Who is dying behind bars in Ohio jails?


Every year, dozens of Ohioans die in the custody of local jails. They lose their lives to suicide, drug overdoses, medical neglect, violence, accidents or other causes.

One man choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another was strangled to death. Two inmates sucker punched a man, rendering him unconscious. In other cases, inmates or jailers provided opioids, which triggered fatal overdoses.

Here is a sample of what is happening behind bars in Ohio jails, based on investigative reports, surveillance video, family interviews and lawsuits.

AUGUST 2023: Fred Maynard, 60, choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same day he was booked into the Cuyahoga County Jail. He was being held on a warrant from Medina County for failing to appear in court.

MARCH 2023: Gierra Marie Perdue, 33, died in March 2023 while incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail on Jackson Pike. Perdue’s mother, Patti Wolf only knows snippets of what happened − Perdue was on suicide watch and withdrawing from opioids.

Wolf, of Lancaster, felt relieved when Perdue went to jail. It was, she thought, a place where she’d be safe and away from the street drugs she’d used for years. 

Patty Wolf is tormented by the death of her daughter, Gierra Perdue, who died in the Franklin County Jail in March 2023. Across Ohio, 178 people have died in county jails since January 2020, including 55 suicides. Most of those who died had not been convicted of the crimes for which they were incarcerated.

It was a 2021 drug charge and failure to show up for mandatory drug testing that got Perdue in trouble. Authorities issued an arrest warrant. Two years later, during a traffic stop, Perdue got arrested and taken to the Franklin County Jail on Jackson Pike. She died nine days later. 

“I just want to know how, why. If she was that sick, why didn’t they take her to the hospital? So now her kids won’t see their mom again. I won’t see my baby again,” Wolf said. “I just want to know what happened.” 

OCTOBER 2022: Timothy Tufano, 52, was part of a work crew from the Montgomery County Jail cleaning up trash on the side of I-75 southbound near the Dryden Road exit.

Tufano was hit by the sheriff’s van, which had been parked on the shoulder of the highway, when an Aramark truck struck the back of the sheriff’s van and propelled it forward. He was one-third of the way through his 90-day sentence.

The coroner’s report said the cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death an accident.

MARCH 2022: While being held in the Lucas County Jail, Jameisha Taylor refused medical treatment and food, going on a five-day hunger strike in March 2022. Prosecutors accused her of stabbing her two children. Authorities failed to transfer her to a psychiatric hospital on March 24. The next day, a guard found Taylor, 28, in her cell − rigor mortis had already started. The same guard reported checking on Taylor five times in the two hours before she was found. The cause of death: dehydration.

Lacee Bowersox blames the Richland County Jail for her brother Zachery Marshall's death in December 2021. He had difficulty breathing and called for an ambulance but ended up arrested on an outstanding bench warrant. In jail, he didn't get the medical care he needed, she said. He died less than two weeks later of endocarditis and sepsis.

DECEMBER 2021: Lacee Bowersox, said when her brother, Zachery Marhsall, had trouble breathing at home, he called for an ambulance. Police arrived and took him to jail on an outstanding warrant.

Authorities have a different version: cops showed up to do a family-requested welfare check on Marshall and he only complained about breathing trouble after he was told of the warrant.

Behind bars at the Richland County Jail, Marshall’s condition worsened. He alternated between taking antibiotics and refusing them, county records show.

Jailers found him unresponsive on Dec. 18 and sent him to the hospital by ambulance. Two days later, Bowersox said the family decided to take Marshall off life support.

Jailers concluded that Marshall, 35, received adequate medical care. An autopsy determined he died of inflammation in his heart and sepsis.

Sherry Stone, left, and her daughter Lacee Bowersox, who blames the Richland County Jail for her brother Zachery Marshall's death in December 2021. He had difficulty breathing and called for an ambulance but ended up arrested on an outstanding bench warrant. In jail, he didn't get the medical care he needed, she said. He died less than two weeks later of endocarditis and sepsis.

Bowersox blames Richland County Jail, its poor medical treatment and a lack of compassion for her brother’s death. People who work in jails sign up for dealing with difficult people, she said.

“You can’t play God. When they’re complaining of something, something could be wrong. Just because you’re annoyed by them doesn’t mean their voice should go unheard because they could die. He could’ve had a whole life,” she said.

November 2021: Dustin Ray, 35, overslept in Franklin County’s downtown jail and awoke to find his food tray had been stolen. He yelled at other men about his missing lunch and then sat down at a bench and table. It was his second day in jail.

Another inmate, Varmunyah Dunor, sucker punched Ray in the side of his head, and Royalle Mosely landed a punch as well. Ray fell to the floor, and Dunor delivered a kick, witnesses told investigators. Guards later found Ray unconscious in his bunk. He never woke up, and he died five days later. Dunor and Mosely each pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case.

