Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Ohio: Corrections officers placed on leave after Death Row inmate’s suicide

Two corrections officers on Death Row who were on duty when convicted killer Billy Slagle committed suicide early Sunday morning have been placed on administrative leave.

JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said today that officers Clay Putnam, 19, and John McCollister, 30, were placed on administrative leave yesterday with pay, standard policy in suspension cases. No other information was released about the department’s investigation.

McCollister has been with the agency since 2010 and Putnam became a corrections officer in January this year.

Slagle, 44, was found hanging in his cell on Death Row at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution about 5 a.m. Sunday 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 prior to his execution.

He was scheduled to be lethally injected for the 1987 murder of 40-year-old Mari Anne Pope, his neighbor in Cleveland. (The Columbus Dispatch Thursday August 8, 2013)

Death row suicides more common than you’d think

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It seems hard to fathom, how locked away, under close watch, death row inmates can commit suicides.

Today convicted murderer Billy Slagle, who was scheduled to be executed in three days for killing a Cleveland woman in 1987, was found hanged in his cell this morning.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said Slagle, 44, was found just after 5 a.m. and was pronounced dead about an hour later. The department is conducting a review of the apparent suicide and no further details are available, she said.

Across the country, at least three prisoners have killed themselves this year.

  • In April, San Quentin, Calif., death row inmate Justin Alan Helzer committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell, using a sheet attached to bars, according to CBS station KPIX. Helzer, 41, who was convicted of five murders in 2004, had tried to kill himself three years earlier by jabbing pens and pencils into his eye sockets. A prison official said Helzer had been watched intensively, but showed no signs that he was at risk of another suicide. 
  • In May, death row inmate Kenneth Justice killed himself at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, SC, accordingo to The Post-Courier. Justus, 47, who received the death penalty for stabbing another inmate 11 times with a homemade shank, was discovered covered in blood, with a wound in the crease of his elbow and a razor blade in his hand.
Death row suicide isn’t unheard of in Ohio, either.
Three years ago, Lawrence Reynolds Jr. of Cuyahoga Falls overdosed on pills in an attempt to escape execution. Reynolds stockpiled about 30 pills, investigators said.
Reynolds, who strangled his neighbor in 1994, said he did not want to give the state the satisfaction of killing him. He was executed 10 days later.

Obese former death rown inmate dies in Ohio -Ronald Post

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A convicted Ohio killer who sought to be spared the death penalty because he was obese died Thursday at a Columbus hospital of natural causes, an Ohio prison spokeswoman said.

Ronald Post, 53, who weighed more than 450 pounds, had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last January for the aggravated murder in 1983 of motel desk clerk Helen Vantz during a robbery.

The execution was commuted to life in prison by Ohio Governor John Kasich last December, following a recommendation by a parole board panel. The panel had found numerous omissions, missed opportunities and questionable decisions by defense attorneys.

Post had previously appealed unsuccessfully to stop his execution on grounds his extreme weight created a substantial risk that he would have a “torturous and lingering death” if executed by lethal injection.

Post died of undisclosed causes Thursday morning at Franklin Medical Center, Ricky Seyfang, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said on Friday. Seyfang said Post’s death was “medically expected.”

Post had been sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in 1985 for Vantz’s murder after entering a plea of no-contest.

Post’s lawyers argued that previous counsel should not have advised him to enter a no contest plea without assurances he would not face the death penalty.

Post told the clemency board he never confessed to killing Vantz, as prosecutors portrayed, and had only confessed to driving a man who he said committed the crime to the motel and waiting in a vehicle outside. (Reuters)