News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 11, 2013

Ross facing charges in jail death

Authorities allege William Powell received fatal injury in Sunday night fight with James Ross

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A Terre Haute man accused of involuntary manslaughter will return to court Feb. 4 to find out when he will face trial.

James Madison Ross IV, 39, appeared Thursday via video in Vigo Superior Court 1 where Judge John Roach appointed attorney Luther Garcia as public defender in the case.

Ross has been accused in the death of William Powell, 48, who was arrested on a city court warrant late Sunday but died in his cell at the Vigo County Jail early Tuesday. An autopsy determined that Powell died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen. His death was ruled a homicide by Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos.

In court Thursday morning, Ross told the judge that he lives with his cousin in the 1900 block of Eighth Avenue, which is where Ross was arrested at about 5 p.m. Wednesday on a warrant for the class-C felonies of involuntary manslaughter and battery resulting in serious bodily injury.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court, a woman told Detective Troy Davis that Powell came to her apartment in the 1800 block of Eighth Street on Sunday evening, and that Ross was at the apartment when Powell arrived. The woman told Davis that Powell was “running his mouth” about Ross being there, and that Powell called her names. She said that Ross started a fight with Powell, who was struck and fell to the kitchen floor. The woman stated that Ross, who was wearing work boots, kicked Powell repeatedly while he was lying on the kitchen floor.

When the fight ended, the woman said, Powell went to the bathroom in the apartment, and she left with Ross. The woman said that when she returned to her apartment the following day, a glass table was broken and multiple cans of food had been thrown through a window. The woman told police that her apartment was not in disarray when she left it with Ross while Powell remained inside.

The woman filed a report with Terre Haute Police about the damage to her apartment and belongings.

Detective Davis also reported that on the night that Powell was arrested, THPD Officer Brent Heaton went to the apartment where the altercation had occurred. The officer found the door open and loud music playing. A glass table had been broken, along with other items, and the apartment was in disarray. No other person was found in the apartment, so the officer secured the apartment and left, Davis reported.

After Powell died at the jail, police received a search warrant for the woman’s apartment to secure evidence of the altercation. The apartment had been cleaned up, Davis noted, but officers collected shards of glass from the floor and an air vent, as well as a towel and a pair of pants that had stains the color of blood.

THPD Assistant Chief Shawn Keen said Thursday during a news conference about the arrest of Ross that no criminal charges are pending against the woman who witnessed the incident.

Keen said that Ross has a criminal history that includes domestic battery, criminal recklessness, battery resulting in bodily injury, criminal conversion, public intoxication and possesion of marijuana.

The news conference was attended by Powell’s family members, who were accompanied by local attorney Christopher Gambill. The family made no comment to the media following the news conference. Gambill said he also had no comment.

Also in the affidavit, Davis reported that the officer who arrested Powell took him to Terre Haute Regional Hospital to be medically cleared before Powell could be booked into the Vigo County Jail.

Keen was asked Thursday about Powell’s transport to the hospital and the amount of care administered to the man while he was in police custody. Keen said he could not comment on the medical care that Powell received, and referred that question to the hospital.

In the affidavit, Davis reported that after Powell had been booked into the jail shortly after midnight Monday, he “complained of severe abdominal pain” around 8:30 a.m. Monday to a jail nurse. The nurse told Davis that Powell said he and “a drinking buddy” had gotten into a fight.

Powell was held in the jail’s temporary holding cell, which is located near the book-in area. Jail records show Powell remained in temporary holding from 12:06 a.m. Monday until 4:28 p.m. Monday, when he was transferred to a cell in G-block. He was found unresponsive in his cell at about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The court record also states that Detective Capt. John Moats of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department told Davis that, as part of the jail investigation of the death, Moats viewed jail video during the time that Powell was an inmate. Moats said that at no time did he see an altercation involving Powell on the jail video.



Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.