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Text messages call King claims into question

Terry King

ALPENA — Text messages provided to The News on Wednesday appear to show former Alpena County undersheriff Terry King telling the husband of a woman under police investigation that his wife shouldn’t take a lie-detector test, calling into question King’s public assertion that he had never done so.

“I have no comment,” King told The News on Wednesday. “However, I will stick to my previous word that I have done nothing wrong.”

King resigned last summer under the threat of termination by Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski. In a letter to King, which the sheriff made public, Kieliszewski said King had been improperly involved with the Alpena Police Department’s investigation into an alleged gunman at Ella White School in March 2018.

Alpena police wanted to polygraph Beth Watkins, the teacher who had reported seeing a gunman. King is accused of telling the teacher’s husband, Eric Watkins, to tell Beth Watkins not to take the lie-detector test.

In his own letter to the public released shortly after Kieliszewski’s, King flatly denied that accusation.

“Let me be clear,” King wrote, “at no point have I ever told anyone under investigation not to participate in a polygraph. In fact, the suspect’s husband has stated on multiple occasions that no ‘polygraph’ text messages ever took place.”

Text messages provided to The News on Wednesday appear to dispute that claim.

In a thread of messages with Eric Watkins, a friend of King’s, Watkins tells King that police wanted his wife to take a polygraph to rule out that she had made up the event.

“Don’t let her do it,” King texted back on his county-issued cell phone.

King is now challenging Kieliszewski in the August primary for the Republican nomination for sheriff. He also is suing the sheriff, claiming he was wrongly ousted for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing by others in the county.

The texts were obtained through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act by former Alpena County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bob LaBarge, who provided them to The News and other media.

Later in the text thread, Eric Watkins kept King abreast about the ongoing city police investigation involving his wife, including who detectives were interviewing. He also told King that Kieliszewski had interviewed Beth Watkins’ nail technician during the sheriff’s internal investigation into King’s involvement with APD’s investigation.

“Beth’s nail lady Tonia just just told Beth that the sheriff called her cell phone a week or so back right after Beth got her nails done and asked her if Beth said anything to her about you advising her to not get a polygraph,” the text said. “The nail lady said she knew nothing about a polygraph at all because Beth didn’t discuss anything with her.”

King seemed surprised that Kieliszewski was asking questions.

“The sheriff called this Tonia lady?” King texted Eric Watkins. “That I advised her not to take a polygraph? I’ll call in a bit, in a meeting.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

FOIA Text Messages by Justin Hinkley on Scribd

Redacted letter from Alpena… by Justin Hinkley on Scribd

Former Alpena County unders… by Justin Hinkley on Scribd

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