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.
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