An inmate at the Grayson County Detention Center’s main facility on Shaw Station Road appears to have committed suicide on Thursday, July 5, according to GCDC Deputy Bo Thorpe.
39-year-old Dr. William James “Bill” Payne, who was incarcerated in the Restricted Custody wing of the detention center, known as “Red Pod,” was found dead in the bathroom area of his cell.
According to a release from the detention center, preliminary information indicates that Payne “died after hanging himself in the shower of a dorm.”
Deputy Coroner Larry Holman said, “there is no indication of anything other than a suicide.”
Thorpe said, “Other inmates in the dorm with Payne indicated in satements that he told them he was going to shower.”
“After approximately 20 minutes, an inmate discovered Payne in the shower area and alerted the deputy assigned to that living area.”
After GCDC staff had been notified, Grayson County EMS was immediately called, and the Grayson County Coroner, along with Kentucky State Police were also notified and responded to the scene, Thorpe explained.
Payne had been housed at the detention center since late December of last year, and was serving a seven year sentence for possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), unlawful possession of a methamphetamine precursor, and carrying a concealed deadly weapon.
According to Holman, Payne told the staff about a week ago that he was depressed, and the detention center followed protocol by arranging a mental health evaluation through the local mental health agency, Communicare.
The evaluation was carried out by a therapist, who cleared Payne and indicated that he was not a danger to himself or anyone else, Holman explained.
This would mark the third suicide in four years at the detention center, where several employees are still defending themselves in a $2.5 lawsuit over the February 2009 suicide of inmate Angela Downs.
Downs was a 23-year-old inmate from Falls of Rough, who was serving time after being charged with unlawful possession of a methamphetamine precursor and possession of drug paraphernalia.
She was being treated medically for an infection in her arm, and was also placed on suicide watch, which included being checked on every 10 minutes, according to news reports at the time.
Downs still managed to hang herself using the IV tubing with which she was being treated, attached to the video camera mount in her cell.
Hudson commented at the time that “we found no foul play,” though the suicide victim’s parents, Rose and Mike Downs, asserted that they had questions which were still unanswered.
The Downs’ brought the hefty lawsuit against the Grayson County Fiscal Court, Jailer Darwin Dennison, and other detention center employees for failure to protect; medical indifference; and negligent hiring, retention and supervising.
The lawsuit also alleges that despite being on suicide watch, Downs was not checked for more than an hour, during which time she hung herself.
The lawsuit is filed in federal court in Owensboro.
The attorney for the Downs family, Dwight Preston, of Lewis and Preston, said, “this will be tried in Owensboro if the case is not resolved. We always look for a resolution because a trial is so stressful on everyone.”
Carol Petitt, who is the lawyer representing the defendants in the case, said, “The Grayson County Detention Centers denies any wrong doing in this case,” and added, “this case was investigated by the state police and no criminal charges were brought.”
Less than a year prior to the Downs suicide, a federal inmate, Tommie Eugene Payne, 61, of Columbia, TN, hanged himself in the bathroom of his cell on May 1, 2008.
Authorities did not release, at the time, the reason Tommie Payne was being held at the detention center.
Kentucky State Police investigated the incident and, according to Trooper Davy Norris, “this investigation has revealed no negligence on the part of the detention center.”