9 people charged, including warden, in connection with deaths of 2 Wisconsin inmates

Nine Wisconsin corrections officers, including the warden of a maximum security prison, have been arrested on charges related to the deaths of two inmates that the sheriff said demonstrated a “blatant disregard for the safety of human beings.”

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said one of two inmates at Waupun Correctional Facility died in his cell for 12 hours. Before his death was discovered – and before that, even after he collapsed, staff were skipping rounds to check on his health and a nurse decided, without visiting him, that no medical visit was necessary.

Another inmate died of dehydration and malnutrition, and an investigation showed that officers in his restricted unit failed to give him nine out of 12 meals in four days, Schmidt said.

“These investigations have shown a blatant disregard for the safety of human beings, and arrests must be made and have been made,” Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt said at a news conference.

Two other inmates also died, one by suicide and the other by fentanyl intoxication, the sheriff said, but the conduct did not rise to the level of criminal activity.

The nine defendants include Randall Hepp, warden of the Waupun Correctional Facility, located in the town of the same name, about 55 miles northwest of Milwaukee.

Hepp and three other correctional officers – Jamall Russell, Sarah Ransbottom and Jeramie Chalker – were arrested for misconduct in public office, the sheriff’s office said.

Russell, along with registered nurses Gwendolyn Peachey and Jessica Hosfelt, and corrections Lt. Brandon Fisher, corrections sergeant. Tanner Leopold and Correctional Sgt. Alexander Hollfelder, were also arrested for abusing residents of correctional facilities. Most of them face one count, but Fisher faces two.

The two people whose death resulted in criminal charges It was Cameron Williams, the inmate found 12 hours after his death, who died Oct. 1, 2017. 30 while in restricted housing, the sheriff’s office said. His death was ruled a stroke and natural causes, the office said.

The other was Donald Maier, who died of malnutrition on February 1. 22. His death was attributed to homicide, primarily due to malnutrition and dehydration, Schmidt said.

“As sheriff, I am angry at the way these men were treated and how they died,” Schmidt said.

No criminal charges have been filed in the death of Tyshun Lemons, who died in October. 2 of fentanyl toxicity, and Dean Hoffman, who died by suicide on January 1. 29, 2023. Schmidt said there were policy violations surrounding Hoffman’s death, but they did not rise to the level of a crime.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Jared Hoy said in a statement that neither the department nor the state would provide legal representation to any of the nine people charged.

“At this time, all nine individuals against whom criminal charges have been filed are no longer employed with the department or are on unpaid administrative leave,” the statement said.

The Department of Corrections had also investigated, Hoy said, and all of those charged, except the warden, “were either under an internal DOC investigation or had been placed on administrative leave or terminated on the basis of DOC’s internal investigations.

An attorney listed in court records for Hepp did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment Wednesday evening. Court records show $1,000 bail has been set and Hepp has a review hearing scheduled for July 3.

Hosfelt’s attorney, Dan Kaminsky, said the allegations against the nurse “are legally inadequate and fail to even sanely explain why she was charged,” and that he filed a motion to dismiss the charge. accusation against her.

Kaminsky said that any death, especially if it was a preventable death, is tragic, but that “it is a great disservice to our community, to the general public as well as to the family, to wrongly blaming individuals who had little, if anything, to do with the circumstances that may have led to such a situation.

Emails and voicemails left for attorneys in most of the other cases where attorneys were on file were also not immediately returned.

Waupun Correctional Facility had approximately 1,001 inmates at the time of the state’s latest prison information sheet for fiscal year 2023. The number of employees that year was 432.

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