Monday, November 09, 2009

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Barton County Sheriff's Department

The family of a 22-year-old inmate who committed suicide Nov 10, 2006, in the Barton County Jail, filed a wrongful death suit against former Sheriff Shannon Higgins, the Sheriff's Department and deputies Jauson Keys and Michael Weston, today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

The suit alleges the sheriff's department failed to protect Walrath sufficiently following two previous suicide attempts and allowed an inmate to pass along the blanket Walrath used to hang himself.

Walrath was being held on a Greene County warrant when he first attempted suicide on Aug. 19, 2006, according to the lawsuit. Deputies gave him cleaning fluid to clean his cell and Walrath swallowed it and had to be hospitalized. Two months later, he again tried to kill himself, this time by cutting his wrists multiple times. He was again hospitalized and was returned to the jail three days later.

The lawsuit alleges Walrath was given medication to help him deal with his problems, but no one made sure he was taking it. Then eight days after his return to the Barton County Jail, Walrath, who was under a suicide watch, had a blanket slipped to him by another inmate. Walrath was found hanging in his cell. The lawsuit says deputies "failed to perform CPR or other life-saving measures."

Walrath was taken first to Barton County Memorial Hospital, and then to Freeman Health Center in Joplin, where he died two days later.

The lawsuit was filed by Walrath's parents, Gerald Walrath and Debora Runisek, Walrath's two children, and the children's mother, Danielle Marie Maples.


(Randy Turner's new book, Newspaper Days, is available at


Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!! Someone gets into trouble, goes to jail so it obviously wasn't the first time they were in trouble then is stupid enough to hang themselves and someone else is to blame? You've got to be kidding me!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like he did the taxpayers a favor....we (the taxpayer) no longer have to feed him and provide him with housing. How dare his family sue....

Anonymous said...

I can not believe that anyone would be so heartless to say such cruel things. You have no clue what that man was thinking or going through at that point in time in his life. What a dark place to be in. If any of you know anything about the law you would know that us tax payers pay the correctional officers to to watch the inmates and they have to be checked on every 30 min . So my question is what was the jailors doing as this man was taking his life and with comments like that is why we live in a cold cruel world.Gee thanks for proving that there is still alot of work to do to make there be peace.

Anonymous said...

them barton county cops are crooked i cant wait to catch them feds well love what i bring them