Sheriff’s Department begins investigation into hanging |

Sheriff’s Department begins investigation into hanging

Attempted suicide raises questions of jail policy

Tyler Baskfield

— It has been six days since inmate Donny Arnett tried to hang himself in the Moffat County Jail and, according to Undersheriff Jerry Hoberg, an internal investigation into the attempted suicide is proceeding.

Hoberg will not comment on the facts of the investigation at this time.

“It is a personnel issue because there are two of our people involved and those are two people who are being investigated for things that they did or did not do in this instance,” said Hoberg.

The jail policy regarding inmates is a strict one, according to Hoberg. When someone is brought into the jail, a search of the person is completed by the arresting officer before the inmate enters the jail.

“The first pat search basically cleans out their pockets,” said Hoberg. Before or after the booking process inmates are placed into a holding cell and are searched a second time by jail personnel. Inmates are given specific clothes assigned by the jail.

“The second pat search we take belts, any other items found in their pockets, jewelry, we take their shoes, and we make sure that they turn their socks inside out,” said Hoberg. “We give them their socks back but we don’t give them back their shoes or any other items that we have taken from their pockets, or jewelry or a belt.”

After all of the jail paperwork is done inmates are taken to the actual jail population area and assigned to a wing. Depending upon why inmates are booked, they can be strip searched.

Jail detention officers who were on duty when Arnett was booked were Nolene Falk and Harry Blakeman. Sgt. Dean Herndon was the supervisor on duty.

Herndon couldn’t be reached for comment because he is at a jail administrator training seminar.

So far in the internal investigation into Arnett’s attempted suicide, statements from everyone involved have been taken, according to Hoberg.

“We took written statements from the arresting officer and both detention officers. We had one of our patrol officers, (deputy) Tony Erickson do an incident report,” said Hoberg. “All of that information will be turned over to Sergeant Herndon to do the internal investigation. Even though he was the jail sergeant that day I don’t have a problem with him doing the internal investigation because he wasn’t involved up until the point that we actually went to the aid of Donny (Arnett).”

Possible penalties if someone is found to be at fault by the internal investigation include an oral reprimand, a written reprimand, suspension without pay or termination.

Arnett has been returned to the general population after he was cleared by a mental health screening the morning after the incident.

“He was found not to be at risk to himself or others,” said Hoberg.

While he is not on any type of suicide watch, Arnett is being watched more closely by jail personnel, according to Hoberg.

Since the incident there have not been any policy changes made at the jail.

Hoberg expects the preliminary investigation to be done by the end of next week.

“Then I will sit down with Sergeant Herndon and we will both look at the internal investigation and determine what action needs to be taken and then we would pass that on to the sheriff who will be out until the first of September. So it would take that long for the investigation to wind down,” said Hoberg.

Sheriff Buddy Grinstead can not comment on the incident due to his role in the investigation, according to Hoberg.

“He ultimately has to handle the very end result for the internal investigation,” said Hoberg. “He needs to put his stamp of approval on it so he is not going to talk about any of what is going on with the internal investigation.”


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