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3rd jail search finds pills on inmate

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 9:47 p.m.

Convicted felon Fremont Mathias Jr.'s brief drug-smuggling operation didn't spur any changes to the way officers search inmates at the Allegheny County Courthouse.

But his attempt to bootleg drugs into the jail reminded authorities that thorough searches could save lives.

Mathias, 33, of Monroeville tried to smuggle 42 pills into the jail on June 5, the day he was sent there for one to two years for fatally striking a motorcyclist along Hochberg Road in Monroeville on June 30, 2013.

Although Mathias got the drugs past sheriff's deputies at the courthouse by wedging them inside the tongue of his sneakers, he didn't get them through a more thorough search at the jail.

Where Mathias hid the contraband was “beyond the normal search” parameters at the courthouse and “extremely hard to find,” said Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen. Searches at the courthouse generally consist of a pat-down and a pocket search, Mullen said.

“The searches are important so they don't smuggle something into the jail,” Mullen said, “whether it's drugs, a handcuff key, a razor blade or something else that could be used against a deputy or a guard.”

Even at the jail, where guards perform body cavity searches, they didn't find the pills until the third try, officials said.

“Our system at the jail worked as it is supposed to in identifying possible contraband,” said Warden Orlando Harper. “Like other policies and procedures, that system is constantly evaluated to determine whether improvements can be made.”

Chuck Mandarino, president of the Allegheny County Independent Prison Employees Union, could not be reached for comment.

Mathias was charged with six counts of possessing a controlled substance and sent back to jail.

Common Pleas Judge Philip Ignelzi this week denied a prosecutor's motion for a lengthier sentence on the homicide by vehicle conviction in light of Mathias' new charges.

Mathias' lawyer declined comment. His wife, Heather Mathias, 32, who was sentenced to one year of probation for pleading guilty to hindering her husband's apprehension, could not be reached.

Although Mullen determined that his deputies did nothing wrong concerning Mathias, he said he retrained employees and reinforced his department's policy of when and how to search inmates.

Now, Mullen said, deputies search inmates each time they're brought to and from the jail and courthouse. They check pockets, waistbands and socks, he said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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