Bibb jailers in charge night of inmate suicide reprimanded for ‘lack of supervision’

Tour the Bibb County jail with Sheriff David Davis

A grand jury has recommended that the Bibb County jail be expanded, or replaced with a new facility.
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A grand jury has recommended that the Bibb County jail be expanded, or replaced with a new facility.

Two sheriff’s deputies, who are supervisors at the Bibb County jail, received letters of reprimand this week in connection with an incident in which an inmate hanged himself in his cell.

The supervising deputies, Lt. Danny Patel and Sgt. Andy Fordham of the Oglethorpe Street jail’s Corrections Division, oversaw the squad of deputies on duty the night of the inmate’s suicide.

A pair of those deputies , Kaleb White and Geoffrey Osman, resigned amid an internal affairs investigation, according the sheriff’s department.

The investigation revealed White and Osman failed to conduct proper cell-block checks during a roughly six-hour span before inmate William Elder Homan was found hanging from a bed sheet the morning of Feb. 16, according to information provided to The Telegraph.

Homan, 40, had been locked up since Feb. 6 when he was jailed for an alleged probation violation related to a shoplifting conviction.

Bibb County jail
Bibb County sheriff’s investigators probe in-custody death at jail. The inmate was found unresponsive early Saturday. Beau Cabell bcabell@macon.com

The letters of reprimand signed by Chief Deputy Michael Scarbary and given to Patel and Fordham on Thursday — copies of which were obtained by The Telegraph — describe the incident as “a serious matter that will be corrected by you and your squad. This type of behavior will not be tolerated. ... This letter will serve as notification to you of the infractions that have occurred and will be placed in your personnel file.”

The letters also, in noting that White and Osman failed to conduct proper checks of inmates under their watch, mention that the cell block’s “log was falsified on the times that the block checks supposedly took place” during the hours Homan hanged himself.

The reprimands go on to say that “although proper checks may not have prevented the suicide, it was a failing of these officers (White and Osman) to not at least follow the procedures that were put in place to monitor the inmates. These officers are under your (Patel’s and Fordham’s) command and are your responsibility while they are performing their duties. Therefore, their actions are a result from a lack of supervision and leadership that is expected from a line supervisor.”

Bibb Sheriff David Davis on Friday told The Telegraph that “obviously in this case there was a failing” by the supervising officers.

“They were not on top of the game enough to make sure that the work had been done,” Davis said.

Asked if a lack of oversight by jail supervisors was a one-time or an ongoing issue, the sheriff said there are no absolutes.

“You can’t say that they haven’t been checking on them (the inmates) forever. You can’t say that they have or they haven’t. Because there’s not been an incident that created an unfortunate situation as this did,” Davis said. “But it is to put them (the supervisors) on notice that, ‘That’s your job ... to make sure that the people under you do their jobs.’”

The sheriff added that there was no indication of any pattern of cell blocks not being checked as a matter of routine.

“Had it been,” he said, “there would have been some stronger sanctions.”

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.