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Sheriff: 'We don't know' cause of inmate death
Bearden, 27, had no obvious signs of physical trauma
Kyle Bearden
Kyle Bearden

MONROE — The cause of an inmate's death in a maximum security cell in the Green County Jail earlier this week is unknown pending toxicology tests, Sheriff Jeff Skatrud said.

Kyle E. Bearden, 27, formerly of New Glarus and with a last known address in Tucson, Arizona, had been in the jail since January on a $50,000 cash bond on felony charges of first-degree child sexual assault involving two victims. He was next due in court on June 19 for a status conference on the case.

At about 11:40 a.m. Monday, June 10, other inmates in Bearden's maximum security cellblock yelled out to alert jail deputies that Bearden was not breathing. Jail deputies were in the middle of preparing to serve inmates their midday meal at the time.

Skatrud estimated that Bearden had been in this state of medical distress for just "minutes." He said jail deputies interacted with Bearden earlier that morning, at which time "there was no indication that there were any issues."

The deputies attempted life-saving measures on Bearden and alerted Green County EMS and the Monroe Fire Department to the jail, 2827 6th St., next to the Green County Justice Center.

"They started CPR as the inmate was not breathing," Skatrud said. "They tried hard."

Bearden was pronounced dead at the jail by the Green County coroner.

Bearden had no obvious signs of physical trauma and autopsy results were "inconclusive," so toxicology tests of his blood will be key to determining the cause of his death, Skatrud said. Toxicology tests typically take at least a few weeks to come back from the state lab.

In the meantime, the cause of Bearden's death remains a mystery.

"We don't know," Skatrud said.

He discussed the inmate death at the monthly meeting of the county's Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 11.

"I think we're going to be relying heavily on the toxicology reports," he told the committee.

Sherri Fiduccia, committee member and county board supervisor, asked whether the inmate had been allowed out on Huber work release.

He wasn't, Skatrud responded.

"The only time he left the jail was for court, as would be the case for his cellmates," Skatrud said.

A detective with the Monroe Police Department is investigating Bearden's death.

Monroe Chief of Police Fred Kelley said it could be "easily a month or two" until toxicology results are released, adding, "We're all kind of hostages to technology."

Skatrud said the entire cellblock where Bearden was housed has been cleared while the case is investigated. Making room to clear the cellblock required returning six to eight Lafayette County inmates to the Lafayette County Jail, he said.

Skatrud told the Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee that the sheriff's office is checking in with the jail deputies who were directly involved in the incident.

"They're very prideful of taking good care of these folks and they're impacted. It's really traumatic even," he said. "We're trying to help them through that."

Bearden's death marks the third inmate to die at the jail in 10 years.

Larry W. Marti, 64, was in jail awaiting sentencing in November 2010 when a jailer found him sick in his cell. Marti had a pre-existing health condition and he died a few hours later at Monroe Clinic.
Kyle Peotter, 17, died of a drug overdose in his cell in January 2013. His cellmate, 48-year-old Danny Douglas Mitchell II, was later convicted of giving Peotter the methadone that killed him. Mitchell is in prison in Waupun.

Peotter's mother and stepfather, Amber and Michael DeGraff, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, with Mitchell also named as a defendant.

The parents won a $250,000 judgment, with Mitchell liable for the payment. However, their claims against the county were dismissed on grounds of "governmental immunity." The DeGraffs appealed the case, and in May, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of Green County Judge Thomas Vale.