Three former Bradley County jailers were booked Friday on charges related to the hanging death of an inmate four months ago.
On Sept. 18, correction officers found Ralph Nelms, 41, hanging in a booking area cell at the Bradley County Jail. He died a few days after his arraigment in a string of burglaries involving a body shop on Dawn Drive and campers located at a Spring Place Road business. Nelms was the third inmate to die in the Bradley Jail this year.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office suspended Sgt. Timothy Jason Boyd and deputies Gabriel Nathaniel Black and Ronald Joshua Reddish three days later, citing an internal investigation. That investigation was conducted independently of one undertaken by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which routinely investigates in-custody deaths.
On Friday, 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump announced the grand jury had charged Boyd and Reddish with official misconduct; Black was charged with official misconduct, tampering with evidence and tampering with governmental records.
All three have been released on $15,000 bonds, according to Bradley County Criminal Court. No hearing dates have been set for them.
"Our office is grateful for the timely and efficient work of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation," Crump said in a news release. "We are also grateful for the the transparency of the entire command staff of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office in alerting agents to the activities of their subordinates. Their candor was crucial in the pursuit of justice."
Crump said Nelms' death "appeared to be a suicide by hanging," citing an initial report of the incident made by Chief Deputy Brian Smith.
In August a state inspector cited the jail for inmate overcrowding, understaffing and "very vague" security check logs, suicide watch observation reports and restraint checks.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office also issued statements concerning the indictments Friday.
In October, the department fired Black and Reddish, while Boyd resigned, BCSO spokesman James E. Bradford Jr. said.
Smith commended Capt. Gabe Thomas, who oversees the corrections division, for taking "swift action" by contacting him when he disccovered the "circumstances surrounding the investigated incident." The chief deputy did not elaborate on those circumstances.
The department's internal investigation continues, he said.
The sheriff's office will not make any further comments on the cases until they are resolved in court, Smith said.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.