By Joe Bachman
A Wood County jail corrections officer was terminated following an early March suicide of an inmate under officer supervision.
Eric Casperson, 32, was found dead in his cell after hanging himself on Mar. 4.
Based on information obtained by the City Times via an open records request, Corrections Officer Amanda Miller failed to follow jail policy which prohibits inmates from hanging sheets or blankets from bars in their cells. According to the incident report, Miller testified Casperson tied a bed sheet to the bars of his cell for privacy when he wanted to use the toilet in his cell, but she then told him to remove the bed sheet.
Miller then walked away before confirming Casperson removed the sheet per her instruction, at approximately 1:42 AM.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Miller said, according to the report. She added nothing about Casperson’s behavior the led her, or any officers to believe he was suicidal.
Miller also failed to inform an officer working door control to watch Casperson’s cell. She told her superiors “it was not uncommon” for inmates to hang items in there cells, adding the policy was not strictly enforced.
Miller discovered Casperson hanging from the bed sheet at 2:24 AM. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and Casperson was pronounced dead by Wood County Coroner Dara Hamm.
Captain Theodore Ashbeck, Wood Co. jail administrator, later met with Wood Co. Sheriff Thomas Reicher to discuss the incident. Ashbeck’s report read in part, “[Miller’s] reason for her decision to violate policy was she didn’t think it was a big deal. I recommended that CO Miller’s employment with Wood County be terminated, and I was authorized to proceed.”
In copies of written communication between Ashbeck and Miller, Miller called the termination “a bit harsh”, saying she expected a suspension, but not to be fired.
“No one policy should be taken so lightly that violating [it] isn’t a big deal as the result of that violation could lead to injury or death,” Ashbeck wrote. “Policies are in place to help minimize that possibility.”