October 20, 2021: At 2:45 a.m., Miambo Maombi, 21, was discovered with ties around his legs, wrists, and neck and wads of clothing stuffed into his nose and mouth in his cell in the Trumbull County Jail.

It’s still not clear what happened to him.

The deputy coroner said in his report that Maombi suffocated, but he found it implausible that Maomi could have bound himself in the way he was found.

The deputy coroner said there would be no hesitation in classifying Maombi’s death as a homicide in any other setting, but the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office asserted that the death was self-inflicted because surveillance video shows no one entering or leaving Maombi’s cell.

July 2021: Jared Stewart entered the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio in July 2021 with a pacemaker, an internal defibrillator, a new aortic valve, and a long list of required medications. In jail, he fell and hit his head, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his family. Stewart, who had to be taken by medical helicopter, died on the last day of what would’ve been his six-month sentence.

Jared Stewart's family filed a federal lawsuit against Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, alleging that Stewart didn't receive adequate medical care while incarcerated. He died in July 2021.

In the lawsuit, his family alleges that the jail, which serves five counties, failed to give Stewart his medications and properly monitor his condition.

He leaves behind a wife and two school-aged children.

The multi-county jail didn’t report Stewart’s death to the state. Jail administrators had him released from custody when his condition looked dire, according to attorney Wes Merillat, who represents the Stewart family.

February 2021: Chavis Martinez arrived at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio on Feb. 4, 2021, with high blood sugar. The 28-year-old told jailers that he relied on insulin to control his type 1 diabetes. Overthe course of a week, he wasn’t regularly checked and only got insulin once. In the early morning hours of Feb. 11, Martinez was shaking from tremors. His teeth clenched, and his eyes rolled back. An ambulance crew took the unconscious young man to the hospital. Martinez never woke up.

His family filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit in federal court. But the legal team dropped the case after Martinez’ family lost contact with the law firm.

October 2020: Barbara Sisson said her son, David Miller, used a wheelchair after doctors amputated his leg in 2020 because of blood clots. But Gallia County Jail wasn’t wheelchair accessible. While serving a 10-day sentence for drunk driving, Miller used a portable commode jailer brought to his cell. And paramedics visited daily to change the dressing on Miller’s stump, she said. 

Sisson questions why he couldn’t serve the sentence at home with an ankle monitor. At least then she could’ve kept an eye on him, she said. 

Instead, she said, Miller ended up being rushed to the emergency room. A coroner’s report found bruises and scrapes on his body but no evidence of bleeding or infection. The cause of death was a blood clot in his lung. 

Sisson said the jail staff waited too long to get him help. “Why didn’t they take him to the hospital instead of letting him die there?” 

JUNE 2020: Ryan Elizabeth Trowbridge, 35, landed in jail in Lake County on a theft charge. At booking, she told jailers that she took naloxone to stave off opioid withdrawal symptoms as well as anti-depressants. She needed her medications. She didn’t get them. Trowbridge didn’t see a doctor or nurse, despite multiple requests, according to a lawsuit against the county jail. Five days after she was booked into jail, Trowbridge hung herself. She died two weeks later.

Ryan Elizabeth Trowbridge was one of 219 people to die in custody of Ohio's county jails between 2020 and 2023.

Her mother, Stacey Berrier, is suing Lake County in federal court. It is the second federal lawsuit against Lake County jailers and medical staff.

MAY 2020: Kevin Bailey, 56, fought with guards inside the Scioto County Jail in May 2020, hitting his head on a doorway. Medics airlifted him to a hospital in Columbus, where he died a few days later. The Ohio Attorney General’s office investigated the death and prosecuted a former guard, Billy Thompson. Two years later, a Scioto County jury acquitted Thompson of murder charges.

FEBRUARY 2020: Scott Coldren started serving a 30-day sentence for a misdemeanor drug charge in Ross County in February 2020. Coldren told his probation officer that he’d kill himself if he was incarcerated. He told sheriff’s deputies the same thing as they took him to jail. Coldren repeated the threat to jailers. Within 24 hours, the 20-year-old hanged himself. Ross County settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the Coldren family for an undisclosed amount, according to local media reports.

SEPTEMBER 2019: The Richland County Sheriff’s Office paid $4 million to settle a wrongful death case brought by the family of Alexander Rios. Surveillance video shows Rios darting out of a cell and down a hallway before five guards brought him to the floor. They pinned him down, stepping and kneeling on his back and pressing his head onto the floor as they tried to handcuff him. Officers tasered Rios, 29, as they worked to subdue him.

Rios could be heard gasping on the surveillance video. Roughly two minutes later, he became unresponsive and turned blue.

Rios was taken to OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, where, on Sept. 27, 2019, he was taken off a ventilator and died. 

A trial against a former corrections officer, Mark Cooper, ended in a hung jury. A second trial began in April. Cooper is charged with involuntary manslaughter and other charges.