December 21, 2014

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Ohio death row inmate hanged self with nylon belt

Billy Seagle

Billy Slagle

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A death row inmate who committed suicide hanged himself with a nylon belt up to 20 minutes before he was found, according to a coroner’s report.

The cause of death for Billy Slagle was asphyxiation by strangulation, according to the report by the Ross County Coroner’s office obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Slagle died Aug. 4, three days before his scheduled execution. In a rare move, his execution was opposed by Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty, who didn’t believe Slagle’s 1988 death sentence was justified.

Slagle died not knowing that his lawyers planned to appeal based on last-minute information received from McGinty, who said his office had just learned that Slagle was never informed of a plea deal he’d been offered before his trial.

A review of Slagle’s suicide by the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction that was released Monday said guards noticed Slagle about 5:06 a.m. that day and cut him down two minutes later.

The report by Ross County Coroner John Gabis says Slagle’s suicide happened between 4:45 a.m. and 5:03 a.m. that day.

The state review of the suicide alleges one and possibly two prison guards falsified an electronic log documenting checks on Slagle.

The log indicates checks every 30 minutes started at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 and went through the night. But video evidence contradicts that, indicating checks didn’t start until 11:20 p.m. and were done hourly after 2 a.m., according to the prisons agency report.

Two guards are on paid administrative leave while the prisons agency investigates. The department declined to comment on the coroner’s report.