4 ex-W.Va. guards, 4 prisoners charged in inmate death plot

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, April 22, 2014

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Four former Western Regional Jail correctional officers and four inmates have been charged in a plot to kill another prisoner.

A four-count indictment alleges that the plot occurred last October and targeted Zachary Matthew Lawson. Lawson, who was 18 at the time, was in custody at the jail in Barboursville awaiting trial on sexual abuse and assault charges in Mason County involving a 12-year-old boy. He has since been moved to the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston.

Inmates Steven Lee Adkins Jr., of Apple Grove, James Dennis Galloway of Charleston, James Roy Michael Keeney, of Huntington, and Jared I. Harris, of West Hamlin, are each charged with attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy. All four inmates are serving sentences for other crimes.

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Former correctional officers Benjamin Browning, of Kermit, John Bruhin, of Huntington and Jeffrey Winkler, of Chesapeake, are charged with aiding and abetting attempted murder. Former correctional officer Steven D. Adkins, of Milton, is charged with accessory before the fact to attempted first-degree murder.

Media outlets report that the Cabell County indictment was unsealed Friday

The correctional officers are no longer employed by the authority, said Joe DeLong, the authority’s executive director.

“All correctional officers are held to a very high standard,” DeLong said. “When I believe people have committed acts within our facilities that are improper or illegal, I’m not going to terminate those people and move on. We are going to work to prosecute people who commit criminal activity within our facilities, whether those people are current inmates or members of our staff.”

DeLong said at least one of the former officers filed a grievance.

He and Cabell County prosecutors declined to comment on details of the investigation.

Internal affairs personnel with the West Virginia Jail Authority led the investigation, DeLong said.

Adkins remains at the Western Regional Jail. Keeney is now at the Southwestern Regional Jail in Logan County, while Harris is imprisoned at the Martinsburg Correctional Center. Galloway is now at the South Central Regional Jail.