published Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Jefferson County, TN sheriff defends deputies in jail deaths

DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Jefferson County Sheriff Bud McCoig says deputies did nothing wrong in the three inmate deaths at the county jail since January.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports McCoig held a news conference on Friday where he suggested that a lawsuit by the widow of one of the inmates was meant to damage his chances at re-election.

McCoig is seeking a second term and is being challenged by former Sheriff David Davenport, whom McCoig unseated in the last election.

Speaking of the recent deaths, McCoig said two inmates committed suicide and one died from a heart attack.

McCoig said he has asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the deaths.

Donna Free sued the county earlier this week over the death of her husband, Jeffrey Free, who was serving a sentence for serving a sentence for driving under the influence. Donna Free claims jail staff knew her husband was suicidal but left him unsupervised. He was found hanged in his cell.

Former Sheriff Davenport said he had nothing to do with the lawsuit or the timing of its filing.

"We are only challenging his policies and leadership," Davenport said.

McCoig ended his statement by quoting from the Bible, saying, "At the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly."

He declined to answer any questions from reporters.

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