Jail death prompts $1.75 million settlement  

Daily Independent File Photo

Five former Boyd County deputy jailers were charged with manslaughter in the November 2018 death of Michael Lee Moore, 40, of Ashland, due to alleged abuse at the Boyd County Detention Center. Pictured from left to right are Alicia Beller, Colton Griffith, Brad Roberts, Jeremy Mattox and Zachary Messer.

CATLETTSBURG — Boyd County and its insurance carrier have reached a $1.75 million civil settlement with the estate of a man who died at the jail due to alleged abuse by former jail guards.

Documents obtained by The Daily Independent Thursday morning shows the county and the estate of Michael Lee Moore reached the settlement on June 19.

The paperwork said the Kentucky Association of Counties All Lines Fund, which is the insurance carrier for Boyd County, agreed to pay Moore's estate "the sum of one million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars." A flower box will also be constructed outside the detention center with a memorial plaque for Moore. The statement says if Boyd County complies with those terms the estate will release its claims against the county.

Boyd County Attorney C. Phillip Hedrick declined comment on the settlement when reached Thursday. Also declining comment was Boyd County Jailer Bill Hensley, who took office a month after Moore died.

An attorney listed on the settlement agreement, Jeremy L. Clark, of Catlettsburg, did not respond to a request for comment.

The settlement stems from the November death of Moore, 40. Moore was brought to the detention center on public intoxication charges. He was eventually placed in a restraint chair for an extended period of time at the jail, according to Kentucky State Police. Jail video shown in court shows Moore in the chair flailing his legs. It shows deputies pushing his head onto the concrete wall, struggling with him on the ground, using a Taser on him and throwing him at the chair.

Five former deputies were charged with manslaughter in the case.

During testimony offered as part of pretrial hearings in the former deputies' ongoing prosecution, investigators said Moore bled to death internally after deputy jailers allegedly threw him against a toilet. The impact cracked three ribs and caused the bleeding that killed Moore about 28 hours after he was booked into the jail Nov. 28, according to Kentucky State Police detective Jeff Kelly. Kelly based his statement on a post-autopsy interview with the state medical examiner.

The deputies charged are Zachary Messer of Ashland, Brad Roberts of Westwood, Colton Griffith of Flatwoods, Jeremy Mattox of Grayson and Alicia Beller of Putnam, W.Va. Beller subsequently pleaded guilty to wanton endangerment in Boyd County Circuit Court in May under an agreement that doesn’t include any prison time. She will be placed in a five-year diversion program that requires her to cooperate with authorities investigating the inmate’s death. Charges against the remaining four are pending. A recent pretrial proceeding for two of the defendants were delayed due to what was described as pending federal activity.

The injury that occurred in the restroom is not visible on the jail video because deputies are standing between the camera and the restroom door. Kelly said details came from his interviews with the deputies.

Beller told him she heard a crack when Moore was in the restroom and Roberts said the deputies had been too rough, Kelly testified.

None of the five sought medical assistance for Moore, he said.

The video “shows a pattern of abuse from corrections staff,” Kelly alleged.

The death was one of several alarming incidents at the county jail in 2017-2018 that were documented by The Daily Independent. They included multiple drug overdoses by inmates — two of them fatal — repeated escapes, accidental releases of inmates and even a riot. Inmate Charles Shawn Finley, 36, of Ashland, died at the jail in a suspected drug overdose. Six months prior, a third inmate died at the jail due to acute methamphetamine intoxication. Laura Riley, 44, had been in custody for two days at the time of her death.

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