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Officer honored for saving a life

May 21, 2011
By SCOTT McCLOSKEY - Special to the Brooke Scene , The Herald-Star

WHEELING - Wellsburg Patrolman Tom Jarrell didn't have to intervene in a situation he encountered while off duty, but a Brooke County woman is alive today because he did.

Jarrell was on his way home from work when he noticed a woman in distress who already had been passed by several other motorists. The woman had been reported missing when her two young children awoke to find she was no longer at home. Jarrell spotted the woman and the man who had kidnapped her and took immediate action.

"What he did was heroic," said U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II, who honored Jarrell with a special award on Monday. "He ordered the suspect to the ground, saving the victim's life. Many other cars had driven by that night. ... Nothing had been done until Patrolman Jarrell drove by, and he was able to put it all together and fortunately save the life of this lady who had received significant injuries.

"It possibly could have been much worse - the suspect had firearms, he had handcuffs and he was upset about the situation involving his ex-girlfriend," Ihlenfeld added. "And thanks to Patrolman Jarrell, he was able to save her life and put an end to it."

In the Jan. 11, 2008, incident, Jarrell apprehended Kurt MacKenzie Ray, 45, of Wellsburg.

Ray since has been sentenced to 33 years to life in prison for taking the Beech Bottom woman from her home and assaulting her.

He pleaded guilty to threatening to kidnap, kidnapping, assault while committing a felony and nighttime burglary.

Ray held his former girlfriend at gunpoint, threatening to kill her, and dragged her barefoot from her home and struck her repeatedly with his pistol, according to reports.

Jarrell was one of 17 individuals honored for going "above and beyond the call of duty in areas of law enforcement, victim assistance and community education" during the awards ceremony May 2 in Wheeling.

The U.S. Attorney's Office asked that the other honorees' names be withheld, as many of them are undercover agents working in the Northern District of West Virginia.

"I'm very humbled and proud," Jarrell said following the ceremony, noting he believes many people deserve credit for helping with the apprehension and arrest of Ray that day, including the victim's children, who went to a neighbor who called 911; dispatchers with the Brooke County Emergency 911 Center, sheriff's deputies and everybody involved with the investigation.

Ihlenfeld told all the award recipients they should be proud of their accomplishments.

"You are to be commended for the risks you take every day to protect us," he said.

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