Colleagues stunned by probation officer’s suicide

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Colleagues at the 27th District Court were stunned last week by the apparent Sept. 24 suicide of Robert Sampson, probation officer and workforce coordinator.

Officials reported the 60-year-old was found in Oscoda County with a self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound.

The veteran city probation officer, who also ran a drug counseling business, was charged with soliciting sex from an 18-year-old female probationer. He had been arraigned Tuesday in 23rd District Court in Taylor. Michigan State Police are handling the investigation. Sampson was employed part time – 24 hours a week — by the 27th District Court as a probation officer. He also ran the court’s alternative workforce, which allowed offenders to perform community service like trash pickup and park cleanup as an alternative to jail time.

According to 27th District Court Judge Randy Kalmbach, 60-year-old Sampson had spent 26 years at the court, the first 13 years as a volunteer, and the last 13 years as a part-time employee.

“Bob was a great employee and great person,” Kalmbach said. “I was the third judge he worked for here. He was a very proud man, and a great family man.”

Samson was married with four children: three sons and a daughter. He also had nine grandchildren, with one grandchild on the way.

According to colleagues, Sampson also helped people get their General Educational Development credentials and jobs. He also helped people find and use online programs that enabled people to earn their GED in just a few weeks, so that they could qualify for jobs.

“He helped a lot of people,” Kalmbach said. “He helped numerous people through the veteran organizations he belonged to get jobs.” Sampson was a Vietnam veteran.

“He was a great probation officer,” said court administrator Denise Thivierge. “He had a lot of compliments on him.” The court is currently served by two other probation officers.

“We were all caught surprised by his passing,” Thivierge said. “We will miss Bob. He kept the workforce going.”

Kalmbach started the workforce program 11 years ago. “(Sampson) improved the workforce in many ways. He got it going and it has been an excellent program.”