SLED to join in probe of York County inmate’s fall at detention center

nsmith@heraldonline.comMay 1, 2012 

— The York County Sheriff’s Office has asked state authorities to assist in an investigation after an inmate jumped from an upper tier stair rail in the county detention center, fell 12 feet and struck his head on a concrete floor Monday, officials say.

Maj. Robert Hudgins said Tuesday the agency has called in the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate for an “outside opinion” to ensure all proper procedures and rules were followed in the incident.

“We want to cover all bases and make sure all our policies and procedures were correct,” he said. “There’s no indication that we didn’t. It’s a normal part of the procedure.”

Just after 4 p.m. Monday, 49-year-old Steven Spagnoli threw himself over a rail in a maximum-security unit at the detention center, according to a Sheriff’s Office release.

After his fall, Spagnoli was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. As of Tuesday morning, Hudgins said Spagnoli was listed in crtiical condition.

Last week in court, a jury found Spagnoli guilty of murder in the 2010 shooting death of 44-year-old Richard Leach. He also was found guilty of attempted murder, criminal conspiracy and using a firearm during a violent crime.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III sentenced Spagnoli to life in prison without parole.

Spagnoli was set to be transferred to the S.C. Department of Corrections Tuesday to begin serving his sentence, the release states.

The unit in which Spagnoli was incarcerated while waiting for the transfer is a high-security area with constant supervision, Hudgins said. There are always at least two deputies patrolling the area, along with an officer in the control area, which is located in the center of the unit.

Cells are checked every 30 minutes, Hudgins said. Each inmate is allowed one hour of recreation time per day.

“Only one inmate is let out at a time in the special management unit so there won’t be conflicts,” he said.

All inmates in the unit are required to wear handcuffs, which Spagnoli had on him at the time, he said.

Hudgins said the incident was very unfortunate. “Our hearts go out his family,” he said.

Attorney Bill Hancock represented Spagnoli in last week’s trial. He said he was sorry it had happened and it had been a “shock” to him.

Spagnoli’s father, Richard Spagnoli, said Tuesday he learned of his son’s fall when a sheriff’s deputy called him.

Tuesday morning, his son had an operation to relieve the pressure in his brain, Richard Spagnoli said. His son’s vital signs were fine, and medical officials were set to do another CT scan.

“It doesn’t look too good, but he’s still fighting,” Richard Spagnoli said.

Spagnoli had talked to his son after the trial and hadn’t seen any indications that his son would harm himself.

“He’s my son,” he said. “I want him to live. Once he has a chance to think things over, he’ll want to live, too.

“I love him. I can’t believe this happened. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over this.”

Nicole E. Smith 803-329-4068

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