A woman says her father died in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail in 2017 while correctional officers failed to check on him as he succumbed to alcohol withdrawal and that jail employees attempted to cover up what she says were their roles in his death.
After they realized Randy S. Shull had died, two correctional officers who had failed to check on him forged records to make it appear as if they had done the required checks on Shull leading up to his death, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Shull’s daughter, Mandy Delli-Veneri, filed the lawsuit against the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, as well as the two former correctional officers, Michael Flanagan and Britt Adkins.
She originally filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on Sept. 16, but the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation took action to move the case to federal court.
In the lawsuit, Delli-Veneri said Flanagan came forward about the culture at the jail, saying there was “a pervasive attitude of at least some of the correctional officers to engage in deliberate indifference to the inmates.”
“If Defendant Flanagan had decided not to come forward, then the cover-up engaged in by Defendant [West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation] ... would have been successful and Plaintiff never would have learned about the truth regarding the preventable death of her father,” Delli-Veneri says in the lawsuit.
Flanagan said in an affidavit that he was encouraged by some of his superior officers to falsify records “to make things look good for Charleston,” Delli-Veneri says in the lawsuit.
Correctional officers were told to falsify everything from shift logs and watch logs to incident reports about inmate behavior and aggressiveness, according to the lawsuit.
“Guards also were instructed to turn off the intercom during cell extractions so nothing could be recorded,” Delli-Veneri says in the lawsuit.
The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation denies the claims made in the lawsuit, according to court records.
Shull was booked into the jail on July 26, 2017, after Tucker County sheriff’s deputies charged him with second-degree murder, according to a Gazette-Mail report from 2017.
He was accused of killing his girlfriend, Katherine Lillie, during an argument at his apartment.
Shull also faced charges from Pennsylvania of driving under the influence after his car got stuck on a railroad on May 13, 2017, according to court records.
Shull was taken to Tygart Valley Regional Jail, where he told a health care provider that he consumed alcohol on a daily basis to the point of intoxication and to sleep.
Based on his alcohol consumption history and the nature of the crime of which he was accused, the health care provider ordered that Shull be placed on a “30-minute special watch” or “30-minute detox watch,” according to the lawsuit.
That status meant a correctional officer was to check on Shull every 30 minutes and note the time of each check.
Not only did the correctional officers, Flanagan and Adkins, not check on Shull, but they falsified the watch log after they discovered Shull dead in his cell on July 27, 2017, the lawsuit alleges.
Flanagan admitted to falsifying the records, and he was fired. Adkins later was asked to resign.
“The death of Mr. Shull, who was a pretrial detainee presumptively innocent of the criminal charge leveled against him, prevents him from being vindicated and has left Mr. Shull, as well as his family, with the stigma of this unproven allegation,” the lawsuit states.
Delli-Veneri is represented by Lonnie Simmons, of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress LLC in Charleston, and William T. Nestor, in Elkins. The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is represented by William Murray, of Anspach Meeks Ellenberger LLP in Charleston.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin.