JACKSON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says a man scheduled for sentencing attempted to fake his own death.

Police strongly believe this is what motivated his actions Thursday.

According to Jackson County Sheriff Ross H. Mellinger, 911 authorities received a call around 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 2 that a man was potentially planning to jump from the Ritchie Bridge in Ravenswood. Multiple units from Jackson County, WV, and Meigs County, Ohio, responded.

When responders found the man’s car nearby and his cellphone on the ledge of the bridge, authorities learned that the man who had allegedly jumped was scheduled for sentencing tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 3, on a felony plea for failure to register as a sex offender.

Authorities went to his home nearby the bridge and found Jesse Wood, a convicted sex offender, hiding in a closet in his home. He was taken into custody and when asked why he faked his death, he allegedly said because he wanted people to believe that.

“I know he could watch the first responders there looking for his alleged body,” Mellinger said. “We have to believe wholeheartedly at this point this was directly related to the impending court date tomorrow and the disposition of that particular case.”

“We asked him shortly thereafter apprehending Mr. Wood straight-up ‘Why in the world he would want people to believe you would commit suicide and jumped off the bridge?’ and his only response was because I wanted them to believe that,” said Mellinger.

Jackson County Sheriff Mellinger says authorities believe Wood staged the incident in the middle of the night, parking his car near the bridge, and then walked home.

The sheriff says an acquaintance of Wood’s made the call to 911, and that Wood had written an email around 12:45 a.m. that was received and read shortly before 11 a.m.

Residents who live near Wood that 13 News spoke to said they could not believe it.

“Him doing something like that, you know, he’s a good guy, he’s too down to earth, I’ve never had no trouble with him, anything,” said Bobby Lester.

Mellinger says he is glad responders were able to apprehend Wood.

“Ultimately that’s the scary part here, you know. Even though he would have had a whole fresh, new playground to start his life over again, a leopard never loses his spots. This is still a convicted sex offender,” Mellinger said.

Mellinger says he is also grateful no first responders were hurt while searching the river for the alleged body.

Wood has been arrested for falsifying an emergency report and will remain in custody until his sentencing.