by Sheldon Ocker
Det. Lt. Richard Munsey could have been police chief of Bath Township. But all he wanted was to be a cop, a good cop, endlessly fascinated with solving crimes and catching bad guys.
“I turned down the chief’s job several times over the years because I liked running the detective bureau and being a detective,’’ Munsey said. ”I don’t have to worry about overtime, the tires on the cars or the rest of the stuff that the chief has to do.’’
In 51 years, he investigated 10 murders and countless occurrences of burglary, fraud, rape, robbery, theft, assault and drug trafficking, the gamut of a modern compilation of crime.
“I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of good cases,’’ Munsey said. ‘’I’ve had some wonderful experiences and a lot of sad ones. I’ve seen a lot of tragedy.’’
He retired from the Bath police department in December, taking with him a proclamation from township trustees thanking him for years of service to the community.
Munsey was named Bath Grange Citizen of the Year in 2005 and Top Cop by the Summit County prosecutor’s office five times. In 2022, he received the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys’ Association outstanding peace officer award.
“There are 88 counties in Ohio, so the prosecutor in each county nominates someone,’’ he said. “I feel very humble getting an award that represents the whole state. I’m just a guy from Bath Township.’’
After Munsey graduated from Revere High School in 1972, he searched for a college to study journalism. He landed on the University of Akron. The problem was UA did not have a journalism school, so Munsey enrolled in a criminal justice program.
That marked the first of 17.5 years as a part-time Akron U student. Along the way, he earned a two-year degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in technical education, a master’s degree and a law degree in 1992.
Munsey’s education continued at the FBI Academy for 11 weeks, instruction at Northwestern University’s school of police staffing and command, the Southern Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, and Harvard, where he took leadership classes.
Bath first hired Munsey as a dispatcher in 1971, and in 1975 the township made him a part-time officer. A year later he was full time.
Munsey’s most infamous case involved Jeffrey Dahmer, who committed the first of 17 gruesome murders in Bath before moving to Milwaukee, where he killed the other victims.
‘’I knew Dahmer as a Revere High School student,’’ Munsey said. “His father and stepmother’s home was burglarized. I solved the burglary, and it turned out to be a guy who became Jeffrey’s best friend.’’
Dahmer’s first murder, in 1978, went undetected. So did the next 16, until he was apprehended in Milwaukee in 1992, when Munsey traveled to Wisconsin to interview the killer.
“He reached out and shook my hand,’’ Munsey said. “Then he said, ‘If you ever see Al Smesko, I want you to promise that you’ll thank him for everything he did for me at Revere High.’’
Smesko was a long-time teacher and basketball coach at Revere. One day he counseled Dahmer, who was troubled by his parents’ recent divorce.
According to Munsey, Smesko told Dahmer that if he didn’t take sides, eventually he would have a relationship with both parents.
During a later interview, Dahmer asked Munsey if he had found Smesko, and if so, what had he said.
“Smesko said he couldn’t believe you remembered that conversation,’’ Munsey said.
Munsey hasn’t plotted out his retirement.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,’’ he said. “I hope in January and February I can sit on my couch and watch it snow. I have no certain plan. I just know after 51 years it was time to go.’’ ∞
Featured Photo: Lt. Richard Munsey