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.

Ohio killer Billy Slagle commits suicide in cell days before he was set to be executed

A KILLER facing execution on Wednesday has been found dead in his cell Sunday on Ohio’s death row in an apparent suicide.

Prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Billy Slagle, 44, was found dead in his cell about 5am local time Sunday at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution south of Columbus, Ohio. He was declared dead within the hour.

No other details were immediately provided.

Slagle was sentenced to die for fatally stabling neighbour Mari Anne Pope in 1987 during a Cleveland burglary while two young children were present.

In a rare move, the prosecutor in Cleveland asked the Ohio Parole Board to spare Slagle. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said jurors today, with the option of life without parole, would be unlikely to sentence Slagle to death.

The parole board and Governor John Kasich both rejected mercy for Slagle.

Last week, Slagle’s attorney argued that a jury never got the chance to hear the full details of his troubled childhood.

The attorneys, arguing for a new trial and to delay his execution, said that information met requirements for asking for a new trial, which normally must happen within four months of a conviction.

Slagle was “unavoidably prevented” from filing his request because his original attorneys didn’t develop and present the evidence, the filing said.

Mr McGinty and Slagle’s attorneys had cited his age – at 18, he was barely old enough for execution in Ohio – and his history of alcohol and drug addiction. (Associated Press)

OHIO: Ohio gov.: No clemency despite DA’s plea

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has rejected clemency for a condemned Cleveland killer despite a prosecutor’s rare plea to commute his sentence to life without parole.

Kasich announced his decision Wednesday not to grant mercy to death row inmate Billy Slagle in his neighbor’s 1987 stabbing death.

Attorneys for the 44-year-old Slagle had long argued he deserved clemency because he was just 18 at the time of the slaying and already a drug addict and alcoholic with a chaotic upbringing.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty had changed his office’s approach to capital punishment and says he doubts it could obtain a death sentence for Slagle under today’s laws.

Friends of victim Mari Anne Pope say sparing Slagle would have dishonored the jury’s sentence.

(source: Associated Press)

Castro accepts plea deal to avoid death penalty, prosecutors recommend sentence of life without parole

(CBS/AP) — Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade, has accepted a plea deal that will spare him from the death penalty.

Castro faced 977 charges including rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder stemming from the death of an unborn child of one of the victims. An amended indictment includes 937 charges, an attorney said.

The terms of the deal offered by prosecutors call for no death penalty with a recommended sentence of life without parole plus an additional 1,000 years, attorneys said in court. A judge must decide whether to accept the sentence.

Castro pleaded guilty to numerous charges including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping as the judge, Michael Russo, read through the indictment.

“Because of the plea deal, I will plead guilty,” Castro replied, as Russo asked how he would plead to an aggravated murder count.

Castro appeared in court wearing glasses and an orange prison jumpsuit, sitting up in his chair and looking behind him into the courtroom before the hearing. The 53-year-old spoke in court as he answered questions from the judge, saying that he understands he is waiving his right to a trial in the case.

Castro also said he understood the deal means he will never be released from prison.

“I knew I was going to get pretty much the book thrown at me,” Castro said. He said he was “fully aware” of the terms of the plea agreement and consented to it, adding, “There are some things I don’t understand…because of my sexual problem.”

Russo asked Castro whether he understood several of the charges against him included a “sexually violent predator” specification, a classification that mandates a sentence of life without parole on an aggravated murder charge.

“The violent part I don’t agree on, but yes,” Castro said.

Castro repeatedly said that he didn’t “care for the wording” of the sexually violent predator specification, but agreed to plead guilty to the charges nonetheless.

The deal also spares the victims in the case from testifying.

(Source: CBS News, July 26, 2013)