MADRAS, OR -- Three Jefferson County Corrections deputies are charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide, stemming from the 2017 death of a 59-year-old Portland man at the Jefferson County Jail. James Wippel died while in custody, last April, following his arrest on multiple drug charges. It was the first inmate death at the Madras facility.
District Attorney Steve Leriche says he immediately launched an investigation. "I went to the jail to observe the scene, the Sheriff – understanding the serious nature of when someone dies in custody – contacted the Central Oregon Major Incident Team, so it would be independently investigated." That inquiry was led by Redmond Police and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. In July, Leriche asked the Clackamas County D.A. to take over the case, "I determined that, given the close nature of our community, knowing many of the Corrections Deputies, that the appropriate response was to seek a(n) outside prosecution." He tells KBND News, "Their District Attorney, John Foote, is very experienced and respected – probably one of the most respected District Attorneys in Oregon. And, their office was large enough that they were willing to put forth the manpower. I mean, it takes a lot of time and effort and energy to prosecute a case."
The Clackamas County D.A. presented the case against Deputies Michael Durkan and Cory Skidgel, and Corporal Anthony Hansen to a Grand Jury, this week, "So, they heard testimony and took in evidence over two days, and then made the decisions to indict those three individuals," says Leriche. They're scheduled to be arraigned April 19.
Leriche refused to comment on Wippel's cause of death or what was found during the investigation.
UPDATE: Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins released a statement Thursday evening, saying Wippel "died after he had been released from the jail and was being prepped for transport to the hospital by ambulance personnel on April 26, 2017." He says the three deputies charged in the case are now on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation and/or prosecution. Adkins said in the statement, "The death of Mr. Wippel is tragic and I'm bothered that it happened at my facility with so many professionals involved and I am heart-broken over these indictments because these deputies are good and faithful deputies, who care very much about their jobs and the people they are charged with overseeing. I have faith in our system and in the citizens who reviewed this case."
He says Corporal Hansen was hired as a Corrections deputy in February 2015, Dep. Skidgel was hired in Corrections in February 2017, and Dep. Durkan was originally hired in April 2015 as a Patrol deputy, moving to Corrections in May 2016.