Zanesville City Jail’s first Jail Administrator dies after 25 years of service


By Jessica Johnston, Assistant News Director

The City of Zanesville is mourning the loss of long-time employee Michelle Duke, who died unexpectedly Monday.

Duke began her career with the Zanesville City Jail as a corrections officer 25 years ago in 1993. In July 2014, she became the first Jail Administrator for the Zanesville City Jail, the position she held until the end of her career.

Prior to 2014, a captain from the police department would be assigned to the jail.

“She was a great person,” Zanesville City Mayor Jeff Tilton said. “We used to have a captain who took care of the jail and we decided that it would be better served by having a jail administrator, so that we didn’t have a police officer off the street, put them on the street and she took the position and ran with it and did a great job.”

Tilton and Public Safety Director Keane Toney said Duke was a big historian and extremely knowledgeable when it came to the Zanesville Police Department.

Toney recalled a situation when Zanesville Police Chief Tony Coury asked Duke what number he was on all of the chief badges, and without hesitation, Duke responded, “22.”

“Michelle, she embodied knowledge of her job and love for her job, both,” Toney said. “She was that involved and that knowledgeable, and she was that way about her job, from jail inspections to the Ohio Revised Code, when it comes to inmate care, she was that good.”

Lining Duke’s office are artifacts from old equipment to photos, anything documenting older days at ZPD, Tilton said.

“The amazing thing about Michelle is she was all about public safety,” Tilton said. “If you go down to her office, she has such an amazing collection of the Zanesville Police Department and everything they have, I mean pictures guns … I’d be amazed at how much she has in her office.”

According to Duke’s obituary from Thorn-Black Funeral Homes, Inc., she died Monday morning at Genesis Hospital following complications from surgery.

During a Zanesville City Council meeting Monday night, Toney said her death was very unexpected and it will be a difficult task to fill her position.

“I have never in my career seen anyone know corrections like Michelle Duke,” Toney said. “So, that’s why it’s going to be so hard to find someone to pick up from this point and go forward. We will move forward, but not without recognizing the foundation that she built and the standard that she established.”

In a media release Monday, Coury asked the community to keep Duke’s family in their prayers during the difficult time.

Thorn-Black Funeral Home in Cambridge is caring for Duke and her family through this process. Her visitation will be held Thursday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The funeral service will follow at 1 p.m.