LAWRENCE CO. Prison board plans to probe drugs in jail
Prison officials can't find a doctor qualified to do body-cavity searches.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The Lawrence County prison board is expected to take a closer look at the drug problem in the jail after eight more people were arrested in a drug-smuggling scheme and an inmate died.
Prison Board President Mary Ann Reiter said she expected the matter to be discussed at today's meeting.
"I still think we need to cancel work release unless someone has had a job for five years or longer," she said.
City police charged eight people, including a jail corrections officer, with drug-related charges.
Police have been investigating drug activity in the jail since last summer, when an inmate overdosed and was rushed to the hospital in July. Another inmate, George Crepp, 21, of Ellwood City was found dead Aug. 13 in his cell. An autopsy revealed he went into cardiac arrest brought on by methadone found in his system.
Who is charged
Inmates William Tillia, 20, and Jeremy Hurd, 22, are each charged with drug delivery resulting in death and with criminal conspiracy, possession with the intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance.
Court papers reveal the two had a network of work- release inmates and others who brought drugs into the jail from about July 6 through Aug. 13.
Drug charges also are filed against Robert Nocera, 25, of West Wind Village, Ellwood City; corrections officer Jay Fish, 34, of Neshannock Boulevard; Christopher Klingensmith, 29, of North Cedar Street; Kenneth Williams, 43, of North Lee Avenue; Shannon Viggiano, 26, of Pine Street; and Douglas Pennachio, 40, of Shenango Street.
What affidavit says
An affidavit filed to support the charges says Nocera, a work-release inmate, told another inmate that he would be smuggling cocaine and other drugs into the jail, and he was expecting to make a lot of money.
When Nocera returned from work release one night, he showed that inmate 90 OxyContin pills he had smuggled into the jail in his rectum.
That inmate contends that he told a female corrections officer about the OxyContin on Aug. 9 and that officer said she needed to discuss it with other corrections officers. No action was taken, according to the affidavit.
The inmate told police that Williams, another work-release inmate, smuggled 90 pills in his rectum on Aug. 10, and he saw Williams removing them in the restroom. Williams then gave the pills to Hurd, the affidavit says.
Court papers said that Tillia was holding pills for Hurd in his rectum when he got sent to the "hole" for fighting with another inmate. He was placed in a cell with Crepp, who died the next day of a drug overdose.
Another inmate told police that Hurd, Pennachio and Tillia were working together to distribute drugs inside the jail, and he believed corrections officers were assisting. Police said the inmate witnessed corrections officers warning Klingensmith of upcoming raids or searches and that Klingensmith was allowed to move freely when other inmates could not.
Nocera told police that a few weeks before Crepp's death Hurd and Pennachio asked him to smuggle contraband into the jail.
Court papers said they arranged for Nocera to meet a woman outside the jail who gave him drugs that he put into his rectum before returning to jail.
The affidavit says another inmate told police that Klingensmith's girlfriend, Viggiano, also supplied work-release inmates with drugs that were smuggled into the jail. The affidavit states that Klingensmith offered Fish $1,000 to bring in a package of OxyContin. Fish agreed if he was paid $1,500, the affidavit continues.
Fish had been suspended from work without pay since last month during the police investigation. He is being housed in the Clarion County Jail until his preliminary hearing, Reiter said.
Reiter said the prison board has been looking into body cavity searches for work-release inmates, but state regulations require they be done by a physician.
Reiter said Jameson Hospital was contacted but declined to do the searches because staff doctors did not have the proper training.