Image: Sheriff’s Captain Randy Eaves who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday, March 4, 2018. Captain Eaves was the Captain over the Law Enforcement Support Division in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
Conroe, April 5 – Catherine Eaves, widow of Sheriff’s Captain Randy Eaves, contacted The Golden Hammer and gave an exclusive interview to this newspaper yesterday, the main point of which was “The Sheriff’s Office needs to take better care of the people who watch out for us.” Catherine Eaves broke her silence, since her husband of 30 years, Captain Eaves, died of a self- inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday, March 4, 2018.
Captain Eaves was one of the members of Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson’s Leadership Team. The only officers in the Sheriff’s Office who ranked above him were Sheriff Henderson, Chief Deputy Ken Culbreath, and Executive Division Captain Bryan Carlisle. Eaves’ responsibilities included the Communications Division, Radio Shop, Fleet Operations, and Facility Maintenance. He had worked as a certified peace officer in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for 29 years.
Randy and Catherine Eaves have two children, a son who is 25 years old and a daughter who is 17.
Events surrounding Eaves’ death from Catherine Eaves’ perspective
Catherine Eaves is upset with the Sheriff’s Office that there remain many mysteries about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death.
The Eaves celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in January, 2018, but their marriage had always suffered from “issues.” On Monday, February 26, specifically, Eaves came home from work and became upset because, as Catherine described the situation, “we were having marital issues.” Captain Eaves threatened to commit suicide, and Catherine took his threats very seriously.
Catherine is a highly-educated lady. She has a master’s degree in microbiology and teaches human anatomy and medical microbiology at Klein High School. She’s very aware of the high rate of suicide among law enforcement officers, which Catherine told this newspaper is around 31 per 1,000. “Men typically commit suicide over job issues.”
As the Eaves had a disagreement, and Captain Eaves threatened suicide, Catherine went to the telephone and called 9-1-1. Catherine explained that Randy’s reaction to her making that call was “That’s great. Now, I’ve just lost my career.”
Knowing that the suicide call came from the wife of a member of the Sheriff’s Office Leadership Team, Chief Culbreath himself appeared at the Eaves’ home that Monday evening along with Captain Kevin Ray, the East Patrol Division Captain (now on suspension for unrelated reasons) who was a close friend of Captain Eaves. Two Sheriff’s deputies appeared with them. Culbreath, Ray, and the two deputies took Eaves’ badge, his car, and his other law enforcement gear. They then put Captain Eaves in a squad car and took him to Tri-County Mental Health Services.
Catherine, who has worked in the Sheriff’s Office previously and is familiar with many of its protocols, explained that, at Tri-County, they hold someone who has threatened suicide a standard 72 hours to watch the person and ensure they don’t do harm to themselves. For some reason, Judge Trey Spikes, who was on duty that night, did not sign a detention order to hold Eaves, however.
Catherine told The Golden Hammer, “Randy was there less than an hour. That’s unbelievable for somebody in a profession with a high rate of suicide. They should have held him there for observation far longer than an hour.”
Instead, the Sheriff’s Office released Captain Eaves to his 25-year-old son, whom the Sheriff’s Office had told to remove every gun from the Eaves household. The Eaves’ son followed the direction of the Sheriff’s Office, so his father’s later use of a gun to end his life was upsetting because he felt responsible for keeping guns away from this father after February 26, according to Catherine.
Catherine Eaves take particular exception to the statement of Sheriff Rand Henderson in The Golden Hammer about whether Randy Eaves’ job was ever in jeopardy. Specifically, this newspaper asked Henderson in the interview which appeared on March 15, 2018, under the headline, “Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson Responds With Candor To Patrol Officers’ Critical Letter: The Golden Hammer Interview, “Was his job in jeopardy?”
Sheriff Henderson responded, “No. Randy was reassured repeatedly. He just had to get his return to work evaluation. He fixated on his embarrassment. Randy Eaves is a really close friend of mine. This one really hurts.”
