Worthington News

Worthington Division of Police

Retiring lieutenant fondly recalls career, 'chicken murders'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Michael Dougherty was midway through telling the famous "chicken murders" story when he stops to ask the reporter a question.

"You're not going to print any of this, are you?"

The 40-year veteran of the Worthington Division of Police who retired last month learned early in his career that the answer to that question is almost always yes.

Dougherty, a support-services lieutenant in charge of internal affairs, training, victim witness and media, has ruffled a few feathers with his candor and humor over the years, as his entertaining and occasionally outrageous comments have appeared in newspapers and on local television news more often than some of his superiors might have want-ed.

He would not have done it any other way, he said.

Though some police officers avoid the media, Dougherty always welcomed interviews and built good relationships with reporters.

"If you make them mad, they're not going to go away," he said. "And what do we have to hide? We're not the secret police."

Dougherty joined the Worthington police in July 1973, after working for the U.S. Postal Service for a year. He worked the desk at the Worthington post office, where he met some local officers, and decided he might like to become one of them.

"I had to find a safer job," he said.

The Columbus West Side native and Navy veteran worked his way up the ranks, spending 16 years as a sergeant and the past 11 as one of two lieutenants on the force.

He worked for four chiefs and knew many outstanding officers over the years. Very little changed, either in the community or on the force, he said.

"All in all, this is a great community to work for," he said. "The people are wonderful."

The police always have been dedicated to serving the people, he said. If one calls the Worthington police, no matter what the concern, an officer will be at one's door in four to five minutes, he said.

His own dedication to that commitment was challenged a few years ago when he received a phone call on a Sunday afternoon. Three chickens had been killed in their coop behind a house on East New England Avenue, and the officer in charge wanted to know if they should send detectives to the scene.

The so-called "chicken murders" received national press attention, and Dougherty was taken to task by some for deciding not to pay detectives to come in on a Sunday and for some of his well-publicized comments about the situation.

"This was not a child that was murdered," he said. "It's chickens. It's food."

The case eventually was investigated by the police chief, who visited the scene. Dougherty went to the neighbor's house to, well, interview a Labradoodle that was accused of the "murders."

"I think the whole thing was as funny as could be," he said. "It is typical of the extremes we go to to make people happy."

He also recalls vividly the real murders he has helped investigate over 40 years, especially the Chase murders, which occurred a few weeks into Dougherty's career.

Teenager Clifford Chase murdered both of his parents and his brother at what has become known as the "Chase mansion" in Medick Estates.

"I thought, 'Wow, is this what my career is going to be like?'" he said.

Actually, the city has a murder every eight to 10 years, he said. Each of them has been unusual and, of course, memorable, he said.

Margo Davies killed her three young children, placed their bodies in garbage bags and scattered them across the countryside.

Loreen Smith allegedly killed her two young boys and placed their bodies in their beds. They were discovered on Christmas Day. Smith was found incompetent to stand trial, spent no time in jail and still lives in central Ohio, he said.

He also recalled the case of Eddie Montgomery, who was murdered in his Ville Charmante condo by a man he picked up in a bar. The man took Montgomery's Mercedes Benz and his white cockatoo and drove north toward Michigan.

He was captured after Worthington students on a bus headed to a school event remembered seeing the man on U.S. Route 23 and told police after they saw reports on the news.

Dougherty also was first on the scene after Thane Griffin was murdered at his front door on Franklin Court in 1995. Griffin was one of several victims of a spree of murders.

"He never knew what hit him," Dougherty said.

He only shot his gun once during his career, but that was enough, Dougherty said.

He recalled sitting outside a robbery in progress at Columbus Prescription Pharmacy in 1981. As he watched through a picture window, an unsuspecting fellow officer pulled up and approached the scene, thinking it was a false alarm.

What followed was a shoot-out, with one of the robbers exchanging fire with Dougherty before going back inside and taking hostage one of the female employees.

All three robbers were caught, and no one was injured.

On the less exciting side of his job, Dougherty has been active in the FOP and has negotiated contracts for several local police forces. He is proud that police in Worthington and in central Ohio in general are fairly paid and receive good benefits, he said.

He has been able to earn a good living and take care of his wife, Minh, whom he met while serving in Vietnam. They have been married 43 years and have two children.

His son, Michael, is a successful writer, producer and director of major motion pictures in Hollywood.

Daughter Lisa is a social worker in Denver and the mother of his grandson, Bryce Michael German, 2.

Dougherty plans to move to Florida, where he and his wife have owned a home for the past seven years.

"Being a police officer has been a good life and allowed me to support my family," he said. "I just enjoyed everything about it."

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