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Hostage-Taking May Have Been “Spur of the Moment Thing″

October 15, 1985

LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ Four inmates at the state’s maximum-security prison surrendered Tuesday after taking two guards hostage and demanding free deodorant, televisions, radios and more dessert, prison officials said.

The guards at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, William Dunn and Randy Mehaffey, were released after the inmates heard their grievances broadcast over a local radio station.

Prison superintendent Terry Morris said the guards were unharmed.

″Naturally after being through something like this, they were somewhat exhausted,″ he said.

In accordance with a demand of the inmates, all but one of whom are on death row, they were taken for the time being to the Franklin County Jail about 90 miles away.

″They really didn’t get anything tangible out of this,″ said Tessa Unwin, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. ″All they got was a ride to the jail and their grievances aired on a radio station.″

Ms. Unwin called the incident a ″spur of the moment thing.″

″They decided to grab these officers. After they had done it, they realized that they had to think up some reasons,″ she said.

The inmates’ demands ″came 12 hours later. Usually, if someone has planned something in advance, the demands are the first thing to come out,″ she said.

Ms. Unwin said the inmates probably would remain at the Columbus jail until after an investigation by prison officials and the Ohio Highway Patrol. The two guards were told to rest Tuesday before telling their stories to investigators.

Morris said he did not know how the guards were overpowered at 1 p.m. Monday.

There first were eight inmates with the guards when they were taken hostage, but four were unwilling participants and were released by the others, said prison spokesman Bob Prosser said. One of the released inmates was traded for sandwiches and beverages Monday evening.

One guard, Larry McGinnis, was treated for cuts from flying glass when he responded to a call for help after the guards were overpowered.

The four inmates identified by authorites as the hostage-takers were William G. Zuern, 26, Cincinnati; Jay Scott, 33, Cleveland; John William Byrd Jr., 21, Cincinnati, and Eric M. Swofford, 24, who had addresses listed for both Clark and Montgomery counties.

Zuern, Scott and Byrd are on death row. Swofford is serving time for aggravated robbery, attempted murder, firearms violations and other charges, Prosser said.

The inmates traded Dunn at 2:53 a.m. for a radio and released Mehaffey at 3:46 a.m., less than an hour after the inmates used it to listen to their grievances on station WPAY in Portsmouth, authorities said.

WPAY operations manager Phil Malone said news director Jim Hufferd decided to air the grievances. ″His comment was ... there were two guards’ lives at stake and whatever it was he could do, he would do,″ Malone said.

The prison, designed to house 1,600 inmates when it was opened in 1972, currently houses about 2,400 inmates, with 400 to 500 guards.

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