a press release prior to the start of the most recent legislative session.

“This isn’t about vengeance. This is about justice. State Trooper Sgt. Cory Maynard was ambushed and fatally shot in the line of duty in an intentional murder of a first responder. Justice demands more than a mere prison sentence in cases like that of Sergeant Maynard.”

Maynard’s death was among Stuart’s examples during a Feb. 29 Senate floor speech again advocating for capital punishment in such cases. Stuart held up his wallet and said it contains a sticker he was given of Maynard’s image. He briefly went into a description of some of the circumstances surrounding Maynard’s death.

“I don’t want to finish that story,” Stuart said. And then, he continued, “I think we have to get tougher on these issues. I think there’s agreement among the people of West Virginia that we want to protect our first responders in the line of duty.”

As Stuart continued to advocate for the death penalty and regularly talked about the state trooper’s death, Rachel Maynard objected.

“Hi,” she commented on one of Stuart’s Facebook posts earlier this spring. “I’ve asked you multiple times to stop posting about this as we are about to go to trial and you know very it should not be discussed in a public forum. Plus, I’ve asked for your help in privacy for our children’s sake as they are what’s most important right now. Stop using my husband as a political advertisement.”

An endorsement given and then rescinded

Mike Stuart

Stuart is running in the Republican primary election for attorney general against the state’s current auditor, J.B. McCuskey.

The Mingo County Deputy Sheriff’s Association on March 1 posted that it would consider candidates in upcoming elections for letters of support. The most prominent of those was attorney general.

On the evening of April 3, the deputy sheriff’s association announced endorsements for 10 candidates — a county commissioner, county prosecutor, sheriff, magistrate, family court judge, two circuit judges, two state delegates and Stuart for attorney general.

A follower of the page commented, “As a law enforcement family I can’t imagine backing Mike Stuart after him trying to capitalize on Cory’s death.”

That prompted several additional comments on the page, including from Rachel Maynard, who wrote, “Anyone who would like can message me and I’ll be happy to share how he really is and how little he cares about law enforcement families, especially our precious young children that I am trying to protect.”

At that point, Maynard said, the deputy sheriff’s association representatives heard her out. “They talked to me and I explained what he said publicly and how he treated me and has never apologized for the actual issue I have,” she said.

The night of April 4, the deputy sheriff’s association posted that it had rescinded official support for Stuart.

“There have been things brought to our attention that we did not know happened during interviews and speeches by him in an effort to gain votes that we DO NOT agree with,” the association wrote in its post.

Debate response: ‘Playing politics’ 

Stuart addressed the situation, including the endorsement, during a debate with McCuskey this week on WCHS television. The question focused on whether it was appropriate for a political candidate to block criticism from campaign social media sites.

Stuart began by saying his heart goes out to Rachel Maynard and the tragedy her family has endured. Then he continued by ripping the deputy sheriff’s association endorsement process and the media coverage that followed.

“You know, as US Attorney I’ve prosecuted a lot of corruption,” he began. “But clearly, I didn’t prosecute enough corruption in places like Mingo County. This was a fake endorsement, issued at about five o’clock, so that they can rescind the endorsement. They issued it with a whisper. They rescinded it with a bullhorn.

“And it’s tragic. The media didn’t report any of those facts. The media didn’t get into the details as to how this thing was concocted.”

Stuart continued by saying, “My heart breaks for Rachel Maynard. It’s terrible. I do believe the death penalty should be on the table if you kill a first responder in the line of duty. And it’s not new that I’m talking about this. I introduced the bill last year. I introduced the bill this year.”

J.B. McCuskey

His opponent, McCuskey, responded during the televised debate by saying “I find it a little off-putting that my opponent is blaming the deputy sheriff’s of Mingo County for playing politics.”

McCuskey continued by criticizing Stuart’s approach to the concerns raised by Rachel Maynard.

“There were so many other ways that you could have done it without absolutely breaking open a wound that didn’t need to be reopened and without describing something that wasn’t public — and without  violating the ethics that a prosecutor should have known,” McCuskey said.

“And for me, your apology today rings a little tiny bit hollow because she asked you for that apology a long time ago.”

Stuart got a chance to respond and said, “The idea that I was playing politics with it is brutally offensive. It’s outrageous for you to play politics with this issue as the Mingo County players did last week.”

‘He could have just apologized’

After the debate was over, Rachel Maynard objected to the way Stuart handled the question and his characterization of the situation.

“My issue with him is that he could have simply had a conversation with me before to see if I supported him speaking on it — or when he was made aware of his mess up, he could have just apologized. One simple sentence and none of this would have ever happened,” she said.

“Instead he berated me saying I don’t appreciate his passion and must not want stronger laws. He has missed the point from day one. So when I see people say they will vote for him because he’s so supportive of Cory and law enforcement, I cringe. He fought with a widow over and over again. And then yesterday he clearly lied.”

Stuart, on the telephone this week, interpreted the whole situation differently.

“We have a woman who lost her husband under tragic circumstances for which my heart was broken. I had no intention to cause harm to her,” he said.

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