Catherine Eaves told this newspaper yesterday, “That quote from the Sheriff that Randy’s job was never in jeopardy was an outright lie.”
Catherine also objected to the Sheriff’s comments in the same interview, which appeared on March 15, that Eaves was getting counseling. “All the Sheriff’s Office had set up was marital issues counseling sessions for Randy,” Catherine Eaves said. “It was only for marital issues, not suicide. My husband needed help for both.”
Captain Eaves’ widow elaborated, “The entire week Randy was left suspended. He didn’t know if he was getting paid. The whole week he had no answer regarding whether he would ever be able to come back to work. Towards the end of the week, Ken Culbreath told my son, ‘we don’t know what we’re going to do with your dad yet.’ Randy thought that his career was over. I was especially upset, because I knew that Randy was waiting to schedule County psychiatric sessions, but that person never called him to make those arrangements.”
As Catherine explained, Captain Eaves became more distraught as the week of his suspension ensued, because he knew that he would have to undergo psychiatric evaluation before he could be certified to return to duty.
Suicide and aftermath
On Sunday, March 4, 2018, Captain Eaves was scheduled to attend a session with his marriage counselor at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. Several days after his death, Catherine discovered from a comment made by one of the Sheriff’s Office chaplains that, on Sunday morning, Randy Eaves had called 9-1-1 to report a “noise disturbance” at the campground where he was staying in the family’s recreational vehicle. Catherine even later found out that the Captain had fired a gun off into the mattress inside of the RV.
In response to the 9-1-1 call, a Sheriff’s Deputy did not conduct a welfare check where he actually would knock on the door of Eaves’ RV to determine whether he was all right. Instead, the Sheriff’s Deputy merely drove around the campground to see if there were any visual disturbances outside and then he left, after never leaving his Sheriff’s Office vehicle. “I tried to find out how much time lapsed between Randy’s 9-1-1 call and his death. I still have never been able to find out the exact amount of time from the investigators,” Catherine said.
As Catherine has explained, approximately four hours after the 9-1-1 call, the Eaves’ son went to the RV and found his father dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Catherine explained that her son, who is planning to get married in May, still suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome from the horrific scene he discovered involving his own father.
After he discovered his father, Catherine’s son immediately called Captain Ray rather than 9-1-1, since Ray was a close friend, according to Catherine. Ray was the second individual to enter the RV. Soon afterwards, as Catherine has described the situation, “a bunch of captains arrived but no deputies came out there.” Catherine’s son stayed on the scene, along with Catherine’s future daughter-in-law, as it was being worked. The Sheriff’s Office Chaplains were there and a couple of deputies in marked patrol cars as well.
Eaves’ funeral service was on Monday, March 12. The Sheriff’s Office planned and made most of the arrangements for the service. One noticeable attribute of the service was that there was no music. This newspaper asked Catherine if Randy Eaves had an aversion to music. Catherine explained that he did not, but the Sheriff’s chaplains chose not to have music, so that the service would focus on the tribute to Captain Eaves’ service as a law enforcement officer and as a tribute to the numerous law enforcement officers who were in attendance.
Catherine Eaves noticed that Sheriff Henderson came and spoke a few words to her during the funeral service, although Chief Culbreath did not ever speak to her. “The Sheriff’s Office left me in the dark after his death about everything that happened and their investigation. I’m definitely not receiving treatment like a member of a ‘family’ as the Sheriff said I would during the funeral service,” Catherine said.
“It was 16 days after Randy’s death, and I still hadn’t heard anything from the Sheriff’s Office. My children and I particularly wanted to know if their father had left a note. As far as we know now, there was no note, although the marriage counselor believes that most people who commit suicide in this type of situation leave a note,” Catherine told The Golden Hammer. “Finally, I called Kevin Ray and asked him if there was a note. He responded by saying ‘there’s an open investigation’ and told me I needed to talk to a Texas Ranger. Finally, after a few more days, Ray finally told me there was a note and asked me to come and pick it up along with other items from the Sheriff’s Office.”
