Prosecutor Brent Yager was found unresponsive in his home late Tuesday night and later pronounced dead of apparent natural causes. He had been battling illness for several months, yet had been working three days a week as recently as Monday.
“I spent my whole legal life with him,” said David Stamolis, an assistant prosecutor who worked with Yager for almost nine years.
“He had a way of connecting with a jury ... in the toughest and tightest of cases. He was a blue collar, regular guy. He had a good feel for people, empathizing with victims. He could always bring that case home in an appropriate way.”
The Marion County Sheriff's Office received a 9-1-1 call just before 10 p.m. about an unresponsive male in a residence in Caledonia, about 10 miles northeast of Marion.
Emergency crews responded and tried to revive Yager, who was taken to OhioHealth Marion General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Stamolis said Yager's health issues appeared to be improving. "His passing was a shock to all of us."
Yager, 60, was in his third term as county prosecutor. He was assistant prosecutor in Morrow County before being elected to the job in Marion in 2008.
A Republican, Yager was an avid golf and sports fan, following Cleveland's teams. He also played in golf outings and an occasional pick-up basketball game.
He was known for taking a tough, but fair, stance on Marion County’s drug offenders and fought to demolish blighted homes.
Sheriff Tim Bailey recalled run-ins with the prosecutor in cases where the sheriff wanted to move quicker or more aggressively and Yager had to reign him in, noting that "clear-convincing evidence" was needed to proceed.
“We have always had a difference of opinion on certain cases,” Bailey said. “But I could always call up to his office and he would say, immediately, ‘Come on down and let's talk.’”
Earlier this year, Yager and his wife, Corrine, were about to take a vacation, when he fell ill.
“He had all the health problems and never got to the vacation,” said Ken Stiverson, a Marion County commissioner.
“He was a very caring, gentle man that everybody liked. He had a lot of people that respected him,” Stiverson said. “He was a good guy who served the public well.”
While the death is considered to be related to medical complications, according to the sheriff's office, the Ohio Attorney General's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation is assisting. An autopsy is being conducted by the Franklin County Coroner's Office.
“We just want to make sure there was nothing untowards,” Bailey said. “I just want to take a step back and make sure.”
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