Cairo city attorney dies of heart attack

Friday, March 10, 2006
Cairo, Ill. city attorney Michael O'Shea, shown here discussing the Dimetruis Flowers jail death case at a community meeting in January, died Wednesday from a heart attack. (Don Frazier)

Michael O'Shea was also a former state's attorney for Alexander County.

CAIRO, Ill. -- Former Alexander County state's attorney and current Cairo city attorney Michael P. O'Shea died suddenly Wednesday morning at age 54.

O'Shea, who received his law degree from St. Louis University, grew up in this town at the Southern tip of Illinois. He was remembered Thursday as a smart, tough attorney who fought vigorously for his clients' interests.

Former Cairo Mayor James Wilson grew up with O'Shea and remembered him as a "very exuberant person."

Wilson said O'Shea was a gifted trial lawyer who would defend his clients to the hilt, so much so that he would aggravate prosecutors and judges.

"He would either get you off or get you the electric chair," Wilson said.

O'Shea spent most of his life in private practice but won a single four-year term as Alexander County state's attorney in 1980. He returned to the public arena last year when he was named Cairo city attorney by Mayor Paul Farris.

Recent tensions between Farris and the city council found O'Shea firmly on the side of the mayor, often providing advice during meetings and verbally sparring with council members.

Farris will hold a news conference this morning to announce a replacement for O'Shea as city attorney for Cairo.

O'Shea survived throat cancer about 15 years ago, friends said. He didn't complain and didn't feel sorry for himself, Wilson said.

"He wasn't the type who wanted any pity."

Other members of the legal community in Cairo were stunned by O'Shea's death.

"We are all shocked and saddened," said James Flummer, president of the Alexander-Pulaski Counties Bar Association.

"Mr. O'Shea's service will be greatly missed," added Jeff Farris, the current state's attorney for Alexander County.

O'Shea is survived by two sons, Ryan O'Shea of Cairo and Todd O'Shea of Carbondale, Ill. He was cremated. A graveside service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Cemetery in Villa Ridge, Ill.

A memorial service will be held in the Alexander County courthouse to commemorate O'Shea's life and legal work, Flummer said. The memorial service, which will be held either late this year or early in 2007, will include the filing of a court case so the presentation in his honor will become a permanent part of the Alexander County court records, Flummer said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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