Shelby County inmate may face murder charge

Brain bleed cause of Richards’s death

By Melanie Speicher -




SIDNEY — The cause of death of a Shelby County inmate and possible charges against his alleged assailant have been released by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Chief Deputy Jim Frye, James Richards, 54, of Sidney, died of a brain bleed, Saturday, Jan. 19, at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. He was transported to the hospital by the CareFlight ground unit following a jail fight Friday morning.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, said Frye, told the two detectives investigating the case that the cause of death was a brain bleed as the result of the assault. The detectives went to Dayton, Sunday.

Frye said the case against inmate Peter Stokes, 26, of Sidney, will be presented to the grand jury on Jan. 31.

Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said a grand jury review was held Tuesday morning to discuss what charges will be presented in the case. Prosecutor Tim Sell also heard information about the case

“We met with the prosecutor at 9:30 this morning (Tuesday),” said Frye. “(Prosecutor) Tim Sell reviewed the case. Then he looked at the video. We all talked about it, and he felt it warranted murder charges” to be presented to the grand jury.

After the meeting with Sell, a grand jury review concurred: a murder charge should be presented.

“Everybody agreed to the murder charge,” said Frye, who said a death penalty specification is not part of the charge.

“He could face life in prison,” said Frye.

Detective Michael Martz will present the case to the grand jury on Jan. 31.

Stokes is incarcerated at the Shelby County Jail on a charge of failure to provide a change of address. He is a registered sex offender and has been held at the jail since November 2018.

“Since he (Stokes) is being held on a parole hold, there’s no chance of his being released prior to the grand jury indictment’s being handed down,” said Frye.

If there was a chance of Stokes’s getting out of jail prior to the grand jury indictment, he would have been charged with the assault and arraigned in Sidney Municipal Court, said Frye.

According to the sheriff’s office, Richards was engaged in a fight with Stokes following a verbal argument between the two, Friday. 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.

Richards was jailed earlier this month on a felony charge of domestic violence.

The investigation into Richards’s death is continuing.

The last time a murder charge was handed down by the grand jury was in January 2015 when Timothy G. Spranger Jr. and Christopher Fitzpatrick were charged with the death of David Michael.


Brain bleed cause of Richards’s death

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.