Sheriff releases more information on hanging
September 5, 1999
Craig — Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead has released more details in the attempted suicide by hanging at Moffat County Jail.
Grinstead provided an incident report on Thursday that shows inmate Donny Arnett tried to hang himself with a belt while in a holding cell at the jail.
Arnett, 30, was booked into the jail about 1:44 p.m. Aug. 5 on charges of burglary, forgery and theft. About 4:20 p.m. Arnett tried to hang himself in a holding cell and was cut down by several Moffat County Sheriff’s Department employees, according to the report. Arnett was taken to The Memorial Hospital that afternoon and returned, in good health, to the jail the next day.
Jail detention officers Nolene Falk and Harry Blakeman were working in the jail area at the time of the incident with Sgt. Dean Herndon on duty as well. On Aug. 5, Falk and Blakeman told investigating sheriff’s deputy Anthony Erickson they did not know how Arnett got the belt.
Jail inmates, according to jail processing procedures, are searched before entering the jail and items inmates may use to hurt themselves or others are supposed to be taken away.
“I would think it’s safe to say that when you’re brought into a secure facility you’re patted down for weapons,” Grinstead said. “All indications are (Arnett) wore the belt into the holding cell.”
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The sheriff said an internal investigation determined how Arnett was able to get into the holding cell with the belt, but refused to elaborate.
“That would be part of the disciplinary process involving employees during that investigation,” Grinstead said.
The sheriff also wouldn’t say if any employees were disciplined.
“There was an investigation and we refuse any further comment since it’s a personnel matter,” Grinstead said.
At the time of the incident, Falk, Herndon, Sgt. Tim Jantz and Sgt. Rick Holford were the first to get to Arnett and cut him down.
In a statement that accompanied the incident report, Holford stated he, Jantz and Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg were in Herndon’s office at the jail when they heard Falk yell that someone was hanging.
The officers ran to the holding cell where Arnett was hanging in the corner of the cell near the door.
“Before the key to the holding cell could be brought to us, Arnett began to struggle as though to attempt to lift himself up and to try to untie the belt that was around his neck,” Holford stated. “…Herndon lifted Arnett up while Jantz cut the belt from around Arnett’s neck. Arnett was then lowered to the cell floor and I checked for a pulse. His heart was beating rapidly and he was shaking as though scared. I asked Arnett if he was OK numerous times and he said ‘yes’ each time I asked.”
An ambulance arrived and Arnett was taken to the hospital where doctors checked his physical and mental condition. He was not placed on a suicide watch after returning to the jail.