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Steve Cassada, sheriff’s lieutenant, dies unexpectedly

South Boston News
Steve Cassada / January 06, 2013
Halifax County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Steve M. Cassada — a department leader and friend, confidante and mentor of law enforcement personnel for more than three decades — died unexpectedly Saturday night while dining out with family members. He was 59.

Cassada was enjoying a night out with his wife, Vicky, his sister and brother-in-law at Perky’s Restaurant in Altavista when he lost consciousness during his meal, said Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark. Rescue personnel who rushed to the scene were unable to revive him. Cassada died about 9:30 p.m. at the popular Campbell County restaurant.

The family believes he may have suffered a heart attack, but the exact cause of death is not known, said Clark. “We really don’t know what happened,” he said.

Clark said Cassada “had been a little under the weather this week with flu-like conditions” but otherwise had appeared to be in good health. “I texted him yesterday [Saturday] and asked him if he was feeling better and he said he was,” said the sheriff.

Cassada’s death has left members of the Sheriff’s Office with “heavy hearts” over the loss of a friend and a calming presence within the department, said his boss.

“He always said he was everybody’s reverend,” recalled Clark. “I don’t know if you would call him Rev. Steve, but he was a marriage counselor and everything else” to fellow officers.

In a profession where stress can be daunting, Cassada was a valued mentor for fellow officers. “If you had a problem, you’d talk with Steve about it,” said Clark, who said a typical piece of advice that Cassada would dispense was “brother, don’t worry about it. Things are going to be okay.” Clark added: “If you went to talk to him about something bad, he’d try to keep you uplifted. And he never met a stranger.

“He would shake everybody’s hand and say ‘good morning, brother so-and-so’ and want to know how you were doing. He was truly an officer and a gentleman.”

Cassada, a 34-year veteran of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, was, along with Larry Fears, one of its senior-most officers, with a career that spanned the early days under the late Sheriff Jim Miller to his current job as a top administrator for Clark. In past administrations, he served variously as a lieutenant, captain and major. He was a major and chief deputy for former Sheriff Eugene Shortt. He was also a firearms instructor for local law enforcement departments.

He served under six sheriffs: Miller, Woody Bane, Shortt, Jeff Oakes, Stanley Noblin and Clark.

As a lieutenant for the Clark administration, Cassada was custodian of evidence, watched over the inventory of uniforms, equipment, and other items, and served as a liaison to the media. “He was the backbone of the administration,” said Clark.

Known for his dry wit, he often lent his own personal touch to department press releases detailing local crimes. A recent announcement began, “Nothing to report, folks,” and continued: “Headed down to Ocracoke Island for some adult beverages, fishing, and some adult beverages. Be back the first of October. Y'all behave yourselves until I get back.”

It was just this light-hearted touch and upbeat nature that made Cassada one of the department’s “beloved heroes,” in the words of a HCSO press release issued Sunday morning shortly after his death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family," stated Clark in the press release. "He was a friend to everyone he met and I cannot express how much we will miss him. He was an icon, role model, mentor and brother to everyone who worked with him at the Sheriff's Office. He was a great man and again, we will sorely miss him. We are grateful to all the citizens and fellow law enforcement officers who have expressed their sympathy and admiration for Lieutenant Cassada. May God bless his family."

Funeral arrangements were pending as of Sunday afternoon. In addition to his wife, Vicky Reeves Cassada, Cassada is survived by three adult children and a number of grandchildren. He was a lifelong resident of the Sinai community, having grown up on Sinai Road where he lived as an adult, said Clark.

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