More than anyone Ron Wyatt had ever met, Rick Qualls had what Wyatt called an “investigative drive.”
“We would joke and say he would hide in a trash can on Christmas Eve if that’s what it took to get someone,” said Wyatt, director of training at the Frankin County Regional Jail and formerly Qualls’ supervisor at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
Qualls, who passed away over the weekend after battling cancer, worked as a detective at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office from 2013 to 2016. Wyatt said he had first heard of Qualls’ diagnosis about a month before his passing.
“He’s going to be missed,” Wyatt said. “They just don’t make them like that anymore. It’s quite a shock to everybody. He was always so physically fit — working out basically every day, sometimes even more.”
Both Wyatt and former Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton noted Qualls’ dedication to drug investigations as a hallmark of his 31-year career in law enforcement.
“He was very, very passionate about his job,” Melton said. “He wanted to get the drugs and the thugs off the streets of Franklin County, and he was significant in doing that. He was very passionate about getting drugs off our streets and keeping our children as safe as possible.”
Qualls resigned from the Sheriff’s Office in early 2016 in the midst of a controversy. All five Franklin County judges said that Qualls had lost his credibility because he was found to have secretly recorded a conversation with Judge Kathy Mangeot.
At the time, Qualls defended his actions and said that he would have been more than happy to apologize if that would have helped his case.
“The only person in Frankfort that I’ve ever seen not get due process is me,” Qualls told The State Journal. “I did not deserve what happened … . What I am guilty of at best is ‘contempt of judge.’”
Qualls told The State Journal that he was the complaining witness in 131 drug cases from January 2013 to January 2016. He also was a member of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration task force from 2004 to 2012 while he was with the Versailles Police Department.
Wyatt added that he believed Qualls began his law enforcement career as a dispatcher in Fayette County, where he lived. Wyatt also worked alongside Qualls in Woodford County as well as Franklin County.
“We worked together in Woodford County on a drug investigation that lasted about nine months, so we spent a lot of time in a car together,” Wyatt said. “Doing that, you get to know a lot about each other … . He was the most motivated investigator I’ve ever known. He could also really remember people, cars, different streets. Things like that are very important in that kind of work.”
Wyatt added that Qualls was one of a kind and an “old school” officer.
Qualls told The State Journal in 2016 that he was known as a “hard-charging, passionate and perhaps overzealous” detective.
In that interview, which Melton confirmed, Qualls attributed that zeal to watching a close family member deal with drug addiction.
“I think that passion arose from what he went through on a personal level,” Melton said. “He knew what families were going through in terms of people struggling with addiction.”
Melton added that Qualls had both a daughter and a grandson.
“I think he loved life,” Melton said. “He loved his family and he worked hard and did everything he could do to be a great provider to his family. I know personally that he loved his family.”
Sheriff Chris Quire, who became sheriff after winning the 2018 election, sent condolences to those who knew Qualls.
"We appreciate his service and our thoughts and prayers will be with his family and friends," Quire said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.