Sheriff at troubled Ohio county jail responds to allegations

The sheriff overseeing a small Ohio county jail has told a local newspaper he looks forward to releasing facts and answering questions about deaths and injuries at the jail once investigations are completed

CLEVELAND -- The sheriff who oversees a small Ohio county jail that has been plagued with deaths and injuries over the last year said Thursday he’ll share information about the facility once an internal investigation is complete.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that family members of those who have died or were hurt at the Gallia County Jail near the southern tip of Ohio have questions and concerns about what happened to their loved ones.

Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin did not respond to numerous interview requests for the story.

Champlin said it would be inappropriate to comment about investigations being conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, in a story published online Wednesday by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.

“I look forward to the completion of this investigation so the facts can be known and we can continue this dialogue in an informed and responsible manner,” Champlin told The Daily Tribune. “Many of the ‘facts’ that have been reported are not based in truth, but mere speculation, and this type of conversation is not beneficial.”

The AP was referred Thursday by someone in Champlin’s office to the sheriff’s comments in The Daily Tribune. A message was left with Champlin.

Family members have said they want answers about what happened to their loved ones inside the overcrowded jail in Gallipolis where four male inmates overpowered two female corrections officers and escaped in late September. All four were caught the next day in North Carolina.

An inmate named Joshua Bessey said he was pushed over by a sheriff’s deputy at the jail while strapped to a restraint chair in September. Bessey, 31, spent four days in a coma at a Columbus hospital and continues to suffer from problems caused by a skull fracture and bleeding on his brain.

The former partner of a 36-year-old man named Mark Simms is outraged that Simms wasn’t taken to a hospital after complaining to corrections officers about stomach pains two days before he collapsed and died at the jail last December.

Relatives want to know more about what happened to Lacey Wolford. The Sheriff’s Office has said the 35-year-old man died from a drug overdose at the jail in September.

Sherry Russell, the mother of an inmate who committed suicide in the jail in September and has become an advocate for change there, wonders how 27-year-old David “Tommy” Gibson could have killed himself in an isolation cell where he was supposed to be under near constant surveillance.

The AP reported after the escapes about continuing problems at the jail found by inspectors for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. An inspection report cited overcrowding, broken security cameras and dozens of other issues.