NO CHARGES: DA: No criminal charges for 2014 jail death

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

Second Judicial District Attorney Seth Edwards announced Wednesday there would be no criminal charges filed in the death of a Beaufort County Detention Center inmate last year.

The Nov. 30, 2014 death of William Joseph Gares Jr., 37, was ruled a suicide by the SBI, Edwards wrote in a press release. An earlier autopsy at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine determined that Gares’ cause of death was asphyxia due to hanging.

Edwards wrote that the sole purpose of the SBI’s investigation was to determine cause of death, not whether Beaufort County needs a new jail. After the event, some questioned whether the jail’s layout and lack of visibility of inmates prevented detention officers from noticing what was happening. Gares used a bed sheet to hang himself from a low shelf. At the time, another sheet was hung across the front of the cell — common practice for inmates seeking privacy while taking care of bodily functions.

However, an inmate’s determination is the main factor, according to Edwards.

“If an inmate has 10 minutes and wants to kill himself, it’s pretty obvious it can be done, even in Raleigh’s Central Prison,” Edwards said, citing a March incident at Central Prison, in which one of two men accused of killing a Granville County couple then burning their house also fashioned a bed sheet into a rope and hung himself.

An internal review by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, comprised of interviews and reviewing surveillance footage, found that detention officers were complying with operating procedures, according to a press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office in March. Since, however, detention officers have increased direct contact with inmates during rounds as a proactive measure, according to Chief Deputy Charlie Rose.

“The state law has a list of what they’re looking for in rounds,” said Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose. “What we do is actually above and beyond what’s required.”

On Nov. 26, 2014, Gares was arrested in Washington on a fugitive warrant from Pennsylvania, having violated the terms of his parole on a past charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was incarcerated at the Beaufort County Detention Center, awaiting extradition.