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Officials recall trooper
Funeral today for Sgt. Phillippi

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

From Bulletin staff reports

Virginia State Police Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi died as the result of a medical condition, “and not due to any injuries sustained” in an accident early Saturday on Virginia 57, according to the Virginia State Police.

The Office of the Medical Examiner in Roanoke released its preliminary findings Monday. Due to health regulations, the medical examiner could not give more details on the type or severity of the illness, the state police said in a news release.

A funeral for Phillippi will be held at 11 a.m. today at McCabe Memorial Baptist Church in Martinsville. On Monday, colleagues remembered the sergeant, who was working an overnight supervisory shift when the accident occurred, as a courteous professional and good friend who personified what a law enforcement officer should be.

Former Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers, who retired last year, described Phillippi as “without a doubt, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Very humble and courteous, very professional in how he treated people.”

“I’ve never heard anybody say a single bad thing about him, and I’ve never heard him say a single bad thing about anybody,” Rogers added. “I think he’s an excellent example. He had all the qualities you look for in a good police officer.”

Lt. Col. Steve Eanes of the Henry County Sheriff’s Office said the local law enforcement community is mourning Phillippi’s loss.

“It’s a sad day in law enforcement here in Henry County,” Eanes said. “Sgt. Phillippi has been here a long time. I worked with him back in the mid-’80s on the road. He’s been a good trooper, a good gentleman and a good law enforcement officer. He will be sadly missed.”

Eanes said Phillippi, who spent most of his 42 years with the state police assigned to the office that covers Henry and Patrick counties and Martinsville, always was willing to help others.

“He always worked with everybody, trained with everybody, and if you had a question, he always took the time to stop and answer your question and explain things to you,” Eanes said. “He always encouraged everyone to do things in a safe manner, the way things are supposed to be done.”

Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady shared similar thoughts.

“We’re all saddened by the loss of a good man,” Cassady said. “He was always very supportive and helpful towards our entire department.”

Henry County Circuit Court Judge David V. Williams said he had known Phillippi since 1980.

“He was an outstanding law enforcement officer and a better guy,” Williams said. “He worked his way up through the ranks from trooper to sergeant. He was just a level-headed guy who knew what he was doing. Very professional and always a pleasure to work with. We’re all diminished to have him leave us.”

Dr. G.H. Vaughn, Senior Trooper Jeff Lovell and Master Trooper Dickie Byrd will officiate today at the funeral, according to an obituary from Norris Funeral Services. A graveside service will be Wednesday at Holston View Cemetery in Weber City.

Alternate routes urged to avoid funeral traffic

The Virginia State Police is advising motorists to avoid Liberty Street, Clearview Drive and Northside Drive in Martinsville this morning and early this afternoon as a funeral is held for state police Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi.

Phillippi, 65, died early Saturday after he was found inside a wrecked car on Virginia 57. A 42-year veteran of the state police, he was working an overnight supervisory shift at the time of the crash, police have said.

His cause of death has not been released.

The funeral is set for 11 a.m. today at McCabe Memorial Baptist Church in Martinsville. In a news release, state police spokesperson Corinne Geller advised that heavy traffic is likely as numerous law enforcement officials and others are expected to attend the service.


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