Fayette guards' performance before prisoner's suicide defended
By Liz Zemba
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Attorneys for two former Fayette County corrections officers, who are named as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court after an inmate hanged himself, argue that the two guards were unaware the inmate was suicidal.
In a motion filed on Monday in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Barry Simon and Geary O'Neil deny allegations that O'Neil was asleep at his post and Simon failed to watch a video feed of the inmate in his cell.
Cade Stevens, 25, of Dawson hanged himself in the county prison four years ago.
Stevens' mother, Shannon Ferencz of Nashville, contends officials allegedly failed to place Stevens on suicide watch, despite a mental health evaluation indicating that he might harm himself, according to the suit. Stevens had been going through heroin withdrawal, it said.
Stevens was in jail on charges he struck a golfer in the face with an unloaded shotgun and robbed the man of $80 on Sept. 10, 2009, at the Linden Hall Golf Course. Police said Stevens told them he needed money to buy marijuana.
Surveillance footage at the jail on Sept. 12, 2009, shows Stevens hanging from a sheet for almost 30 minutes before corrections officers cut him down. The suicide followed two attempts less than 10 minutes earlier, the suit alleges.
County officials fired Simon and O'Neil for allegedly failing to monitor Stevens' cell. A videotape shown during a coroner's inquest in 2010 showed O'Neil leaning back with his feet up on a desk.
In the court brief, attorneys from Thomas, Thomas and Hafer of Pittsburgh said neither of the officers knew that Stevens was suicidal.
“It is denied that O'Neil was sleeping,” his attorneys wrote. They denied allegations that Simon left his post and failed to monitor Stevens' cell.
“It is denied that Simon failed to make rounds one time in the hour preceding Stevens' death,” the brief said. “To the contrary, Simon made a round at approximately 9 a.m. and both saw and spoke to Stevens at that time.”
The motion asks that a judge deny Ferencz's request for summary judgment in the case.
Others named as defendants in the lawsuit are the county, former warden Larry Medlock, then-deputy warden Brian Miller, who is now the warden, and Harrisburg-based Primecare Medical.
Carol Younkin, a Primecare nurse who was initially named, was terminated as a defendant in October 2012.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mother tells court about how boyfriend beat son in Fayette County case
- Rural King farm supply store confirms move to Laurel Mall
- Connellsville Area School District may refinance bonds in effort to save $200,000
- Geibel to present ‘42nd Street’ at State Theatre in Uniontown
- Dunbar moves forward with creek channeling project
- CASD plans Fitness and Wellness Fair in April
- Connellsville junior ROTC program a training ground
- FAA pushes for upgrades to Fayette airport
- WVU students aim for billiards record to help Make-A-Wish
- Troop cuts worry vets in Fayette
- Geibel musical director enjoys ‘group of very talented dancers’