Correctional officer dies during misconduct investigation

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

— Rock County Jail officials continue to investigate a report that a correctional officer had a relationship with an inmate before her September death from an apparent overdose.

Correctional officer Kristi Beyer, 39, of 341 Rosewood Drive, Janesville, was on paid leave from her job at the jail at the time of her Sept. 19 death, Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said.

Since then, two more correctional officers have been put on paid leave, and officials are investigating whether they knew about the reported relationship between a jail inmate and Beyer, Spoden said.

Beyer was put on paid leave Sept. 18 after an inmate Sept. 17 reported a relationship between Beyer and another inmate, Spoden said.

Beyer was scheduled for an investigative interview Sept. 19, Spoden said. She died that day at Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville, according to her obituary in The Gazette.

Investigators had not determined whether to terminate Beyer or whether a crime had been committed, Spoden said.

"We never got a chance to interview her," he said.

Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach said she won't rule on a cause of Beyer's death until after reviewing results of toxicology tests. The death was not of natural causes but is not considered suspicious, Keach said.

Spoden and Chief Deputy Barbara Barrington-Tillman learned of Beyer's death and first informed her shift-mates and then other personnel. Her death was tragic and has been difficult for jail staff, Spoden said.

Beyer had worked at the jail since May 2010. Previously, she worked for 13 years at Lear Corp., The Gazette reported in a June 2010 article about Beyer and other dislocated workers.

Beyer told The Gazette at the time that she loved her job at the jail and was proud of the work she did.

"The biggest thing I can say is that I'm proud," Beyer said. "Every day that I put on this uniform, I'm more and more proud of it. I'm doing what I set out to do. I'm helping keep the community safe."

Beyer in May 2010 graduated from Blackhawk Technical College with honors. She was offered the job at the jail six days later. She was one of four people hired from a pool of 400 applicants, according to the 2010 Gazette report.

Sheriff's office employees are regularly warned of the dangers of getting caught up in relationships with inmates, Spoden said. The subject is a topic during training, he said. Such relationships are a danger to the employee and safety at the jail, Spoden said.

Policy prohibits employees from forming social or romantic relationships with inmates. If officials found evidence of a relationship, Beyer could have been charged with the crime of misconduct in public office, Spoden said.

During the investigation, officials learned that two other correctional officers might have had information about the reported relationship. Sheriff's office policy compels employees to inform supervisors of observed or suspected misconduct. Not doing so would be a violation of policy and could be a crime, Spoden said.

The officers were put on administrative leave Sept. 26 and Sept. 27, according to sheriff's office records. That investigation could be completed next week, Spoden said.

Last updated: 4:54 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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