Ohio Sheriff, 49, Dies in Surgery

Officer Down: Tom Hayes - [Eaton, Ohio]

Preble County Sheriff Tom Hayes died Wednesday after emergency surgery to repair an aneurysm

Preble County's sheriff dies
Shocked co-workers: Hayes was elected three times to office

By Bill Engle
Staff writer

EATON, Ohio -- Officials in Preble County today were shocked at the news of the death of Sheriff Tom Hayes.

Hayes, 49, died early today at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he was taken after becoming ill at work Tuesday afternoon.

"It's a very sad day for all of us, and he's going to be deeply missed,'' said sheriff's department Capt. Terry Snowden. "He was a very good leader, very professional. He was a top-of-the-line individual.''

Hayes apparently suffered an aneurysm. He was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital and died at 1:15 a.m. today after several hours of emergency surgery, according to a sheriff's department press release.

Hayes has been sheriff since 1993 when he was elected in 1992 to his first of three terms.

He was re-elected in 1996 and in 2000 and planned to run for re-election in 2004.

Hayes also had been elected to serve as president of the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, a post he was supposed to assume in January 2004. He also served on the Ohio Organized Crime Commission for several years.

Snowden said he worked with Hayes since 1979.

"He was well respected by his staff and people in the community,'' Snowden said. "He's done a great job. He was the first sheriff in our new jail facility and he got it up and operating.''

Hayes first worked for the sheriff's department when he was hired as a dispatcher by Sheriff Jan Spitler in 1975. He worked for several years on the road patrol and was appointed captain in 1988 where he served as commander of road patrol, jail and communications.

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