Three former correctional officers at the Jack Harwell Detention Center were indicted Wednesday on charges that they altered documents following a suicide in the jail to make it appear they conducted scheduled inmate checks in the hours leading up to the suicide.
A McLennan County grand jury indicted Michael Wayne Crittenden, 24; Milton Edward Walker, 33; and Christopher David Simpson, 24, each on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
All three were employees of LaSalle Corrections, which operates the Harwell private jail on State Highway 6.
Waco attorney Phil Frederick, who represents Simpson, and attorney Will Hutson, who represents Walker, both declined comment about their client’s case. Court records indicate Crittenden does not have an attorney.
Surveillance video showed that Crittenden, Walker and Simpson all lied about conducting head counts in N-Wing in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, according to records filed in the case.
A review was conducted after Michael Angelo Martinez, 25, of Waco, was found unresponsive in his single-person cell. Martinez’s death was ruled suicide by asphyxia. Martinez had been in jail since Aug. 18 on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine. He also was being held on a federal detainer, according to county records.
Sheriff Parnell McNamara said Martinez was in the section of the jail where inmates are to be checked every 30 minutes. Walker was supposed to conduct “observation checks” from 1:05 a.m. through 3:25 a.m. as well as 4:35 a.m. through 6:17 a.m. He signed off on head-count documents at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. the following morning.
“Video surveillance confirmed Walker did not actually conduct head counts,” an affidavit written by Detective Kimberly King states.
Crittenden and Simpson also are alleged to have failed to perform head counts during the early morning hours of Nov. 1 and then filling out paperwork that stated they had done them.
McLennan County received a notice of noncompliance Nov. 5 from the state jail commission because inmates known to be mentally ill or suicidal were not checked on every 30 minutes, according to a report.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ report states observations should be performed at least every 30 minutes in areas where inmates are known to be “assaultive, potentially suicidal, mentally ill or who have demonstrated bizarre behavior.”
Brandon Wood, Texas Commission on Jail Standards executive director, told the Tribune-Herald at the time that the commission reviews operations at a facility after an inmate death.
McLennan County commissioners in June extended their contract with LaSalle Corrections through June 2018 to allow the company to continue operation of the Jack Harwell Detention Center.
All three men remain free on bail.