- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

VIENNA, Ill. (AP) - Services are set for a former southern Illinois prison warden who was running to succeed the longest-serving sheriff in Illinois history.

Authorities say Jay Merchant was found unresponsive Tuesday by a family member and was later pronounced dead at a Marion Hospital. His cause of death hasn’t been released.

Merchant was a former Vienna Correctional Center warden who ran unopposed as a Democrat in last week’s primary election.

He was to face Republican and part-time sheriff’s deputy Charles Harner in November in the race to succeed Elry Faulkner, who is retiring after 40 years as sheriff.

Democratic Party officials have until August to decide whether to replace Merchant on the November ballot.

Merchant’s services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Blue Funeral Home in Goreville.

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