Archived Story

Inmate’s family says jail at fault for death

Published 2:29pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The family of a Lawrence County Jail inmate who died while in custody puts blame for the death on Sheriff Jeff Lawless and his office.

However, Lawless says the incident remains under investigation and he has no information at this time on the cause of the man’s death.

On Saturday morning Steven J. Conley, 23, of Kitts Hill, was pronounced dead at St. Mary’s Medical Center, Ironton Campus, after complaining to jail officials of tightness in his chest that morning, according to Lawless.

Tuesday morning, the inmate’s mother, Julie Conley, released a statement from the family.

“Our son, Steven, just 23 years of age, loving husband, father, son, grandson, brother and uncle, passed away on Dec. 15, 2012. If he would have been given the proper medical attention at least two days prior to his passing when he requested a doctor at the Lawrence County Jail, there is a chance he would still be with us today. But due to the medical neglect of the Lawrence County Jail, no doctor was called when he asked for one. And now we are a family in grief.”

Conley had been in the jail for about two months following he was arrested after a raid in October at the Southern Hills Motel in South Point.

The Lawrence County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force conducted a search at the motel where it found 132 oxycodone pills, nine Xanax pills, drug paraphernalia and $466 in cash. Two were arrested at the scene.

Conley was charged with first-degree complicity to aggravated robbery and fourth-degree trafficking in drugs. He was being held on a $100,000 cash or surety bond.

Conley’s mother said she visited her son at the jail during Thursday evening’s visiting hours where he told her that he was sick. He reiterated that Friday evening when the two spoke by phone, she said.

“There was nothing underlying that we know,” she said. “I don’t care to answer any more questions.”

Lawless said on Saturday his office had no information that Conley had any health issues.

Lawrence County Coroner Dr. Kurt Hofmann sent the body to the Franklin County Coroner’s office on Sunday for an autopsy. Preliminary results are expected this week.

Lawless has asked the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association to conduct an independent investigation.

“This case is under investigation,” Lawless said. “We shouldn’t rush to judgment. Anytime there is a death, it is certainly tragic. But we have to let the investigation determine the cause.”

The sheriff said the family’s statement that the inmate had sought medical attention earlier in the week was “not completely accurate.”

“He can respond however he wants,” Conley said. “He is responsible.”

Conley said the family is looking into the possibility of filing a lawsuit over the death.

The Tribune believes it is possible for people with a variety of points of view to discuss issues in a civil manner and will remove comments that, in our opinion, foster incivility. We want to encourage an open exchange of information and ideas. Responsibility for what is posted or contributed to this site is the sole responsibility of each user. By contributing to this website, you agree not to post any defamatory, abusive, harassing, obscene, sexual, threatening or illegal material, or any other material that infringes on the ability of others to enjoy this site, or that infringes on the rights of others. Any user who feels that a contribution to this website is a violation of these terms of use is encouraged to email, or click the "report comment" link that is on all comments. We reserve the right to remove messages that violate these terms of use and we will make every effort to do so — within a reasonable time frame — if we determine that removal is necessary.

  • VoiceOfReason

    The only person to blame for this situation is the man who put himself there- Steven. Don’t do drugs and commit crimes if you don’t want the possibility of dying inside a jail. And now the family thinks they’re entitled? Not quite. This guy engaged in numerous criminal acts that were harmful to our community. If anything, he still owes the community for his blatant disregard of society’s well being; so how about we file suit against the family to collect for damages? And I don’t really feel that way, just saying it to make a point. I understand that the family is grieving for their loss, but again, they cannot blame anyone other than Steven himself.

    (Report comment)

  • ThisisHome

    It always amazes me when an inmate believes they are entitled to the best health care possible. If and when the same person is on the street they wouldn’t even consider going to seek medical attention(unless they receive medicaid benefits). Of course all we can do at this point is speculate (and that goes for the family as well). If an inmate didn’t request a sick call then he wouldn’t receive medical attention unless it is an emergency. Once it became an emergency and staff became aware it sounds to me like they did what they were supposed to do. I have been around the correctional environment for quite a while and as time goes on I believe inmates get better treatment from the government than they give to themselves. I believe that the Sheriff and his staff do a fine job.

