News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 8, 2013

Vigo Sheriff’s Department investigating inmate’s death

Staff Report
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department is conducting a death investigation after an inmate was found unresponsive in his jail cell about 2:30 a.m. today.

The inmate, William Powell, 48, was a Terre Haute resident. An autopsy is expected to be conducted Wednesday morning.

According to Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing, Powell was arrested by Terre Haute City Police on a warrant for bond revocation. He was booked into the jail at 12:06 a.m. Monday.

But when Powell was first brought to the jail, jail staff denied his admittance until he was cleared medically, Ewing said. Powell had contusions and abrasions and he was intoxicated.

Terre Haute police took Powell to a hospital, where he was medically cleared for confinement and brought back to the jail, then booked in, Ewing said. At the time of his book-in, Powell’s blood alcohol content was 0.27.

Jail medical staff saw Powell at 11 a.m. Monday and took his vitals, and “they were all within the normal limits,” Ewing said. Powell was placed on “sick call,” meaning medical staff would see him again today.

About 2:30 this morning, jail inmates alerted jail staff, who went in and found Powell in his bunk, unresponsive, Ewing said.

Jail staff immediately began CPR and use of a defibrillator. When paramedics arrived, they determined Powell “was beyond resuscitation.” Ewing along with the jail commander, detectives and the coroner were then contacted.  

The sheriff’s department has reviewed video surveillance and determined “there was nothing that occurred here at the jail,” Ewing said. The death was not caused by another inmate or a fight inside the jail.

Jail staff also conduct walk-throughs of the jail on an hourly basis, Ewing said.

“At this point, the cause of death is unknown pending the autopsy,” he said.

Based on Powell’s book-in photo, and comments he made to other inmates, he may have been involved in some type of altercation prior to his arrest, Ewing said.

“If he was in an altercation, and an autopsy determines it was something from an altercation that led to his demise, we will notify Terre Haute police,” who would then conduct their own investigation, Ewing said.  

In past years, Powell had been arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, bond revocation, public intoxication and failure to appear.