News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 9, 2013

Jury selection begins for death of inmate

TERRE HAUTE — Jury selection began Monday afternoon for a Terre Haute man accused of involuntary manslaughter in January.

James Madison Ross IV, 40, appeared in Vigo Superior Court 1 with defense attorney Christopher Shema. Trial deputy Eric Frey is to present the prosecution’s case. Jury selection had not been completed when the courthouse closed to the public at 4 p.m., but testimony in the case was expected to begin today.

Ross has been accused in the death of William Powell, 48, who was arrested on a city court warrant but died in his cell at the Vigo County Jail two days later. 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.

Ross was arrested 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 had come to her apartment in the 1800 block of Eighth Street one evening, and that Ross was at the apartment when Powell arrived.

The woman told Detective 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.

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

After Powell died at the jail, police received a search warrant for the woman’s apartment to secure evidence of the altercation. 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.

The trial is expected to conclude this week.

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