COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Two corrections officers working when a death row inmate apparently hanged himself have been put on paid administrative leave as the Ohio prisons department investigates what happened.
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Friday the officers were placed on leave in accordance with standard practice in such cases. One officer is 30 and joined the agency in September 2010. The other is 19 and has been a corrections officer since January.
They were working at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution last weekend when 44-year-old Billy Slagle was found hanging in his cell. Slagle died Sunday, days before his execution date and hours before officers were to begin monitoring him around the clock.
Officers at the prison are supposed to check on inmates every 30 minutes. Smith wouldn’t comment further on the investigation.
A coroner confirmed that preliminary autopsy results were consistent with suicide by hanging, but prison officials haven’t said how Slagle hanged himself.
Public defender Vicki Werneke has said Slagle didn’t know his legal team had new information about his case and planned to ask for an execution delay.
The new information was brought to light by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who told the defense team about a forgotten plea deal in which a former prosecutor offered Slagle a 30-year sentence if he pleaded guilty.
McGinty had earlier asked the Ohio Parole Board to spare Slagle, saying that jurors today, with the option of life without parole, would be unlikely to sentence Slagle to death.
The board and Gov. John Kasich rejected mercy for Slagle.
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