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Report: Guard falsified records in Death Row inmate's suicide

TNS Regional News • Sep 17, 2013 at 10:14 PM

A probationary corrections officer on duty on Aug. 4 when Death Row inmate Billy Slagle committed suicide falsified an electronic log to say he made rounds when he didn’t, a state inquiry found.

A report released Monday indicated that officer Clay Putnam, 19, didn’t make rounds at Chillicothe Correctional Institution as required and that both he and another officer, John McCollister, 30, may have falsified computer log records.

The investigative report also showed that 28 of 39 (72 percent) of the officers on duty that night in the prison — and all 6 officers on Death Row — were “relief” officers who don’t have the same level of training as the regular duty officers. Putnam was a probationary officer.

The review team also found that lighting in the cell areas is too low at night to adequately observe inmates. Lighting will be improved, officials said.

JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said no immediate action was taken today against Putnam and McCollister who were placed on administrative leave with pay two days after Slagle’s suicide on Aug. 4. However, the report said the officers will be referred to the agency’s chief inspector for “potential discipline/termination of employment.”

The findings against Putnam and McCollister were also sent to State Highway Patrol investigators who “do not intend to bring criminal charges” against them, the report said.

Vicki Werneke, one of Slagle’s federal public defender attorneys, said she had no comment at this point.

Slagle, 44, was found hanging in his cell on Death Row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution at 5:06 a.m. on Aug. 4 and died an hour later. Officers at the prison are supposed to make rounds of all cells every 30 minutes. His suicide came just hours before he was scheduled to go on around-the-clock watch beginning 72 hours before his execution. He was scheduled to be executed Aug. 7 for the 1987 murder of 40-year-old Mari Anne Pope, his neighbor in Cleveland. He stabbed Pope 17 times with scissors while she was babysitting two young children.

Smith said prisons Director Gary Mohr accepted recommendations made the review team, including providing additional in-service training for relief officers who fill in on Death Row and barring probationary officers from working on the unit. Mohr also directed prison unit managers to become more involved in “evaluations and assessments of Death Row inmates who have an execution date.”


By Alan Johnson - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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