Sheriff Darr: 'Upon further reflection,' GBI will help investigate jail deaths

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 12, 2013 

With three deaths in the Muscogee County Jail since Oct. 24, Sheriff John Darr on Tuesday called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

“The GBI has agreed to assist with these investigations,” Darr said in a brief news conference in which he read from a prepared statement.

The sheriff said it was his decision to request the GBI join the investigation and it came after “further reflection and consideration.” Darr said he called GBI Director Vernon M. Keenan and the investigation began Tuesday.

The decision comes after inmate Issac Kindred, 57, died early Saturday morning in his fourth-floor cell. Kindred had been jailed since May on charges of stealing a lawnmower, according to testimony in a Recorders Court hearing. He was not given a bond because of his criminal history.

Jeffrey McKinney, in jail since Oct. 25 on charges of aggravated assault, burglary, cruelty to children third degree, peeping tom and stalking, has been charged with murder in Kindred’s death. McKinney, 25, faces a Municipal Court preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Autopsy results on Kindred, released Tuesday afternoon by Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan, showed the inmate died of manual strangulation and blunt impact injuries of the head. The death was ruled a homicide, Bryan said.

Kindred’s death came after the Oct. 29 death of Maurice Grier, 21, of Columbus and the Oct. 24 death of Lori Carroll, 46.

Grier fell ill on Oct. 28 after complaining to guards of a headache and shortness of breath, Bryan said. Grier was taken to the jail clinic and transported to the Midtown Medical Center after being unresponsive. He was placed on life support at the hospital and died the next day, Bryan said.

Carroll had broken ribs, a punctured lung and wounds to her face. No cause has been given in her death. Bryan said it is possible that all of Carroll’s injuries could have been self inflicted. Darr said at the time he did not believe it was suicide. Carroll was being held on a disorderly conduct while intoxicated charge.

GBI Agent Wayne Smith, who is charge of the Columbus office, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

On Oct. 30, Darr said that no outside help was needed to investigate the deaths of Carroll and Grier. At the time, the sheriff said he was confident in the internal investigation.

“We haven’t reached the point where we need any outside assistance, yet,” Darr said Oct. 30. “I feel very confident in the people who are doing the investigation right. There are a lot of people who have a lot of years of experience. After we’ve done that, if we feel like we need an outside agency to come in, we’re going to do that.”

On Tuesday when he did ask for the GBI’s help, Darr said he wanted to assure the citizens he was taking the concerns seriously.

“… The consultation of the GBI will ensure a fair and mutually beneficial outcome,” Darr said.

He declined to elaborate on why the GBI was called in at this point.

Darr said he will not release additional information until the investigations are complete.

“I can assure you that the investigations will not be rushed in order to appease the media, special interest groups or those looking to make political hay from these incidents,” Darr said.

The Muscogee County Jail, which is operated by the sheriff’s office, has 1,100 inmates. There are an average of 40 security staff per 12-hour shift, according to Maj. Randy Robertson.

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