Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Two hangings in less than three weeks at the Georgetown County Detention Center have many asking the question “what is going on at the jail?”
Sheriff Lane Cribb — who oversees the jail — admits having two suicides in such a short amount of time “is a lot.”
Georgetown County Coroner Kenny Johnson confirmed Monday an inmate at the Highway 51 jail died of self-inflicted injuries over the weekend.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating but foul play is not currently suspected in the death of 40-year-old Craig Lambert.
As reported on the Georgetown Times Web site Saturday, correctional officers responded to Lambert’s cell at about noon that day and found him unresponsive.
According to jail records, Lambert had been in jail since July 8 on burglary and other charges.
Johnson said an autopsy which was conducted Sunday confirmed Lambert died from “ligature hanging.” A sheet was used, an incident report states.
Lambert, according to the report, did have a cell mate — 29-year-old Joshua Booth.
He told deputies he and Lambert were talking when he drifted off to sleep.
“He stated that he woke up when he heard the lunch trays coming into the block. That is when he saw Mr. Lambert hanging from the hooks near the door that they usually hang towels from,” the report states. “Mr. Booth stated that he began yelling and he grabbed Mr. Lambert’s body and began lifting him up.”
A guard then made it to the cell and cut the sheet from Lambert’s body.
On June 26, Samuel Arthur Yenawine, age 38, was found dead at the jail.
Authorities say he also hung himself.
He was a suspect in a federal murder-for-hire plot targeting a Mount Pleasant woman.
Yenawine’s attorney, Bill Butler of Kentucky, told The Post and Courier he was demanding a full accounting of Yenawine’s death, and said he plans to hire a pathologist to review the autopsy findings.
He said Yenawine had served time in jail and prison before, but he always had been stoic, never suicidal.
“I’ve known Sam for a dozen years, have represented him for a dozen years,” Butler said. “He has been held in solitary confinement and had lots of things done to him before, and he has survived it all.”
Butler said he received an anonymous phone call the week before Yenawine’s death informing him Yenawine had been mistreated in the jail after a cigarette was found in his cell.
“I don’t know that mistreatment had anything to do with this, but I’m going to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Cribb denied the allegations, saying Yenawine was never mistreated at the jail.
Sheriff: Procedures followed
SLED spokesman Thom Berry said Tuesday the investigation into both incidents is continuing.
When asked if the jail itself is under investigation, Berry responded “I can only say the investigation is continuing.”
He said “it’s impossible” to know how long the investigations will take to complete.
Cribb said he expects the investigation will show no wrongdoing or negligence by the jail staff.
The sheriff disputes a sentence in the incident report written by one of the deputies. The report states “it appeared Lambert had been deceased for approximately 30 minutes.”
Cribb said the staff of the jail follows guidelines set by the South Carolina Department of Corrections which means all inmates are checked by detention center officers every half hour or less.
“He couldn’t have been dead 30 minutes,” Cribb said. “I don’t believe that.”
When asked about surveillance cameras, Cribb said privacy rules prohibit the cameras from filming individual cells.
“The cameras do not see inside the cells,” Cribb said.
Cribb said if someone is determined to commit suicide, there is no way to stop them “unless you sit there and look at them 24/7.”
He said if an inmate expresses suicidal tendencies, they are moved out of general population and into a cell area where they can always be seen by the guards. He said neither Yenawine nor Lambert gave jail staff an indication they were having suicidal thoughts.
By Scott Harper