    (Report comment)

    • howwouldufeel

      Well, for all of you who DO NOT know the situation, they are waiting on an autopsy, but the boy had been asking for a doctor for days!!! They just ignored this and went on, well the day they was finally going to give him medical attention, they put him in the drunk tank, and that’s where they found a 23 year old dead at 8:00am of a massive heart attack! I do not care what kind of crime was committed we are all human and make mistakes, anyone can turn their life around, but no one deserves to die!

      (Report comment)

  • bigkahuna

    If you can’t do the time,then don’t do the crime.

    (Report comment)

  • Dacryocystorhinostomy

    But OF COURSE the man’s family is wanting to file a suit. Their first problem will be to find a COMPETENT lawyer who will take the case. Then, that lawyer will hafta convince a jury that the sheriff’s ofc. was at fault, which is MUCH-easier said than done. Most likely, that family will be stuckwith court costs and the fees for both their and the sheriff’s lawyers.
    Almost every long-term jail inmate complains of illness at times, just to get a change of atmosphere. If the inmate is charged with making a false alarm if he’s found to not really be ill. those complaints would almost disappear.
    It seems the jail staff promptly called a squad when Conlry made a complaint of chest pain. We don’t know his medical history, so we can’t pass judgment at this time. but let us not forget that Conley was in jail for some SERIOUS charges. Maybe if his family had paid more attention to him before he landed in jail, none of this woulda happened.
    But I hope his family remembers that almost every lawsuit of this type, in this area, ends up in File 13, with the plaintiffs bearing the costs for both sides, as happened in the case in WV where the cops shot the man in his truck, and also accidentally shot a fellow cop dead.

    (Report comment)

  • Country

    Drug dealing who sold drugs that efffects other peoples health. Probably caused damage to his own health. Sorry but you broke the law and you suffered from your own actions. Quit blaming others.

    (Report comment)

  • Digi

    Well of course they are going to file a law suit. Until results of the autopsy are back it’s a little early to pass blame on anyone. And a drug dealer and probable user complaining he was sick is probably fairly common in the jail. It is a sad tragedy and I am sorry for this family’s loss, but there is often the effects of withdraw to be considered too and the long term effects of drug abuse and what it does to a person. Complaining to his mother on the phone or during visitation and making serious health complaints to the proper channels at the sheriff’s department to get medical attention are two different things though. And since I wasn’t there that is something I can not comment on and is just hearsay by anyone not there at the time.

    (Report comment)

  • Ironton Cares

    My heart aches for this family that has to suffer losing a loved one at the jail, I don’t know him or his family but I will say that staff at the jail is a joke, I have heard other stories like this one before and I also know they do not give medication that is taken to them to the inmates like they are suppose to, I know that for a fact! The deputies at the jail think its funny when they can harass and do things to the inmates and I have heard them laugh about what they do to them, that whole office needs to be cleaned out and others hired in including the sheriff, I use to like him but he sure the heck wouldn’t be there on my vote because I think he is a joke. That all went to his head and he needs to be brought down a notch, I hope this family is able to make someone pay for them losing their family member, maybe then people will wake up and see what kind of jail Lawless is running!!!

    (Report comment)

    • keyymaster

      Sorry for the family but it seems obvious that you are a visitor one way or another of the jail to make your comments. It is not there to be a nice place. And you have not been there when the staff are called every thing in the book, had to fight unruly inmates, or had urine and feces thrown at you. I did not work there but I spent over 23 years in corrections, and people expect the very best when they are incarcerated, and usually get it. Then when something tragic like this happens the only thing the family is worried about is how much money can we make off of this.

      (Report comment)

Editor's Picks

Apple butter on sale to benefit Shop With a Cop

SOUTH POINT — Law enforcement agencies in Lawrence County have kicked off the annual apple butter fundraiser for the Shop With a Cop program. Every year, ... Read more