Special prosecutor requested in jail investigation

By Dean Wright - deanwright@aimmediamidwest.com

GALLIPOLIS — In light of an active investigation into deaths of Gallia inmates reported by the Gallia Sheriff’s Office in December 2018 and September 2019, Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren filed paperwork requesting that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office assign a special prosecutor to review the cases.

According to paperwork filed with the Gallia Court of Common Pleas and approved on Jan. 10, “It is hereby ordered upon the Application of Jason D. Holdren, Prosecuting Attorney of Gallia County, Ohio, that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and any of his assistant attorney general’s as he shall find necessary shall be appointed as Special Prosecuting Attorney in and for Gallia County, Ohio, to investigate and prosecute this matter and to serve without compensation.”

The documents were signed by Gallia Common Pleas Judge Margaret Evans.

Paperwork was filed for appointments regarding investigations into the September 14, 2019 death of David “Tommy” Gibson, 27, of Patriot, the September 23, 2019 death of Lacey Wolford, 35, of Bidwell and the December 16, 2018 death of Mark Simms, 36, of Crown City.

Holdren said that it was not uncommon for prosecutors in Ohio to request special prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to handle cases.

“On the Simms’ case, when I reviewed that I didn’t see anything there as far as potential criminal charges,” said Holdren. “In light of the other jail deaths and in an effort to be transparent and since BCI investigated all of these deaths, I’ve requested that (Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office) appoint a special prosecutor to review all three cases.”

Gallia Sheriff Matt Champlin said that he could not comment as to the nature of the investigations but that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation had been asked to investigate the deaths to also maintain transparency.

Inmate families and county officials surrounded by ongoing concerns with Gallia County Jail controversies spoke of those concerns to Ohio Valley Publishing the week of November 20, 2019.

“There are a lot of details that, at this time, we are not able to release as it would be inappropriate based on the fact that we are still waiting for (Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation) to conclude their investigation,” said Champlin to Ohio Valley Publishing.At the appropriate time, once the investigation has concluded, we will be able to release those facts and answer further questions. I look forward to the completion of this investigation so the facts can be known and we can continue this dialogue in an informed and responsible manner. Many of the ‘facts’ that have been reported are not based in truth, but mere speculation, and this type of conversation is not beneficial.”

Inmate families and an inmate stepped forward to allege acts of negligence and mistreatment of inmates during time spent in the Gallia Jail. The jail had been found to be in non-compliance with state standards for years according to reports obtained by Ohio Valley Publishing. With three inmates having died in Gallia custody over the course of a year, another inmate reported he had suffered a skull fracture after a Gallia corrections officer reportedly attempted to flip him in a restraining chair where his head struck an obstruction in the room.

Families said they had taken their concerns before the FBI. The bureau was unable to confirm nor deny any investigations into the jail.

Simms reportedly died of a heart attack while Gibson sided by suicide and Wolford by overdose.

Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.


By Dean Wright