SIDNEY — An inmate who was one of two men involved in a fight in the Shelby County Jail, Friday, Jan. 18, has died.
James Richards, 54, of Sidney, died, Saturday, Jan. 19, at 3:50 p.m., in the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. He had been taken there by the CareFlight ground unit, Friday, following a jail fight that morning, and had been listed in critical condition.
Rick May, a Montgomery County Coroner’s Office investigator, told the Sidney Daily News, Monday, Jan. 21, that Dr. Kent Harshbarger, Montgomery County coroner, had performed an autopsy on Richards’s body, but had not put the cause of death into the computer file by Monday afternoon.
“Our computers have been down,” May said. Because the cause has not yet been listed, “it’s pending at this time,” May added.
The investigator said autopsies are standard procedure for the office if the deceased is a prisoner or seems to have died from other than natural causes.
Richards was engaged in a fight with another inmate, Peter Stokes, 26, of Sidney, following a verbal argument between the two. Richards had been quite loud on the phone in the day room of their pod at the jail. Stokes had asked him to keep it down. When the phone call ended, Richards began yelling at Stokes, who went after Richards.
Richards fell to the floor, hitting his head, but got into a sitting position, and was punched several times by Stokes.
Six corrections officers converged on the fight and got the men separated, and within seconds, four sheriff’s deputies were there, too.
The whole incident took just 32 seconds, according to the sheriff’s office video.
Stokes was taken into custody. Charges are pending.
“We can’t do anything until tomorrow (because the courts are closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day),” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, Monday. “It’s an unfortunate death. The investigation continues.”
Stokes has been jailed since November 2018 on a charge of failure to provide a change of address. He is a registered sex offender. Richards was jailed earlier this month on a felony charge of domestic violence.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.