Jail deputies charged in inmate's death
After nearly a yearlong investigation, three corrections deputies with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office are facing felony charges in connection with the death of an inmate last year in the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.
On April 19, Corp. Tony Hansen, and corrections deputies Mike Durkan and Cory Skidgel will be arraigned in the Jefferson County Circuit Court on charges of criminally negligent homicide for the April 26, 2017, death of James Eugene Wippel, 59.
On the morning of his death, Wippel told staff that he wasn't feeling well, and was seen by the jail nurse. At about 8:30 a.m., he was released from the jail's custody, so he could be transported to the hospital, Sheriff Jim Adkins reported last year.
When Wippel showed signs of distress, staff called Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services to transport him to St. Charles Madras, but he died while ambulance personnel were preparing him for transport.
"At the time of the incident, I called for an investigation by the Central Oregon Major Incident Team, as is customary with an inmate death," said Adkins. "I firmly believe law enforcement needs to be transparent and held accountable if there is wrongdoing and the investigation may shed light on how we can better care for and prevent this from happening in the future."
The team, led by led by detectives from the Redmond Police Department and Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, spent months investigating the case.
"For reasons of fairness and unbiased examination, the Jefferson County district attorney (Steve Leriche) decided to have the case reviewed by the Clackamas County district attorney (John Foote), who brought the case before a Jefferson County Grand Jury," said Adkins.
"When a crime has been committed by law enforcement, it is common practice for the district attorney's office in the same jurisdiction to ask an independent district attorney's office or the Oregon Department of Justice to review and handle the case," said Jefferson County District Attorney Steve Leriche. "In this instance, the Clackamas County District
Attorney's Office agreed to take on the case, which was presented to the Jefferson County Grand Jury over two days."
"The death of Mr. Wippel is tragic and I'm bothered that it happened at my facility with so many professionals involved, and I am heartbroken over these indictments, because these deputies are good and faithful deputies, who care very much about their jobs and the people they are charged with overseeing," said Adkins.
However, he added, "I have faith in our system and in the citizens who reviewed this case."
Adkins said that the three deputies, Hansen, who was hired in February 2015, Durkan, who was hired in April 2015, and Skidgel, who was hired in February 2017, have all been placed on administrative leave, "pending the completion of an internal investigation and/or prosecution."
Criminally negligent homicide, a Class C felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $125,000.
Wippel had been in custody since the early morning hours of April 24, 2017. At 3:42 a.m., an officer with the Warm Springs Police Department had been dispatched to the parking lot of Indian Head Casino at 3:42 a.m., to check out a report of two people inside a black car smoking from a glass pipe.
The officer approached a black Mercedes and observed a large, glass smoking device with brown residue in plain sight on the center console. Wippel was in the vehicle. A subsequent test showed the residue was likely methamphetamine.
Another officer arrived and reviewed video from security cameras that showed Wippel lighting the device and smoking from the device. Wippel was arrested for unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and transported to the JCCF, in Madras. At the jail, Wippel told the arresting officer that he had "about a gram" of heroin inside his backpack. When they searched his backpack, corrections staff found a syringe with a dark brown liquid and a baggie with three large black heroin rocks.
Additionally, staff found a baggie with small pill pouches and $4,408 in cash with Wippel's property.
Wippel was also charged with unlawful possession and delivery of heroin.
"The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office deeply appreciates the commitment to justice shown by the Central Oregon Major
Incident Team and the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office in taking on this case," said Leriche.