The sheriff of St Clair County was established in 1821 by then territorial
governor Lewis Cass. Henry Cottrell became the first sheriff of the
territory. Since then, 41 men have held the position of sheriff and scores of
other men and women as deputies and employees.
The first county jail was built in 1827 by St Clair resident James Fulton. The
jail was kept in St. Clair until 1871 when the county seat was changed to Port
Huron. In 2006, the new 200,000 sq foot plus Correctional facility opened,
housing both the adult and juvenile offenders.
Over the nearly 189 years of its existence, the men and women of the department
were involved in several noteworthy instances. Several are outlined below.
The Youngblood Shooting - 1934
In July of
1934, members of the office including then undersheriff William Cavanagh
responded to reports of a man with a gun in an establishment on the south side
of Port Huron. When they arrived, they witnessed a man with a gun sticking out
of his coat. Undersheriff Cavanagh approached and removed the gun; however the
subject produced another and shot the undersheriff. In the exchange of gunfire
that followed, five subjects were injured including the suspect who received
fatal wounds. The suspect turned out to be Herbert Youngblood, a known
accomplice of the notorious John Dillinger.
Smiths Creek Post Office Robbery - 1937
In November 1937, Frank Novak and Edward Schere are witnessed by an off duty
special deputy, peering out of the windows of the post office in Smiths Creek.
When they attempted to leave later in the day, they were met by heavily armed
deputies. The two retreated into the post office and later exchanged gunfire
with the deputies. After a five minute gunfight, the two suspects were found
Detroit Water Tunnel Explosion - 1971
On December 11, 1971, an explosion occurred while constructing the supply tunnel
for the Lake Huron Treatment Plant. The plant was to provide water to Detroit’s
northern suburbs. The tunnel, a 16 foot diameter structure was six miles long
and buried 230 feet below Lake Huron.
It appears that methane gas was released from the surrounding shale during
digging. The gas accumulated in unventilated portions of the tunnel and was
ignited causing an explosion. In total, 22 men lost their lives to the explosion
and several other were injured.
Two deputies were among the first to arrive and descended down to the injured
workers, soon to be followed by more deputies and other emergency workers. To
this day, this still ranks as one of Michigan’s deadliest industrial accidents.
Giuliani Family Murders - 1982
On April 7, 1982, the five members of the Richard Guiliani family were found
murdered in their Yale home. Within nine hours, Detectives had identified and
arrested James D. Porter, a 16 year old county resident, for the crimes. Porter
would be tried and found guilty of the murders and is still serving five life
The Ray Gleason Shooting - 1985
On January 7th, 1985, two men committed an armed robbery at a Fort Gratiot bank.
After exchanging their first vehicle for a Ford Bronco, they headed for
Interstate 94. Deputy Gleason spotted the Bronco and made a traffic stop on the
vehicle on I-94 near Range Rd. The suspects opened fire on the deputy’s vehicle,
with one round ricocheting through the window and striking Deputy Gleason in the
forehead. Deputy Gleason continued the pursuit eventually taking custody of the
two before going to the hospital. A .357 caliber round was later removed from
his sinus cavity. Ray goes onto finish his career becoming one of the most
respected deputies to serve in St. Clair County.
The Chief Hawks and Tim O'Boyle Shooting - 2008
On April 16th 2008, Capac police Chief Raymond Hawks was investigating a
reckless driving complaint. The suspect, Donald Burke, was known by the chief
and he requested assistance while making contact. When Deputy O’Boyle arrived in
the area, the suspect fired on the officers, striking the chief in the torso and
Deputy O’Boyle in the head.
Concerned citizens and a local tow truck driver braved the gunfire and removed
the chief to medical personnel. Deputy O’Boyle remained on scene, giving out
valuable information to responding officers. He was later taken to the hospital
for treatment. The suspect was found later hiding in a nearby vehicle. For his
courage, Deputy O’Boyle was awarded Officer of the Year 2009 by the Police
Officers Association of Michigan.