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Agency to investigate death of man in jail



Published: Thu, July 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Mahoning County Coroner's office also is looking at Jonathan Phipps' death.

STRUTHERS -- A state agency is investigating the death this past weekend of a Struthers man in an apparent suicide in the city's jail.

Struthers Police Chief Robert Norris said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification has been called in to examine the circumstances behind the death of Jonathan Phipps, 21, of Fifth Street. Norris said Phipps was found dead in his jail cell at about 7 a.m. Saturday.

Phipps had been arrested around 11 p.m. Friday and charged with criminal trespass, according to a police report.

Earlier events

The report said that Phipps' younger sister called police and said her brother and his girlfriend, Hollie Defrank, were inside the family's Fifth Street residence "high on drugs" and wouldn't leave. When officers entered the residence, they observed that both had "glossy, bloodshot eyes" and were slurring their speech, the report said.

Phipps told officers he had permission to be at the residence and that officers could confirm it by calling his mother, Joann Phipps. Police called Joann Phipps on her cell phone and she told them that her son had permission to be at her house, but that his girlfriend did not, according to the report.

Officers told Defrank that she would need to leave, but she was unable to call anyone to pick her up. Soon after that, Joann Phipps arrived and told officers that Defrank had to leave.

Defrank said she would walk back to her residence on Youngstown's West Side, but officers advised her against it because of her condition, the report said. Mother and son began arguing, and Joann Phipps told officers she did not want her son at the residence, either.

Officer Jason Murzda told Jonathan Phipps and Defrank that they would need to leave. Both ignored officers' instructions, the report said -- Defrank walking back to the kitchen and Phipps beginning a phone conversation.

After a final warning that he would be arrested if he didn't leave, officers placed one handcuff on Phipps, who began to struggle before officers placed the other cuff on. Campbell police, who had been called a few minutes earlier, assisted in the arrest.

Defrank, 18, also was arrested on a criminal trespass charge and both were booked into the jail and set for Monday court dates.

Norris referred questions about the incident and the investigation to BCI. Spokeswoman Kimberly Norris would confirm only that the investigation is ongoing.

The Mahoning County Coroner's office has not issued a ruling on the death, pending the completion of its investigation.




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