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State police, at hearing for reduced jailers’ bonds, say inmate died of blunt force trauma

January 8, 2019
Boyd County Detention Center exterior

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — A Kentucky State Police detective testified Monday that an inmate at the Boyd County Detention Center died from blunt force trauma caused by several deputy jailers who pushed the prisoner into a stainless steel toilet at the jail last year.

A Boyd County grand jury last month indicted Zachary D. Messer of Ashland, Kentucky; Brad A. Roberts of Westwood, Kentucky; Alicia Leora Beller of Putnam County, West Virginia; Jeremy F. Mattox of Grayson, Kentucky; and Colton L. Griffith, of Flatwoods, Kentucky, on charges of first-degree manslaughter in the death of Michael Moore, 40. The charge carries a maximum sentence, upon conviction, of from 10 to 20 years in prison.

The five deputy jailers, who pleaded innocent to the charges last week, are being held at other Kentucky jails. Their lawyers asked for a hearing to lower the $100,000 cash bond set.

Christina Smith, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney, asked for the bond to be kept at $100,000 cash. She said the deputies represent a danger to the community. She called the action of the jailers “a behavior of bullies. What happened is terrible.”

Boyd County Circuit Judge George B. Davis III watched video and heard testimony Monday for more than two hours before saying he would issue a written response on the bond issue Tuesday morning.

Jeffrey Kelley, a state police detective investigating the death of Moore, said the man sustained several broken ribs that caused internal bleeding, which led to his death Nov. 29. Moore was brought into the jail in Catlettsburg by Ashland police on a charge of public intoxication excluding alcohol.

Moore was held in a restraint chair at the jail for more than 20 hours before he died, Kelley said. He was taken out of the chair on several occasions, including one stint in a jail cell, before falling several times. Those falls didn’t contribute to Moore’s death, Kelley said.

Video played during the hearing showed Moore being pushed head-first into the restraint chair, his head forcibly being pushed into a jail wall, and deputy jailers standing or stomping on his bare feet while he was in the chair. Moore also was tased by a deputy jailer at some point, Kelley said.

The video presented by Copley didn’t show what happened to Moore when he was taken out of the restraint chair and into a bathroom by Messer and Griffith, Kelley said. It was then that Moore allegedly was pushed into the toilet, causing the fatal injuries, Kelley said.

The four male deputy jailers admitted they used too much force against Moore, Kelley said. Bellar spent most of her time in the jail’s control room, Kelley said.

Davis said while the video didn’t have any audio, it did depict at least one of the deputy jailers laughing after Moore was taken into the bathroom.

Defense lawyers asked for either property or a surety bond or a lesser bond be set for their clients.

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