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.

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