10/19/08 — Chief detective Raecher looks back on career

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Chief detective Raecher looks back on career

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 19, 2008 2:00 AM

Maj. George Raecher

Wayne County Sheriff's Office Maj. George Raecher, supervisor of investigations, the county drug squad and aggressive criminal enforcement team, has retired after a career spanning 20 years.

Raecher is moving into another public service job on a part-time basis, already stepping into a job this month in enforcement with the county Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

That quick transition prompted some questions from friends, the now-retired Sheriff's Office major said during an interview last week.

"People have said, 'Well, George, did you (at least) take a vacation?'" Raecher said with a chuckle at his home near Walnut Creek.

He did -- he and his wife, Jan, whom he married just six weeks after they met at the gates of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, went to Pigeon Forge for a week.

Now, he's training for his new job, which will involve working to ensure that things run smoothly at the county's ABC stores. The job he's taking is being vacated by another former Sheriff's Office major, Glenn Odom, who has moved to the county Magistrate's Office.

Raecher said he's preparing for a new job that will provide new challenges, but probably less excitement -- and 3 a.m. phone calls -- than his old position.

He said he expects to miss the feeling of being a criminal investigator.

"I'm going to miss the activity. I love the detective work -- I love being involved in those situations. I love fighting crime."

But there are things that he will not miss, he said.

A detective carries memories that don't fade away easily.

For Raecher, one such memory is the case of then 16-year-old Antonio Leonta McKinney, who was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in the July 30, 1999, murder of Peggy Lofton, 41, of Dudley.

That was one of the many mornings in his career, which included at least a decade in crime scene investigation, that Raecher took an early morning phone call. The call about Ms. Lofton came around 3 a.m., Raecher said.

"The Lofton case was a young man that broke into a mobile home in Dudley, shot the mother in the forehead, and killed the 22-month-old baby," Raecher said.

"I'll always live with that picture, of (infant Kelly Nicole) leaning against her momma's shoulder, and she had a pacifier and she was hanging on to the Pooh bear," Raecher said in recollection, clearly moved by the memory.

Raecher has three daughters who are all married, and one of his grandchildren got word of what had happened.

It was one of many times that Raecher struggled for a way to explain the behavior of others to the people he loves, he said.

The granddaughter asked, "'Poppa, why do people kill babies?' I said, 'I don't have an answer for that.' There's my grandchild, asking me why, and I say I don't know," Raecher said.

Dealing with scenes like that make the long hours hard sometimes, the retired Sheriff's Office major said.

"I get up, and get dressed and go do it," Raecher said, not long before a sentence in which he trailed off. "(The memories), I don't dwell on them, but you start thinking of some of the things that I did ...."

How does he deal with the memories when they do crop up?

"Do a lot of praying," Raecher said.

Raecher said he wouldn't define his career by his work in a particular type of crime, and added that he never reached a point where he wasn't willing to help with any aspect of an investigation, even if he wasn't the lead investigator.

"I'm a worker. I like to be a team player," Raecher said. "And sometimes, the sheriff (Carey Winders) would say 'You need to back off a little bit.' I would go with an officer today, if they wanted me to go and do an interview, I'd be up there helping them."

Raecher said much of the success he has enjoyed in law enforcement has come through good relationships with other officers.

"I have to brag on the ... deputies, and the Sheriff's Office personnel," Raecher said. "I'm proud of their accomplishments. They've got some great people in there right now."

Raecher said a few promotions and personnel acquisitions in particular, those of Chris Worth, Mike Cox and Jerry Maxwell, among others, have been instrumental in combating serious crime.

When asked about what 20 years of policing had taught him, the retired major said it's that you cannot identify a criminal by looking at him or her alone.

"You can't judge a person by looking at anybody," Raecher said. "I've seen some people (ask), 'Does a murderer have a certain look? Do people that rape children have a certain look?' No. You can't judge somebody by looking at them.

"I don't know how you characterize it, you talk to them, try to talk to them and ... figure out what's going through their head," Raecher said. "(The idea) that a certain group of people commits this certain type of crime -- I've not found that to be something that I can identify."