Catherine went to pick up the items at the Sheriff’s Office from the chaplain but decided not to examine any of them until she and her children could meet with the counselor. Among the items with Captain Eaves was $180 cash, which Catherine believes may suggest that he purchased the weapon on his own.
Catherine said, “We read what we thought was the note in the counseling session. My son, my future daughter-in-law, and my daughter attended the counseling session. There were copies of note cards Randy had written with issues for the marriage counseling sessions. It was obvious he had written cards that he was planning to discuss with the counselor for that session on that Sunday afternoon of the morning when he committed suicide. There was one original note card in the sealed package, which was a note Randy had written to Chief Ken Culbreath.”
Catherine explained that the Captains on the Sheriff’s Office Leadership Team were to read two books about management. At least as far as Catherine is able to ascertain, the last thing that Captain Randy Eaves ever communicated was a note to Chief Culbreath:
“Sorry, Chief. I did not get them done. R.E.”
Catherine further said, “Why was he thinking about the Chief in those last moments of his life? My question is did the Chief call him that Sunday and tell him he wasn’t going to have a job or that he was remain suspended? Why would he write that note? Why do we have the original of that notecard when the Texas Rangers are supposed to have all of the original cards and we’re only supposed to have copies of them? Also, there was no note.”
Catherine Eaves called the administrative team of the Sheriff’s Office and said, “‘I thought there’d be a note to us. I was told there was a note. Why wouldn’t they have given it to us?'” Catherine and her children have never received an answer to that question.
Catherine Eaves concluded the interview with several points that she believes the Sheriff’s Office needs to consider carefully:
- “My hope is that Randy’s death will result in a positive change in the department. They need to take responsibility for the mental health of the employees who are serving us. These people are first responders who risk their lives for us everyday.”
- “Suicide is no longer a topic we shouldn’t talk about. Randy should’ve gotten help the next day after his suicide threat. I still don’t know why the judge didn’t sign a detention order. I’ve never gotten a copy of the autopsy. The death certificate was late getting to me.”
- “The Sheriff needs to have a good persona and good appearance, because he’s elected. It’s the same thing for the chief and the captains. It seems to me that politics has come into play in this situation because the Sheriff is an elected official.”
- “We can’t get phone records for Randy’s county phone, because the Chief [Ken Culbreath] has them. If his note to us had anything to say about it’s not your fault but the Sheriff’s Office’s, we’ll never know.”
- “Where is all this support Sheriff Henderson promised at Randy’s funeral? Where is the information? Why do we have the original of the note to Culbreath? Why did Randy write to Culbreath and not to his family? There are so many unanswered questions. The Sheriff’s department needs to do better. They need to take care of people and not wait 2 weeks. Randy shouldn’t have been left in limbo. Something happened that morning because he had a counseling session, but something happened that morning that made him decide to go ahead and commit suicide.
- “We need to take care of the people taking care of us. I want the Sheriff’s Office to learn from this and treat the next person better.”
- “We were married 30 years in January. We knew each other before high school. Every couple has marital problems but we always worked them out. Randy was my best friend. For him to up and quit like that doesn’t make sense.”
Catherine Eaves discussed other circumstances within the Sheriff’s Office where the department handled them with a similar disregard for the emotions and sensitive circumstances involved. Catherine shared many of those details with The Golden Hammer, although this newspaper believes that the main point that she made was that the Sheriff’s Office needs a much better protocol to handle circumstances where law enforcement officers and the Sheriff’s Office support staff have threatened to commit suicide. Perhaps more importantly, the Sheriff’s Office then needs to ensure that they follow that protocol regardless of the position of the people who might be involved in those situations.
Clearly, Sheriff Henderson and his team need to work on restoring the feeling of family inside the Sheriff’s Office among the people who risk their lives every day to protect the people of Montgomery County.