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Ohio: $275,000 Settlement in Jail Detainee’s Suicide

A $275,000 settlement was reached in a lawsuit over the March 5, 2015 suicide of a pretrial detainee at Ohio’s Fairfield County Jail. It was the second settlement related to a suicide at the facility since 2009.

Jesse Whitlatch, 32, was arrested on charges of breaking and entering and theft of a motor vehicle. Despite suffering from depression and drug abuse, he was placed in an isolation cell. Guard Josh McClellan and deputies Timothy Rider and Edward Curry failed to make required security checks.

“By not performing any security checks on Mr. Whitlatch for more than three hours, Defendants Rider, Curry, and McClellan allowed Mr. Whitlatch a sufficient amount of time and the opportunity to fashion a rope or use one already there to hang himself and carry out his suicide plan,” the complaint stated.

Rider, Curry and McClellan were reprimanded for failing to perform their duties. It was not Rider’s first sanction for such misconduct; the lawsuit referenced the December 2009 suicide of prisoner Chester Henson, 36, who was awaiting sentencing on a charge of attempted murder. Rider and three other jailers were reprimanded for failing to perform security checks in that case, too.

Whitlatch’s estate reached a settlement on October 2, 2017 that provided for $3,565.55 for funeral expenses plus $91,666.67 in attorney fees and $1,118.51 in costs; additionally, Whitlatch’s 16-year-old son received $178,649.27, which was put in an escrow account until he turns 25. The estate was represented by attorney Trevor J. Innocent.

“No amount of money can replace or truly compensate his family for the suffering endured by Jesse or for the loss of this young man,” Innocent said in a statement. “His teenage son, mother, and other family members will miss him at many life events that have not yet arrived such as graduation, marriage, etc.” See: Estate of Jesse A. Whitlatch, Probate Court of Fairfield County (OH), Case No. 20160235. 

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Related legal case

Estate of Jesse A. Whitlatch