UPDATE: Sheriff Fridley remembers former Sheriff Kessler who died Wednesday

FAYETTEVILLE– Former Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler died from a sudden illness Wednesday night.

Kessler finished his term as Sheriff December of 2016. He was elected to the Fayette County Circuit Court where he had been serving the last 8 months.


It is with very heavy hearts that the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office reports the death of our beloved former Sheriff, Steven Wayne Kessler. Sheriff Kessler died last night after a sudden and unexpected illness.

Sheriff Kessler was a 1976 graduate of Mount Hope High School. He was an outstanding athlete in High School, and was named to both All-County and All-State Football teams. He also won the State Championship in the mile run.
Sheriff Kessler started his law enforcement career with the Mount Hope Police Department and graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy in 1980. He joined the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office in 1981.

Sheriff Kessler served with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office from 1980 until his retirement at the end of 2016, a total of 36 years. During his lengthy career as a Fayette County Deputy Sheriff he worked as an undercover drug investigator, making more arrests for drug violations than any other officer in the history of the Sheriff’s Office. He was a member of the original SWAT team for the Sheriff’s Office, served as a DARE instructor in the schools and worked all shifts in all areas of the County as both a Deputy Sheriff and as a Patrol Supervisor. He also worked as a Bailiff in the Circuit Court when needed.

Steve was assigned to the Detective Bureau of the Sheriff’s Office in 1994 and was later promoted to the position of Chief of Detectives. During his time serving as a detective, Steve was involved in the investigation of numerous major criminal cases, including the brutal murder of Cheryl Flippo at Babcock State Park by her husband. One case which always haunted Steve was the unsolved murder of Jonathan Skaggs, who was murdered in the Dempsey Branch area in 1999. Even after leaving the Detective Bureau, Steve never forgot this case and continued to pursue leads and to push for an indictment. His dogged pursuit of justice finally bore fruition when Alfred Clinton Toney was indicted for the murder of Jonathan Skaggs in 2016.

After leaving the Detective Bureau, Steve briefly served as the Detachment Commander of the Fayetteville Detachment before being named as the Chief Deputy by then-Sheriff William R. Laird, IV. He served as the Chief Deputy until 2009, when he took office as the elected Sheriff of Fayette County, a position he would hold for the next eight years until his retirement at the end of 2016.

During his tenure as the Sheriff of Fayette County Steve was known both for his compassion for crime victims and the concerns of the citizens we serve as well as for his straightforward manner of speaking and getting things accomplished. When the devastating Detecho hit Fayette County and numerous citizens were suffering in the sweltering heat, it was Sheriff Steve Kessler who acted. There was no need to wait on a State or Federal declaration of a disaster or for politicians to look for photo ops as they tried to decide what to do. Sheriff Kessler called in several of his Deputies who owned pickup trucks and orchestrated the delivery of much-needed supplies of food and water to the far-flung areas of the County. Steve was an admirer of President Theodore Roosevelt, and often quoted Roosevelt’s thoughts on decision-making: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

When the floods of 2016 hit Rainelle and the Nallen area of Fayette County, it was Sheriff Steve Kessler who worked to get emergency shelters set up and citizens transported to these shelters from the hard-hit flood areas. He made national headlines following his response to reports of looters in the Nallen area when he released an official statement stating, “Looting will not be tolerated. If we catch you we will take you to jail. If the citizens catch you, you may not make it to jail.” Sheriff Kessler never failed to stand up for the citizens he was sworn to protect, and they loved him for it.

During his career with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Steve received numerous awards and commendations. He received an award from the Governor of West Virginia for “Outstanding Achievement in Homicide Investigation” and was named as the 2010 “Outstanding Law Enforcement Administrator” by Fayette County Memorial Lodge #118 of the Fraternal Order of Police. Steve served as both the President and the Secretary/Treasurer of the Fayette County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association at various times, and was responsible for organizing several fishing outings for under-privileged children in Fayette County.

Following his retirement from the Sheriff’s Office in 2016, Steve assumed the elected office of Fayette County Circuit Clerk. Up until the moment of his untimely death Steve Kessler was still serving the citizens of the County where he was raised that he loved so deeply.

Sheriff Steve Kessler was a Man’s Man. When he wasn’t working you could find him climbing mountains in search of trophy deer or fishing the lakes and rivers of West Virginia in search of huge bass. His best friend, former Fayette County Chief Deputy Mitch Canterbury, died a few years ago. We hope that Steve and Mitch are back together again fishing for the biggest bass in Heaven’s lakes.

Steve leaves behind his wife of more than 25 years, Regina, as well as his beloved daughters, Nicole, Jessi and Sarah, and his grandchildren, Maddox, Nora, Peyton and Emma. He was preceded in death by his parents.

“The loss of Steve Kessler is an unbelievable tragedy for the citizens of Fayette County,” said Sheriff Mike Fridley. “Steve literally spent his entire adult life in public service to the citizens of the County. The current and former Deputy Sheriffs who worked with him are devastated at this tragic loss.”

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