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Texts appear to validate sheriff’s claim about former undersheriff

Submitted by on February 27, 2020 – 12:56 amNo Comment

A series of texts between former Alpena County Undersheriff Terry King and a friend appear to corroborate one of the allegations that led to King’s dismissal.

When Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski gave King an ultimatum to resign or be terminated on June 24, 2019, he handed King a letter that detailed six incidents over an approximate 15-month period that led to his decision.

One of the more serious accusations was that King interfered in an ongoing police investigation by telling a friend not to allow his wife to take a polygraph test – a claim King continues to deny. The friend, Eric Watkins, is the husband of former Ella White Elementary School teacher Beth Watkins. Beth claimed an armed gunman attempted to enter the school on March 1, 2018. Police never developed a suspect and five days later Beth was asked to take a polygraph but declined.

In a series of texts obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Eric Watkins texted King to inform him city police had requested a polygraph for his wife. “Don’t let her do it,” King texted at one point, and “And I don’t think they can court order her.”

The following day, Erik texted King a couple of letters he sent to city police about the investigation and the polygraph request. King responded by texting “Sweet, complete (expletive), and they can’t make you (court ordered) take the test either, and you didn’t need to respond…”

King told True North Radio Network Wednesday, that he had no comment on the text messages. “I’m going to stick to my word that I didn’t do anything wrong,” he added.

Prosecutor Ed Black said he reviewed the case and decided not to file charges against King. “I don’t believe anything rose to the level of criminal activity,” Black said.

In the meantime, King has filed a civil lawsuit against his former boss and the department, claiming he was wrongfully terminated. He is also running against Kieliszewski to become the next sheriff of Alpena County.

The text messages from King were sent from his county-issued work cell phone. They were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Bob LaBarge, a former lieutenant at the sheriff’s office.

The text messages between Watkins and King can be viewed below.