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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
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Sister Says Hanged Inmate Was Strangled

(CN) - A man awaiting trial found dead in his jail cell with a sheet around his neck did not kill himself but was strangled, and surveillance video is missing, his sister claims in court.

Zachary Goldson, a pretrial detainee inmate in the Brown County, Ohio jail, had been in pain after swallowing a toothbrush and other items on Oct. 4, 2013, according to a lawsuit filed by Ashley Bard, Goldson's sister.

Though he was taken to the Southwest Regional Medical Center in Georgetown, Ohio at about 1:14 p.m., 24-year-old Goldson was taken back to the jail about 40 minutes later, according to the complaint.

"There is no explanation why Mr. Goldson was left to suffer his pain for nine hours before finally being transported for medical care" around 11 p.m., the complaint states. Goldson was allegedly examined again and released around 2:20 a.m. that night.

"Upon exiting the medical center, Mr. Goldson engaged in a physical altercation with Deputy [Travis] Justice," according to the complaint. "Mr. Goldson was quickly subdued by Deputy Justice and others present. During this event, a 911 call was made describing the altercation and various law enforcement personnel respond to the call." Justice is not a party to the lawsuit.

Goldson's sister says he was "immediately handcuffed but while still on the ground, defendant [Deputy Sheriff Ryan] Wedmore leaned down to Mr. Goldson's ear and screamed 'What the fuck is wrong with you, you stupid motherfucker.' Defendant Wedmore continued his barrage of insults by further stating 'Hope you like prison, bitch' and 'I'd like to break your fucking neck right now,'" the lawsuit states.

The complaint says Goldson was picked up by his wrists and he struggled in pain. It apparently refers to video footage based on the statement that taunting "can be heard" during the incident. "That motherfucker's getting a welcoming party when we get to the jail," one of the officers can allegedly be heard saying.

When Goldson arrived back at the jail 10 minutes after his release from the hospital, Cpl. Jason Huff pulled him out of the cruiser, causing him to "fall to the pavement on his back and head, with hands cuffed behind his back," according to the complaint.

After Goldson re-entered his cell a minute later in handcuffs, a waist restraint and ankle restraints, officers threw Goldson's shoes, blanket and other items into the hall, his sister says.

Officer Zane Schadle then told Goldson that he would use a stun gun if Goldson got up, according to the lawsuit, before Goldson was left alone in his cell at about 2:40 a.m.

"Surveillance video reveals that none of the sheriff's personnel checked on Mr. Goldson periodically during the time from 2:30 a.m. until 2:58 a.m.," Bard claims. Plus, there are "numerous missing video times without explanation," her complaint states.

Lt. Larry Meyer reported that Goldson was hanged by 2:46 a.m., according to the lawsuit. Yet minutes later, paramedics found Goldson "on the ground handcuffed, with a sheet tied around his neck," when they arrived around 3:11 a.m., the complaint states.

After further investigation, a coroner concluded on Nov. 30, 2013, that "Goldson's death was a homicide by strangulation and not a suicide," Bard's lawsuit says.

Bard sued Brown County, its sheriff and eight officers, including Wedmore, Huff, Schadle and Meyer, in Southern Ohio Federal Court on Monday.

Bard's complaint alleges civil rights violations, negligence, assault and battery, wrongful death, spoilage of evidence and emotional distress. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial. Bard is represented by John Helbling in Cincinnati.

The defendants have yet to return a request for comment.

After a grand jury cleared the deputies of criminal charges last December, Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger said he wants the coroner investigated for implying to "the media that the 'video' was erased and the sprinkler head [in the cell] was removed and destroyed," when they were actually taken by investigators, according to a press release.

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